China still acting as the neighborhood bully?

Whenever there’s an opportunity, this column has never reneged on the defense of our national sovereignty, territorial integrity, and our people’s well-being. On many occasions in the recent past, FVR has questioned China’s provocative moves in the South China Sea/East China Sea/West Philippine Sea which do not auger well for enduring peace and sustainable development in the Asia-Pacific region, much less for the global community.

At this point in time, the People’s Republic of China is rising fast enough to become one of the world’s two superpowers. PRC’s rival, the United States, is still #1 in terms of military power, economic power, and smart power – and overall global influence – but it appears that China is in a hurry to dislodge the US by using a double strategy of “charm offensives” towards the advanced nations, and “bullying provocations” against weaker, developing countries like the Philippines.

Just this year, 2014, this column repeatedly warned Manila Bulletin’s wide audience and also its larger “pass-on” readership among academics, think-tankers, diplomats, investors and government leaders, thus:

- China’s “Bullying” Already Counter-Productive??? (26 January)

- Major Escalation At Ayungin Shaol? (23 March)

- Chinese Mischief Repeated at Hasa-Hasa (1st Part, 18 May)

- More Chinese Mischiefs (2nd Part, 25 May)

As reported from Beijing, however, China appears to be back in its bullying role again after its successful charm offensives, made within the short period of one month (November, 2014) towards the leaders of APEC (21 economies) in Beijing, ASEAN (10 nations and 18 dialogue partners) in Myanmar, and G-20 (world’s advanced countries) in Australia.

Declared China Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Hua Chunying (26 November): “China firmly opposes the conviction of nine Chinese fishermen, and urges the Philippine side to unconditionally release the Chinese boat and fishermen,” adding that the Philippines has seriously violated China’s sovereignty and jurisdiction.

It will be recalled that last week the Palawan Regional Trial Court ordered the Chinese fishermen to EACH pay a fine of US$100,000 (P4.3 million) for poaching in Philippine waters, plus US$2,666 (P120,000) for illegally gathering sea turtles.

SERVES THEM RIGHT – FOR BEING CAUGHT IN PHILIPPINE WATERS, CHARGED ACCORDINGLY, FOUND GUILTY, CONVICTED AND SENTENCED UNDER THE DUE PROCESS OF PHILIPPINE LAWS!!!

CHINA’S NEW “SILK ROUTES”

Six months ago, without much fanfare, China unveiled its series of global initiatives thru the state-owned Xinhua News Agency in its essay titled “New Silk Roads, New Dreams” (08 May 2014). That write-up intended to “dig up the historical and cultural meaning of the Silk Roads, and spread awareness of China’s friendly policies towards neighboring countries.”

So far, that Xinhua series provides the clearest look at China’s vision for its New Silk Routes. The land-based “New Silk Road” begins in Xi’an, the ancient capital during the Han Dynasty in central China, stretching west through Lanzhou (Gansu province) and Urumqi (Xinjiang), which is near the Kazakhstan border. The Silk Road then runs from Central Asia to northern Iran before swinging through Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. From Istanbul, the Silk Road heads northwest through Bulgaria, Romania, the Czech Republic, and Germany. Then, it swings north to the Netherlands and, thereafter, runs south to Venice, Italy – where it meets up with the equally extensive Maritime Silk Road.

Starting in Quanzhou in Fujian province, the Maritime Silk Road will hit Guangzhou (Guangdong province), Beihai (Guangxi), and Haikou (Hainan) before heading to Malaysia, Singapore, and the Malacca Strait. It then heads to Kolkata, then crosses the Indian Ocean to Nairobi, Kenya. From there, the Maritime Silk Road goes north around the Horn of Africa and moves through the Red Sea and the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean Sea, with a stop in Athens before meeting the land-based Silk Road and closing the modern, 21st century loop in Venice.

The vast trade network that China envisions with these two modern Silk Routes literally stretches from the China Sea to the Baltic Sea. Incidentally, there is no mention of any port anywhere in the Philippines, neither identification of the West Philippine Sea in any of these Xinhua maps. With the inclusion of Manila, Subic, or Batangas, the Maritime Silk Road could conceivably access to the Western Pacific and, eventually to Australia-New Zealand.

LINKING THREE CONTINENTS

The maps of the two Silk Roads drive home the enormous scale of the project. Combined, they create a massive loop linking three continents – Asia, Africa, and Europe. If any single image conveys China’s ambitions to reclaim its place as the “Middle Kingdom,” linked to the world by trade and cultures, the two Silk Roads do this.

