No friend to Manila

"It is time we stopped pretending we can be friends with Beijing and do business as usual, while it bullies us and robs us of our territorial rights in the West Philippine Sea."

Beijing's recent actions in the South China Sea belie its claims of being a “friend” to Manila.

On Friday, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry declared that China’s patrols in the South China Sea are “beyond reproach” and that air patrols by the Philippines infringe on its sovereignty.

The official defended the China Coast Guard’s activities and urged the Philippines to “immediately stop” what he described as “illegal provocations.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs said Thursday it had filed a diplomatic protest to Beijing over the Chinese Coast Guard’s move to confiscate equipment used by Filipino fishermen in the waters of the disputed South China Sea. The DFA also objected to Beijing’s radio challenges to aircraft conducting legitimate maritime patrols in the area.

China’s timeline of aggression against the Philippines in the last decade began in 2012, with a stand-off over the Scarborough Shoal.

In that year, the Philippines claimed that under a 2012 deal mediated by the United States, China and the Philippines promised to withdraw their forces from the shoal until a deal over its ownership could be reached. The Philippines complied with the agreement and withdrew but China did not and maintained its presence there, effectively militarizing the area. China denies any such deal was reached.

By July 2012, China had erected a barrier to the entrance of the shoal. Since then, vessels belonging to the China Marine Surveillance and Fisheries Law Enforcement Command have been observed in the nearby disputed shoal and Chinese government vessels have been turning away Filipino vessels sailing to the area.

By January 2014, China continued to maintain a presence within the shoal, among heightened tensions regarded a new law which requires non-Chinese fishing boats to seek permission from China when in the South China Sea.

China’s aggression in the South China Sea dovetails with the rise to power of President Xi Jinping, who quickly consolidated his position and authority over the Chinese Communist Party.

Since 2012, Xi has unleashed a sweeping crackdown on political dissent, civil society and the mostly Muslim Uyghur minority in the Xinjiang region, and tightened control over Hong Kong, a British colony that was promised a high degree of autonomy when it was returned to Chinese rule in 1997. In 2018, he abolished the presidential term limit, clearing the way for him to stay in power indefinitely.

Recent revelations from a former Chinese Communist Party insider and scholar who was ousted for speaking out against Xi, speak volumes of what we can expect from a China led by Xi.

"What he emphasized was the concentration of power and the absolute conformity and loyalty to the Party's central leadership," said Cai Xia, a longtime party insider who was expelled earlier this month. "He does not allow dissenting voices from within the party, punishing those who air a different opinion with party discipline and corruption charges."

Internationally, Cai said, the Communist Party under Xi was "infiltrating" global institutions and spreading Xi's "totalitarian" ideals, thus posing a threat to the world.

We who have to deal with Chinese expansionism in our home waters know this first hand. It is time we stopped pretending we can be friends with Beijing and do business as usual, while it bullies us and robs us of our territorial rights in the West Philippine Sea.

Topics: Editorial , No friend to Manila , Beijing , China , West Philippine Sea , South China Sea
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