Trump Prefers Pitting Japan to Letting Japan Pit the US against China


Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrives to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider (this blogger’s note: lots of them died in fighting Japan) at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, U.S. February 10, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrives to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider (this blogger’s note: lots of them died in fighting Japan) at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, U.S. February 10, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

Trump’s friendly phone call to Chinese President Xi Jinping hours before meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe proves his talents in choosing the best timing in dealing with Japan and China.

As a shrewd businessman, Trump is very clear that Japan is the greatest beneficiary of Obama’s pivot to Asia as of all the countries in the world, Japan has the most earnest desire to contain China due to the war crimes it committed in China in the 1930s and 1940s. As the bitter memory of Japan’s invasion of China remains fresh in China, all Chinese people will support a war against Japan no matter how they love peace. Those who oppose the war will be regarded as traitors by most Chinese people.

Japan is lucky that Chinese leaders are wise. They want good relations with Japan and utterly oppose a war with Japan. However, if Japan provokes China, they will fight. Who knows what their successors will do! Containing China to stop its rise seems the best choice for Japanese leaders and people like Shinzo Abe whose grandparents have committed war crimes in China.

The US, however, helped China resist Japanese invasion. Chinese children are still fond of listening to stories about American pilots who volunteered to help China fight the Japanese in China’s war of resistance against Japan.

Trump knows well that the US is simply unable to contain China. Its military threat in the South China Sea has caused China to build large artificial islands as military bases to dominate the South China Sea. Containing China militarily has only given rise to an arms race with China that the US cannot afford.

Obama’s TPP aims at containing China economically, but will end up benefiting TPP members, especially Japan, at US expense.

Not only so, TPP helps Chinese President Xi Jinping overcome vested interests’ obstacles to his reform and will thus enable China to conform to TPP rules and join TPP.

Moreover, TPP’s stringent rules will push other countries, especially a rising India, closer to China economically as they want China’s Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership to counter TPP.

Now, Trump’s phone call to Xi tells Abe that the US wants to be China’s friend instead of containing China. Containing China will certainly benefit the US as it facilitates US maintenance of its world leadership. However, it is now Japan’s turn to do the hopeless dirty job.

US-China friendship means better access to Chinese and US markets respectively by the US and China. To compete with China in US market, Abe has to make concessions. As an initial sweetener, Abe has promised to invest $150 billion in the US to create 300,000 jobs. That is much better than paying more for US expense in keeping its military in Japan.

Trump’s scrapping of Obama’s pivot to Asia has the effect of pitting Japan against China and will give rise to Japan’s arms race with China.

Trump also plans to improve US relations with Russia. If he can pit Russia against China, he will be able to subdue China by diplomacy, which according to China’s gifted strategist Sun Tzu, is better than subduing by fighting.

Article by Chan Kai Yee


Subduing the Enemy with Diplomacy Better than with War


A scarecrow stands guard at a Russian post along Russia-Chinese border post

A scarecrow stands guard at a Russian border post along Russia-Chinese border. Huanqiu.com photo

ABC News published an article titled “Analysis: Russia’s Far East Turning Chinese” on flood of Chinese immigration into Russia’s Far East.

Russia and China have a long history of hostility. The article says, “Russia took the territory in 1858 and 1860 with the Treaties of Aigun and Peking, respectively. Of all of the unequal treaties forced upon the Qing dynasty by outside powers in the 19th century, these are the only two China has not managed to overcome. China and Russia signed a border agreement in 1999, but the Beijing government has never formally accepted the Aigun and Peking treaties.”

The article describes Russia’s worry about Chinese illegal immigration into Russia’s Far East. In fact, those who know the history of Chinese immigration do not worry. In the 19th and 20th centuries, Chinese immigrants flooded Southeast Asia. They now dominate the economy of some countries there but have never turned those countries Chinese. Singapore people are more than 80% ethnic Chinese, but they are pro-America instead of pro-China.

However, there is indeed danger of war as lots of Chinese want a war with Russia to recover the 2 million square km of land in Russia’s Far East that China ceded to Russia under the two treaties mentioned in ABC News’ article.

