Keep China in check (Updated)

    “The Chinese are too strong, too assertive. That is why a Pax Sinica is very threatening to us,” said an analyst from Vietnam’s Diplomatic Academy to a reporter from the Atlantic magazine. Vietnam has cause for concern, China invaded it 17 times.

    Vietnam is not resting on China’s assurances that it is only interested in business and harbors no imperial ambitions. Vietnam recently spent $200M to rehabilitate Cam Ranh Bay, probably the largest and most important US naval base during the Vietnam War, to make it available for use by foreign navies.

    In Vietnamese “making Cam Ranh Bay available for foreign navies” means laying out the welcome mat for the US. In Chinese “laying out the welcome mat for the US” means containment, a bad word to the communist tyrants in Beijing. The phrase also means containment in Vietnamese and English but it’s a good word as far as they and the rest of the civilized world are concerned.

    Everybody wants to keep China in check. (No pun intended) Nobody wants Pax Sinica or Chinese hegemony. Everybody welcomes increased “US meddling in Asia-Pacific affairs”, to use Beijing’s characterization of US presence, because no civilized country wants an utterly corrupt totalitarian regime exercising exclusive control over the South China Sea. Everybody wants someone who can guarantee that Beijing will not make unilateral moves that violate “the rules-based order that has served the region for six decades.” Everybody understands that a countervailing power to Beijing is necessary and the US is it. It’s the only country that can keep Beijing from running wild.

    Why point out the obvious? Because there are those in this country who still persist in promoting juvenile nationalism, blind anti-Americanism fueled by outdated Cold War propaganda. Well, times have changed my dear Jomanians and we have to adjust to new realities: a former oppressor is now our bodyguard against a future oppressor, yesterday’s imperialist is now our only protection against tomorrow’s imperialist.

    The best national security decision made so far is to allow the US access to Subic and Clark. We are not selling out, we are simply doing what is best for us, at this time and under the circumstances. If Vietnam can open Cam Ranh Bay to a former enemy why can’t Subic and Clark be made available to an old friend and ally? Besides, there is a commonality of national interest between the US and the nations around the South China Sea: the US wants freedom of navigation, we want freedom from Beijing’s incursions into our seas.

    Will the occasional US visits turn into permanent US bases? Maybe they could but it definitely won’t happen anytime soon. The US cannot afford permanent overseas bases right now, “places not bases” is the new Pentagon mantra. Besides, experience has shown that bases agreements are messy and expensive while visiting or status of forces agreements are neater and cheaper, both for the US and the host country, so why go back to it?

    The Jomanians’ fear that US bases will return and become US territory once again is not grounded on reality, it comes from robotic thinking. We have to celebrate a new era in Philippine-US relations instead of mindlessly chanting slogans that give Beijing an erection.

    Another thing to keep in mind is the new US Pacific strategy does not stand on access to Subic and Clark. The US can port its ships and land its planes in India, Australia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Japan, South Korea, and soon in places like Cam Ranh Bay. We need US presence to fend off China more than the US needs Philippine hospitality to keep the sea lanes open to navigation. We have to live with that reality until we become strong enough to stand up to China or any other ambitious neighbor.

(UPDATE) Here’s how Bayan Secretary General Renato Reyes, a Jomanian caught in a fucking time warp, sees what’s happening between the Philippines and the US:

    “In a time when the Philippines should be asserting its sovereignty and charting an independent foreign policy, Aquino is groveling to the US for economic and military aid in exchange for the transformation of the entire country into a US military outpost in Southeast Asia. The US, meanwhile, has made a mockery of Philippine sovereignty as its supposed ‘visiting troops’ have become permanent fixtures in the country.”

Occasional visits to Subic and Clark does not a transformation of a country to a US military outpost make. Besides those visiting troops lend equipment, train with our troops, and share intel that we can use against the enemies of the Philippines: the CPP/NPA and the Moro rebels. If you’re a Filipino who loves his country okay lang makipagtulungan sa US against the enemy, di ba?

