01 April 2015

Xi Jinping and China-Philippine Relations

Comment on Bloomberg News report: 

Henry Kissinger's advice on the South China Sea dispute: “Deng Xiaoping dealt with some of his problems by saying not every problem needs to be solved in the existing generation. Let’s perhaps wait for another generation but let’s not make it worse.”

For the Filipinos, we should perhaps follow this line: Let's hope and vote for the next administration that will be more diplomatic, strategic, and creative in relating with China.

With Xi Jinping's Chinese Dream of a 'one belt, one road' initiative for a new land and maritime silk road now taking off through the AIIB (Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank), may the Philippines not miss out Chinese capital this time around in the same way we didn't benefit much from Japanese capital during the Plaza Accord in the mid-1980s.

It is better for the Philippines to be pragmatic about China's rise and understand well how global capitalism is unfolding now and in the (near) future. As usual for me, it's must be healthy mix of optimism and pessimism.

I think that the more China is demonised, the more it will be antagonistic in its thinking and action. I see it as 'a learning government', but still with so much entrenched political-business vested interests within the state and the domestic economy, as well as the felt and observed tendencies of its people towards having a superiority complex and immoderate sense of patriotism (if not, nationalism). No doubt that China means money on these initiatives with a view to what it perceives to its domestic or 'national interests'. Perhaps, to a great extent, China will become what the world makes it to become — thus, its neighbours have the considerable impact on how its future will be shaped.


Just by looking at the current structure of China's stage of development, whose high-tech industrialisation is in progress and still establishing itself as a regional power (arguably, not yet a global superpower), and Xi Jinping's resort to a proactive 'do something' foreign policy, I don't see it going to war in the South China Sea. China will only go to war as a defensive reaction response to any external threat and aggression (which could be instigated by the US). 

But then, we should also be wary of the importance of leadership in China, especially with Xi Jinping at the helm who's regarded as very powerful and influential in the same stature as Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping. It seems that Xi Jinping is his own man, neither appointed by Deng nor any of his predecessors, who would like to chart his own legacy, who now governs a rich economy with strong military capabilities and the political clout that comes with these, and who enjoys the solid sources of power and authority coming from the party, government, and military combined. 

Henry Kissinger might have understood Deng Xiaoping well, but Xi Jinping is or may be a different character.

Thus, it may not be that easy to predict China's behaviour in the current context under Xi Jinping — though, thus far, I also see much more continuity than change in China's foreign policy from Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin, and Hu Jintao. However, the Philippines can do very good in, and rely on the strategic importance and usefulness of, diplomacy.

Yet, more than anything else, the peoples of China and the Philippines should realise that the existing conflicts in the South China / West Philippine Sea is too important to be left to governments and their politicians. I am hopeful that with the travels and more exposure of the younger generation with each other, our relationships will be much more understanding, generous and harmonious. 

People-to-people interaction and cooperation is the best way to a sustainable peace and civilisational progress.

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