Thanks to Obama, the war will be prevented as due to Obama’s pressure to contain both Russia and China, the two countries’ wise leaders have turned the two countries into good friends and indeed de facto allies with diplomacy that makes them strong enough to subdue the US with joint force.

Moreover, the diplomacy of win-win cooperation has turned potential enemies into good friends.

China follows its gifted strategist Sun Tzu’s teaching that subduing the enemy with diplomacy is better than with war. Putin seems also to have such wisdom. The two countries both turn a blind eye to the illegal immigration.

In fact Putin wants China to cooperate with it in developing Russia’s Far East as no Russians want to go there but Chinese people are fond of going there. Putin adopts the policy of allowing Chinese immigrants who have married Russian to naturalize. That will be good win-win cooperation.

Now, Putin has removed Russian border guards along Russian border with China in Russia’s Far East to allow Chinese immigrants free entry. The photo on top shows that a scarecrow is guarding the border at a border post.

Subduing the enemy with diplomacy is better than with war! Putin and Xi Jinping know that but Obama does not. I hope Trump does.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on ABC News’ article, full text of which can be viewed at http://abcnews.go.com/International/story?id=82969&page=1.


A Nixon Strategy to Break the Russia-China Axis


President and Mrs. Nixon's arrival in China. Wikimedia Commons/National Archives and Records Administration

President and Mrs. Nixon’s arrival in China. Wikimedia Commons/National Archives and Records Administration

Doug Bandow January 4, 2017

Perhaps the greatest evidence of the hubris surrounding uber-hawks, both neoconservatives and liberal interventionists, is their willingness—even determination—to make multiple enemies simultaneously around the globe. Hence their constant refrain that the world is dangerous and military spending must go up, ever up.

The United States, apparently alone, since it cannot rely upon allies which are constantly whining for reassurance, must confront China, North Korea, Russia, Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, the Islamic State, assorted terrorist movements and any anyone else who resists U.S. “leadership.” Neutral observers might find this disparate collection, several of whose members are at odds, somewhat less than a formidable threat compared to the United States, virtually every European nation, the majority of Asian industrial states, the most important and wealthiest powers in the Middle East, and the majority of the rest of the countries that are friendly to the West. Nevertheless, Americans are constantly told that the United States has never been more embattled—not, apparently, during the Civil War, Cold War, World War I, or even World War II.

Yet if the hawkish “perpetual threat” lobby really believes its rhetoric, it has only itself to blame. After all, increasingly treating both China and Russia as adversaries has achieved what was otherwise impossible: pushed the Cold War allies-turned-enemies into friends, and possible allies again.

Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union provided vital assistance to Mao Zedong’s Communist rebels. Without Moscow’s backing, especially turning over weapons and territory to the insurgents after Japan’s August 1945 surrender, Mao might not have had the opportunity to become a nation builder—and one of the greatest mass killers in human history.

Despite some natural tensions between the two states, Mao generally accepted Stalin’s leadership. For instance, with Stalin determined to avoid a military confrontation with America, Mao’s People’s Republic of China intervened in the Korean War to preserve North Korea, which began as a Soviet client state. However, the Soviet leader died in 1953, only four years after the PRC’s creation.

De-Stalinization by Nikita Khrushchev led to ideological disputes over which government offered an uncorrupted vision of Marxist-Leninism. Mao criticized Moscow’s willingness to accept “peaceful coexistence” with the West. The Soviet leadership worried about Mao’s reckless military measures against the remnant Nationalist government in Taiwan. By 1961 the Chinese Communist Party was denouncing Soviet leaders as “revisionist traitors.” The two countries created rival revolutionary and state networks and battled for influence within nominally Communist nations. The USSR backed India against China; the latter criticized Moscow’s willingness to compromise in the Cuban Missile Crisis and join in treaty limits on nuclear weapons.

In 1966 Beijing raised the issue of “unfair” treaties imposed by the czarist Russian Empire. Border conflict broke out three years later. Casualties were modest and fighting ceased later in the year, though a formal border agreement was not reached until 1991.

