I have always admired Mao, the revolutionary who united his people and modernized China. But the grim reality today is although China professes to be our friend, China is in fact our enemy. China has violated our sovereignty by occupying Panatag and other areas within that sovereignty. Its latest ramming and sinking of a Filipino vessel in our own waters bespeaks blatant disregard for our sovereignty.
We must now know the nature of our enemy.
China is on its rapid rise as a world power, and that ascendancy is powered by a nationalism conducted by a very strong state. For 4,000 years, China was never democratic. It was ruled by warlords, emperors, and despots who claimed they had the mandate of heaven as confirmed by the Confucian ethic, which emphasized hierarchy.
This Confucian ethic also affirmed magnanimity to the people, but just the same, the harmony in society that the Confucian ethic espoused depended on obedience and respect for that hierarchy, with the emperor at the top. This explains the legitimacy of the despots who, to this day, rule China. Thus, we cannot expect China to change, to liberalize, and to respect the sovereign rights of other people, particularly the weak and small. China’s despots respect only power.
When the Chinese communists took over the country in 1945, there was no break with the past although it seemed otherwise with movements like the cultural revolution. Actually, the Communist Party under new leadership tightened its grip on the people. The state has no compunctions about using violence to enforce its will, to wit, the Tiananmen massacre 30 years ago. It rules with the mandate of heaven, which has morphed into the mandate of Marx.
Chinese expansion is unstoppable, building as it does both economic dominance and military superiority. China has also made significant advances in technology, particularly in artificial intelligence and robotics. In its current trade war with the United States, it will not give up. It may seem to do so with one step backward -- but it will then move two steps forward.
The future of Southeast Asia and of ourselves as a nation is in China’s hands. We will be sinicized in a few decades; I pray that we will not be colonized. What aggravates our piteous condition is that in much of Southeast Asia is a very small but powerful Chinese minority.
In our case, this minority effectively controls 70 percent of our economy. This alone illustrates our great vulnerability because this is a minority that has sent billions to China to assist its modernization. It is also a small minority – they came to this country with nothing, but by exploiting the country and the people they have become economically dominant.
Filipinos should never stop demanding from this minority allegiance to the country that has made them powerful and rich because the truth is many of them are loyal to China, not to this country. All that one has to do is ask them, in the event of a war with China and the Philippines, on which side will you be? Their equivocation will mean they, too, are the enemy.
But we must also acknowledge the fact that many Chinese Filipinos work very hard to contribute to our cultural and economic progress. Those committed and loyal to this nation can do so much. Many have ties in China, some of them official. They can be the bridge to convince China about our rights and that China must respect these rights.
As a small, impoverished nation susceptible to exploitation, what are our outstanding problems? First and foremost is our poverty, and the second is that we are a very divided people and, finally and sadly, we Filipinos are not endowed with enough nationalism and love of country the way our neighbors are, particularly Vietnam. That small country not only stood up to America but to China as well. While it maintains good relations with China, Vietnam has not hesitated to confront the Chinese leviathan.
Some years back, when China placed an oil rig in Vietnamese waters, the Vietnamese responded by burning Chinese factories in Vietnam. Earlier, after the conclusion of the Vietnam War in 1975, wary of Chinese domination, they confiscated Chinese properties and expelled them from the country.
I do not advocate or expect that we do the same. But I also do not expect our people or our highest government officials to kowtow to China. But this is precisely what our President is doing. He is vastly popular, and many Filipinos are unwilling to oppose him and his pandering to Chinese policies.
In the end, we ourselves are also the enemy.
But how does a country whose leaders can think only of the next election confront a nation whose leaders look far and many generations ahead?
Even without military might, we are not powerless in our confrontation with China. The filing of a criminal complaint against the Chinese President in the International Court of Justice by former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales and former Foreign Minister Alberto del Rosario must be followed by similar action in international organizations like the United Nations.
We must emulate the tenacity of Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio in safeguarding our sovereignty, and in urging the government to fulfill its constitutional duty to protect our territorial integrity.
We must strengthen our alliances with the friendly nations who want the South China Sea free for international navigation. And we must assist ASEAN to become the bulwark of Asian freedom.
Our voice must be heard all over the world. Most of all, this must be the voice of Filipinos, united and led by strong leaders.
In many instances, it is an enemy of a people that unites a divided people. As a Russian leader told the Americans when they won the cold war, “I pity you because now you have no enemy.”
But given our bleak condition, I will not be surprised if, one day, we Filipinos who could not be awakened by Chinese recalcitrance will wake up to find there is no longer a Filipino nation because the Philippines -- thanks to a weak-kneed leader -- had become a Chinese province.