The “Silk Road” was the series of trade and cultural routes through the Asian continent connecting the West and East – traversed by merchants, pilgrims, monks, warriors, and nomads from China and India to the Mediterranean during various periods of time. The Chinese took great interest in the safety of their products and built the Great Wall of China to ensure the protection of their trade routes.

The disappearance of the Silk Roads following the end of the Mongol empire stimulated the Europeans to reach China through a more southerly route, especially by sea. The handover of Macau to Portugal in 1557 by the Emperor of China resulted in the first permanent maritime trading post between Europe and China.

THE BOAO FORUM FOR ASIA FINANCIAL SUMMIT

At the end of the 2014 APEC Summit earlier this month, China’s President Xi Jinping pledged $40 billion for a Silk Roads Fund, to invest across the region. Expectedly, to maximize the economic impact of its charm offensives, Beijing came up with two follow-up international conferences.

China Daily’s essay “Oasis Of Promise” reports (21 November): “Taking place in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 23–25 November, the Boao Forum for Asia Financial Cooperation Conference charts a blueprint for financial cooperation involving China’s major projects – the proposed Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road – to revive the ancient trade routes that once connected Asia, the Middle East and Europe.

“Boosted by the recently announced $40-billion Silk Roads Fund, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and an anticipated China-UAE cooperation fund, the new initiatives will soon expand into a long list of infrastructure projects. These will include transportation, utilities, and telecommunications in countries along the two Silk Routes to better strengthen the Eurasian economic circle. An abundance of cooperation and trade opportunities can therefore be expected between China and Dubai, the regional financial hub that closely connects China with Europe and Africa.”

Although China-UAE trade has grown fast, a closer financial relationship is required. The international financial system has been dominated to date by other countries – for example, agreements between energy suppliers and consumers rely on a third party’s currency. The BFA Financial Summit will allow the financial sectors of both China and UAE to explore opportunities for greater cooperation.

THE ASIAN LOGISTICS AND MARITIME CONFERENCE

In a companion article entitled “Making The Connection,” China Daily avers: “For more than a year, China has been pushing forward the idea of rejuvenating trade along the ancient Silk Road, both overland and by sea – all the way to Portugal at its furthest point.”

“China has already taken the initiative in launching the New Silk Roads for Asia,” wrote the China Daily in Hong Kong (19 November).

The China Daily-sponsored forum titled “Redefining the New Silk Roads: Strategic Regional Initiatives to Improve Connectivity in Asia and the World” was part of the Asian Logistics and Maritime Conference. China’s financial commitments to these and similar efforts have risen to $100 billion. Among these is an offer of loans worth more than $20 billion to support the construction of regional infrastructure, according to China Daily.

Clearly, the Chinese private sector led by the influential Boao Forum for Asia is fully behind China’s charm offensives, and is backed up, no less, by the major government mouthpiece, China Daily.

IS PRESIDENT OBAMA WEAKENING?

Last 07 November, the Voice of America reported: “US President Barack Obama travels to economic summits in China (APEC), Myanmar (ASEAN with 18 Dialogue Partners) and Australia (G20) for a weeklong visit aimed at improving relations with Beijing, boosting American exports, and reassuring Asian partners in the face of China’s increasingly aggressive behavior.

“The visit comes at an awkward time for Obama. China, with its rapid economic rise and growing capabilities, is poised to further challenge the US leader now weakened by election losses.”

In the face of strong US objections against new Chinese incursions, it was no surprise therefore when Associated Press reported (24 November): “China defended its land reclamation in the disputed islands in the South China Sea, saying the work is for public service, although a London-based security group said that project could host a military airfield to intimidate neighbors.

“Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the construction would enable Chinese citizens working there to ‘better perform international obligations like search, rescue and other public services.’”

In addition to losing his party’s majority in the Senate thereby diminishing legislative support on much-needed reforms like immigration and healthcare, President Obama is also struggling with other major domestic issues like Cabinet revamp with the resignation of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

Also last 24 November, when a grand jury decided not to indict officer Darren Wilson of the Ferguson (Missouri) Police Department for the fatal shooting of African-American student Michael Brown, protest rallies and rioting erupted in 170 cities across the US. There was gunfire, vandalism, destruction of police cars, as well as exchanges of nasty words. In some states, the National Guards were called in to help restore order.

SO, WILL CHINA ALSO BULLY THE U.S.?.... WHY NOT??.... WHAT FOR???.... FOR THE PHILIPPINES, P.NOY AND THE COURTS SHOULD REMAIN FIRM. THE CHINESE OFFENDERS SHOULD SUFFER THE PUNISHMENTS IMPOSED. (SEE FVR COLUMNS ON THE SPRATLYS SINCE 2005)… ABANGAN!!!

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