Chinese-Soviet tension continued around the world, as the two backed rival revolutionary factions in several African conflicts. They disagreed over Vietnam; Beijing supported Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge regime, which was ousted by Hanoi in 1978, and fought a brief war with the latter the following year. The two Communist giants also differed in Afghanistan. Although relations in later years were not nearly as hostile as during the Mao-Khrushchev era, the vision of a unified Communist bloc had been irretrievably destroyed.

The brief Sino-Russian shooting war apparently convinced Mao that he needed to reduce tensions with at least one of the PRC’s potential adversaries, opening the way for the Nixon administration. Rapprochement between the United States and China began with Richard Nixon relaxing trade and travel restrictions on the PRC in 1969. The same year, Beijing and Washington resuscitated the Sino-U.S. ambassadorial Talks. Nixon also used Pakistan as a diplomatic intermediary, which reported Chinese interest in improving bilateral ties.

In 1971 the two countries engaged in so-called “ping-pong diplomacy,” with the visit of an American table tennis team to China, while Nixon eliminated the last travel limits. National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger surreptitiously visited Beijing as part of an official trip to Pakistan in July 1971, setting in motion a second visit in October and U.S. support for the PRC’s entry into the United Nations and possession of the Chinese Security Council seat. Richard Nixon’s famed visit to China came in February 1972. He told Mao: “You are one who sees when an opportunity comes, and then knows that you must seize the hour and seize the day.” Actually, both leaders did so.

Although formal diplomatic ties (which required ending official relations with the Republic of China on Taiwan) did not come until 1979, under President Jimmy Carter, the United States and PRC continued to expand contacts and commerce. In no way were the two countries military allies. But Washington effectively neutralized one potential security threat and prevented the recreation of a Sino-Soviet coalition against the United States. Geopolitically, America gained flexibility and leverage in confronting the USSR. Washington could enjoy global preeminence, if not dominance, at lower cost.

Chinese-Russian relations improved as the Cold War ended and ideological conflicts waned. But tensions remain real. Beijing shows as little respect for intellectual property when it comes to Russian weapons as it does for Western consumer goods. The Central Asian republics were part of the Soviet Union, but increasingly are drawn to China economically. Russia’s Far East is virtually unpopulated, giving rise to fears of Chinese territorial absorption.

However, under President Barack Obama, the United States has courted conflict with both powers. To constrain China, the administration staged the “pivot” or “rebalance.” Washington strengthened alliance ties, added troop deployments and increased military maneuvers. The resources involved have been sufficient to irritate but not enough to scare the PRC. Beijing perceives that Washington hopes to contain China, whether or not the former is willing to admit the obvious.

Against Russia, the United States has followed what appears to be an overtly hostile policy: dismissing the former’s Balkan interests, especially breaking apart historic Slavic ally Serbia (which imperial Russia backed in World War I); bringing old Warsaw Pact members and even Soviet republics into NATO, with invitations seeming likely for Georgia and Ukraine (the latter an integral part of both the Russian Empire and Soviet Union); supporting “color” and street revolutions against Russian-friendly governments in Georgia and Ukraine; pushing regime change, including by Islamist insurgents, against Moscow’s Syrian ally; imposing economic sanctions against Russia; and building up U.S. military forces in Europe. Washington might believe all of these policies to be warranted, but no serious Russian patriot could view them as friendly.

The result has been greater cooperation between China and Russia. They are not formal military allies, but have found their dislike and distrust of Washington to be greater than their bilateral disagreements. In the short term, that means cooperating to limit American influence.

Ultimately the objective could become to deter U.S. military action against both nations. Although Washington, with allied support, today should be able to simultaneously defeat the two (short of unconditional surrender), American dominance will fade. Should Russia and China forge closer military bonds, the United States eventually might find itself facing a much less hospitable international environment. That likely would constrain Washington’s responses, and increase the costs and risks if conflict resulted.

America is a great power. But it should not needlessly create enemies and encourage them to ally with each other. If Donald Trump succeeds in improving relations with Russia, he would have the salutary side effect of discouraging creation of a common Russo-Chinese front against the United States. Richard Nixon’s China policy offers a model for the incoming Trump administration: Make up with at least one of the important powers potentially arrayed against America. The United States should not feel the need to take on the rest of the world.

Doug Bandow is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute and a former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan.