Eto pa:

    “Aquino’s visit to the United States is the culmination of months of meetings, negotiations and discussions for increasing US troop presence in the country and reaffirming unequal economic and politico-military relations. Aquino and US President Barrack Obama are expected to once again reaffirm PH-US special ties which are nothing more than neo-colonial relations.”

Neo-colonial relations. Ano yun? That sounds like something that can only be explained by neo-Cold War rhetoric. Walang ibig sabihin yan neo-colonial na yan to anybody who does not subscribe to the Jomanian paradigm. It’s like the whole idea of Mama Mary to a non-Catholic.

And finally:

    “There have been a lot of meetings the past months to ensure that US troops will be rebalanced from other regions towards Asia. The Philippines has been eyed for its strategic value for US hegemonic interests in the region. They are bringing back more US troops and more warships. It’s as if the bases are back in the country. We are considered ‘important’ to the US because we allow our country to be used to project US military power in the region. We are the doormat for US troops in Southeast Asia, a convenient footstool for the US encirclement of China.

Tanginang mixed metaphors yan…doormat/footstool?

But seriously, parang the thing that Bayan’s Reyes really finds objectionable is the “encirclement of China.” Okay lang ang encirclement of China, okay lang i-contain ang China para hindi siya nag-aangkin ng hindi kanya.

Actually okay lang kung anti-American sila. Eh yun sila. Ang hindi ko maintindihan ay yun kinakabit nila yun anti-Americanism nila with being pro-China. Bakit kailangan nila kumampi dun sa umaagaw sa ating territoryo? This Jomanians have a weird sense of nationalism.

Manuel Buencamino

Buencamino was a weekly columnist for Today and Business Mirror. He has also written articles in other publications like Malaya, Newsbreak, "Yellow Pad" in Business World, and "Talk of the Town" in the Inquirer. He is currently with Interaksyon, the news site of TV5. MB blogged for Filipino Voices, blogs for ProPinoy and maintains a blog, Game-changers for him, as far as music goes, are Monk, Miles, Jimi, and Santana.

  • Elexexpert

    Filipinos should be weighing the pros  & cons of the two country.

    US action – ready to help us when we are attack but will do nothing when our territory were being encroached by chinese paramilitary and their fishermen. It’s our military forces should be protecting our territories but in the absence of high tech military equipment we’re a setting duck waiting to be trampled  upon. Business wise americans company are above minimum in paying salary to their employees.

    China actions – watch out how they rape and devastated our natural resources(panatag shoal) and other valid business mining thru corrupt government officials. In terms of business , chinese companies are stingy in paying salary to their employees.

  • UPnnGrd

    I doubt that anti-Americanism spirit is strong enough in Pilipinas to pose a foreign affairs dilemma. Count in the few hundreds  ( not even enough to cause a serious traffic jam ) the number of demonstrators that can be called on a week’s notice by Reyes-and-group.

    What is the dilemma is law-and-order / security.

  • UPnnGrd

    Hindi ba Pro-china would be where  Reyes asks PresiNoynoy to accelerate leasing additional thousands of Philippine agricultural land to China?   Pro-China would be Reyes asking PersiNoynoy to give favorable lending terms for China businesses to open manufacturing plants in Pilipinas.

    And have the ambulances arrived yet?  I knew that last year, PersiNoynoy was thankful that China will be donating ambulances which are designated ( if I remember right) for Mindanao.

    • UPnnGrd

       But Beijing should remember PersiNoynoy’s pro-China move… you know… Oslo.

      Guess that Oslo-move did not gain any points, I suppose.

  • Reyes is an extremist, reflecting bizarre multiple standard deviations from the mean of rational thought. The Aquino Administration has done a superb job being firm and lining up the support needed to counterbalance the Chinese tendency to bully. Yet working to keep the relationship with China warm, on the commercial front.

    That aside, your writing struck a fond chord in my memory, for it was in the late 60’s that another Lieutenant and I hitched a ride from Saigon to Cam Ranh Bay to spend a day lolling on the fine beach there. The water was then called the South China Sea, but it has several names now. The official reason for going there was to look for generators, but we didn’t find any.