Source: Reuters “A Nixon Strategy to Break the Russia-China Axis”

Note: This is National Interest’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.


No Continuity between Obama and Trump


U.S. President Barack Obama listens as he participates in his last news conference of the year at the White House in Washington, U.S., December 16, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

U.S. President Barack Obama listens as he participates in his last news conference of the year at the White House in Washington, U.S., December 16, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Reuters’ report “Obama says change in U.S. policy toward Taiwan would have consequences with China” shows that Obama wants Trump to continue his diplomacy with respect to China. His words sound as if he is teaching Trump what to do in dealing with China.

I don’t think that Trump is so stupid as to want US-China relations to deteriorate as it will only hurt US interests. What Trump wants is to improve the relations to benefit US economy.

Trump knows well that he should not continue Obama’s stupid diplomacy.

His first wise move is to improve US-Russia relations in order to cut Russia-China de facto alliance.

In Europe, Obama is stupid to take lead in punishing Russia for Russia’s military actions in Ukraine. Russia’s military response in Ukraine is the result of EU instigated street coop that overthrew a pro-Russian president democratically elected.

US interests have not been involved in the conflicts between EU and Russia in Ukraine though the US wants to contain Russia to prevent it from becoming a rival to US world leadership. However, EU has much more earnest desire to contain Russia as Russia, including the Soviet Union, has long been a threat to Western Europe. Moreover, EU is rich and strong enough to deal with Russia. Why shall the US incur huge costs to deal with Russia for EU’s interests. Trump is wise to exploit the conflicts between EU and Russia to urge EU to protect itself or pay for US protection so that such protection will benefit the US instead of being a burden on the US.

Does Trump not want the US to maintain its leadership? No, Trump is well aware that the US is not strong enough to directly take part in others’ conflict to make others obey. He has to let others confront one another. The US, being the strongest, shall exploit the situation to act as an arbitrator to maintain peace and stability.

So shall be Trump’s way in Asia. The US has to be an arbitrator in the conflicts between Taiwan and China, Japan and China, South Korea and China and South China Sea claimants and China and between Russia and Japan. If he can sow discord between Russia and China, he will be the arbitrator between Russia and China. If the US can use its strength and wisdom to ease the conflict and maintain peace and stability, it will be respected as world leader.

If the US directly takes part in the conflicts of others like what it has been doing in the South China Sea as a party to the conflict but fails to make the major party to the conflict obey its leadership, it will only show its weakness and lose its position as world leader.

Obama has precisely been doing such stupid things in Asia. Shall Trump continue Obama’s stupid policy?

To be world leader, one certainly shall be the strongest, but that is no enough. He shall first of all have wisdom.

I believe Trump is not as stupid as Obama to continue Obama’s diplomacy. His use of Taiwan as a bargaining chip is a risky move but he indeed has no other chip to use.

Whether he is wise enough to be world leader to shrewdly use US economic and military strength, we will wait and see.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Reuters’ report, full text of which can be read below:

Obama says change in U.S. policy toward Taiwan would have consequences with China

By Roberta Rampton and Jeff Mason | WASHINGTON Fri Dec 16, 2016 | 8:00pm EST

President Barack Obama said on Friday it was fine for President-elect Donald Trump to review Washington’s “one-China” policy toward Taiwan, but he cautioned that a shift could lead to significant consequences in the U.S. relationship with Beijing.

“For China, the issue of Taiwan is as important as anything on their docket,” Obama said at a news conference. “The idea of one China is at the heart of their conception as a nation and so if you are going to upend this understanding, you have to have thought through what … the consequences are.”

China lodged a diplomatic protest earlier this month after Trump, a Republican, spoke by phone with President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan. The 10-minute telephone call was the first of its kind by a U.S. president-elect or president since President Jimmy Carter switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China in 1979, acknowledging Taiwan as part of “one China”.

Obama noted that, under the decades-old policy, China had recognized Taiwan was its own entity that did things its own way, while Taiwan had agreed that, with some autonomy, it would not charge ahead and declare independence.

“That status quo, although not completely satisfactory to any of the parties involved, has kept the peace and allowed the Taiwanese to be a pretty successful … economy and a people who have a high degree of self-determination,” Obama said.

The Democratic president said he had advised Trump that foreign policy had to be conducted in a systematic, deliberate, intentional way.

“There’s probably no bilateral relationship that carries more significance and … where there’s also the potential, if that relationship breaks down or goes into a full conflict mode, that everybody is worse off,” he said of the U.S. relationship with China.

He said Beijing would not treat a departure from U.S. policy toward Taiwan lightly.

“The Chinese will not treat that the way they’ll treat some other issues. They won’t even treat it the way they treat issues around the South China Sea, where we’ve had a lot of tensions,” he said.

“This goes to the core of how they see themselves. And their reaction on this issue could end up being very significant. That doesn’t mean that you have to adhere to everything that’s been done in the past.”

(additional reporting by Julia Harte and David Alexander; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Note: This is Reuters report I reblog here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


China’s Use of Huge US$ Reserve for High Tech Takeover Troubles US


The headquarters of German chip equipment maker Aixtron SE is pictured through a security fence in Herzogenrath near the western German city of Aachen, October 25, 2016. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

The headquarters of German chip equipment maker Aixtron SE is pictured through a security fence in Herzogenrath near the western German city of Aachen, October 25, 2016. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

Reuters says in its two reports “Obama bars China’s Fujian from buying Aixtron’s U.S. business” and “Aixtron will have to cut costs, jobs if U.S. blocks China deal” that the US blocks China’s takeover of Aixtron’s U.S. business due to fear that China may obtain technologies for military application such as the technology for production of gallium nitride, a powdery yellow compound used in light-emitting diodes (LED), radar, antennas and lasers, and nanotube technology.

In the past, the US only feared that China might steal its technology, but now China is so rich that it simply buys the whole high-tech firms from the US to obtain technologies, especially those for military application.

On December 1, I had a post titled “China’s Foreign Exchange ‘Worry’” to comment on SCMP’s ridiculous title of its report on China’s change in its attitude about its huge foreign exchange reserve “A US$3 trillion burden or a blessing”.

Only those who are obsessed with drawing a negative picture of China would describe a country’s US$3 trillion foreign exchange reserve as a burden.

The huge foreign exchange first of all enables China to buy high technologies from the West. It is China’s blessing but US trouble and fear as the reserve enables China to buy lots of technologies from the West if the West does not block such purchases.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on SCMP’s report based on Reuters’ reports. Full text of SCMP’s report can be found at http://www.scmp.com/news/china/economy/article/2050381/us3-trillion-burden-or-blessing-beijing-changes-its-attitude.

China certainly has lots of problems for Western media to give negative descriptions and China has to conduct serious reforms to overcome such problems. However some descriptions are simply ridiculous. I point them out in my blog for the mere purpose of entertaining my readers. It does not mean that I hate such descriptions like some commentators of my blog. On the contrary I like them, especially as they provide something to entertain my readers.

On the other hand, such negative descriptions please bosses of Western media and some readers of Western media who hold a negative view on China due to their reading of lots of negative descriptions in the media, true or ridiculously false. That is really a win-win situation: writer being well paid for writing ridiculous descriptions that please media bosses while my readers may be entertained free of charge due to such descriptions.

Full text of Reuters’ two reports can be viewed respectively at http://www.reuters.com/article/us-aixtron-m-a-fujian-idUSKBN13R0DU
and http://www.reuters.com/article/us-aixtron-m-a-fujian-ruling-idUSKBN13R0OV


Is Vietnam Reigniting a Fire in the South China Sea?


Vietnamese troops. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons/ Ha petit

Vietnamese troops. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons/ Ha petit

Hanoi is starting to feel more and more isolated as its regional neighbors reconcile with China.

By Nguyen Quoc-Thanh November 29, 2016

With Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to reset ties with China, and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak’s decision to put his country in the Chinese orbit, the situation all around Vietnam is evolving very rapidly. China also signed agreements for the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road with Cambodia in mid-October, not to mention their joint military exercise scheduled for December. Together, these rapprochements are seen by the Vietnamese as coming at the expense of their country, which is now “isolated” by land and sea.

Things have gotten worse and worse for Hanoi only five months after The Hague international tribunal’s verdict; the latest developments in the South China Sea (SCS) have shifted in Beijing’s favor. One by one, Vietnam’s neighbors have looked toward China and now seek conciliation. The legacy of U.S. President Barack Obama’s “pivot to Asia” seems distant, especially since President-elect Donald Trump has declared his intention to cut back the U.S. role as “world policeman.” At this time, no one can predict anything about Washington’s future role in Asia. Trump criticized Obama’s Asia policy during his campaign and now, Asian leaders are still waiting to see the U.S roadmap for the region under the next president. Will Trump lead America to an isolationist foreign policy? A year ago, Harry Kazianis imagined the consequences for U.S allies if America walked away from Asia. This scenario seems now potentially realistic.

In this context, it seems that Vietnam prefers to anticipate and plan to protect itself, including militarily. But by extending an airplane runway and building hangars for housing combat aircraft in the Spratly Islands, Vietnam has raised tensions. In August, the country already deployed rocket launchers to its bases in the SCS. Is such an offensive stance justifiable?

In the past years, Vietnam has notably increased its military spending. The trauma caused by the battle of the Paracel Islands in 1974, when ships of the People’s Republic of China sunk those of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam), runs deep. The Vietnamese requested assistance from the U.S Seventh Fleet but their request was denied. As Vietnam doesn’t want to repeat the experience of relying on foreign help that may not come, the country has forged a defensive army for deterrence. For months, Hanoi has waited for a strong signal from Washington, especially since the lifting of arms embargo. But with the end of Obama’s presidency and, most likely, the end of his “pivot to Asia policy,” the future is uncertain for Vietnam, even if the partnership between U.S and Vietnam remains strong.

Under a Trump presidency, U.S. withdrawal from Asia is an unlikely but possible scenario. The European Union could have helped to disentangle regional conflicts in Washington’s stead, but European unity has been wracked since the Brexit – not to mention domestic factors such as the coming French presidential election and the next German federal election. In any case, Europe is busy dealing with tension over migrants and the Syrian civil war issue.

Help will not come from the outside and all indications are that the Vietnamese are now on their own. The solution could have been ASEAN unity but it has shattered lately, most recently during the 49th ASEAN Foreign Ministers meeting. Together, these factors contribute to increase Vietnam’s sense of insecurity. “We must react now or later would be too late,” said an officer of Vietnam People’s Navy.

The 1974 battle resulted in Chinese control of the entire Paracel Islands group and Vietnam clearly does not want history to repeat itself in the Spratly archipelago. A list of national possessions in the Spratly archipelago has been published on former Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung’s website. It is a way of showing that Vietnam is clearly determined to defend its claims.

No country in Southeast Asia knows China as well as Vietnam, which shares both maritime and land frontiers with this giant neighbor. China rising power in Asia is a worrying issue for Hanoi, and not even bilateral dialogues with Beijing have succeeded in reassuring the Vietnamese. For 2015, Vietnam’s defense budget was $5 billion and it may rise again as long as the Vietnamese feel insecure.

At the 8th SCS International Conference in Nha Trang, participants insisted on respect for international law and their desire for peace. But even with Duterte’s apparent allegiance to China, peace remains precarious in the South China Sea. A fire can reignite at any time with just a spark.

Nguyen Quoc-Thanh holds a Ph.D. in Maritime Studies. IrAsia, Aix-Marseille University.

Source: The Diplomat “Is Vietnam Reigniting a Fire in the South China Sea?”

Note: This is The Diplomat’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.


China Keeps Open Scarborough Shoal to Philippines as a Favor


President Xi Jinping (right) meets his Philippine counterpart Rodrigo Duterte in Lima, Peru. Photo: Xinhua

President Xi Jinping (right) meets his Philippine counterpart Rodrigo Duterte in Lima, Peru. Photo: Xinhua

Filipinos unload after coming home to Subic from a fishing expedition in the disputed South China Sea. Photo: EPA

Filipinos unload after coming home to Subic from a fishing expedition in the disputed South China Sea. Photo: EPA

In its report “Xi tells Duterte that Scarborough Shoal will stay open to Philippine fishermen” yesterday, SCMP says Chinese “President Xi Jinping called on China and the Philippines to explore maritime cooperation” and promised that China’s Huangyan Island (also known as Scarborough Shoal) in the South China Sea will remain open to Philippine fishermen.

It’s the result of Obama’s pivot to Asia undesirable to the US and Philippines, but very good to China.

Before the pivot, both Chinese and Philippine coast guards patrolled the shoal and fishermen fished there as China, though much stronger than the Philippines, did not want to drive away the fishermen and coast guards of the Philippines, its friendly neighbor.

US pivot gave Duterte’s predecessor former Philippine President Aquino the illusion that with the help of the powerful navy of his ally the US, he could drive away Chinese coast guards and fishermen from the shoal and have exclusive possession of the shoal. He sent navy to round up Chinese fishermen there and thus gave rise to what the West regarded as a standoff between China and the Philippines there.

It was in fact not a standoff in its proper sense. It was in fact the operation of Chinese coast guards and navy to deny the Philippines access to the shoal and the sea around it. The Philippines only sent its coast guards to watch nearby without any action to drive away the Chinese to enable Philippine fishing boats to enter the area near the shoal.

Aquino asked the US for help, thinking that the mere appearance of powerful US navy will scare the Chinese away. However, instead of sending its navy to help him, the US told Aquino to withdraw and promised to have China retreat too. However, China would not retreat and continue to impose effective control of the shoal.

The US told Aquino to seek remedy from the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague where the US had influence. Aquino did get an arbitration ruling in his favor but the US could not help him enforce the ruling though it has sent two aircraft carrier battle groups to scare China.

For years, Aquino’s illusion about US help to scare away China caused Filipino fishermen’s misery. They were banned by China to fish in the area around the shoal and thus lost what they depended for their survival.

Aquino simply did not care, but his successor President Duterte cares. Duterte wants to help the fishermen to have access to their traditional fishing ground. Since the US cannot help him, it is natural that he seeks help from China. To please China, he insulted US president Obama. Western media ascribed Duterte’s rude behavior to his anger at US opposition of his killing of drug dealers and addicts. That is only the excuse exploited by Duterte to attack the US and please China.

Duterte had long been well-known for his killing of drug dealers and addicts before he was elected as president. He must have got used to US criticism about the killing; therefore, attacking the US to justify his killing was not his priority. As he has declared, his priority is to enable Filipino fishermen to have access to the area around the shoal for their survival.

In fact, it is enough for Duterte to put an end of Aquino’s enmity and recover Philippines’ friendship with China. There is no need for him to upset the US to please China. True, China has been developing its military to counter US threat, but that is purely for self defense as US military always makes plan to attack China. China wants good relations with the US as such relations are favorable to China.

Chinese leaders are not so stupid as to contend with the US for world leadership. China is not rich or strong enough for that.

US belief of its world leadership is but an illusion in spite of its largest economy and strongest military. No one in the world follows its leadership now. Duterte wants to separate from the US because what has happened related to Scarborough standoff and Hague arbitration ruling have made him realize that there is no US world leadership. The US boasts that it is world leader that protects other countries including the Philippines. In fact it protects only its own interests. It will not fight to protect others if its own interests have not been affected.

The disputes between China and other South China Sea claimants will perhaps remain forever, but as long as China pursues win-win cooperation, it will be able to manage the disputes satisfactorily. That will make the US unable to exploit the disputes to contain China.

Other claimants have to learn from the lessons of Philippines’ failure in exploiting US pivot to Asia to get exclusive control of Scarborough Shoal. In the end, the Philippines has, on the contrary, enabled China to have exclusive control of the shoal and act as the host of the shoal.

Unlike the situation before the standoff, Filipino fishermen have no free access to the shoal. They have access now due to Chinese president’s personal promise instead of any right based on agreement or ruling.

If a claimant wants to exploit the resources in disputed waters, it has to cooperate with China. Otherwise, China will exploit the resources alone and the US simply will not interfere. That is the reality now in the South China Sea.

Comments by Chan Kai Yee on SCMP’s report, full text of which can be found at http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2047747/xi-tells-duterte-scarborough-shoal-will-stay-open