Lurking underneath [By Jiao Haiyang/China.org.cn]
It seems to me that there are motives for recent arrogance on the part of the Philippines: to grab the oil and gas resources around the South China Sea; to act as a pawn for America's return to Asia strategy; to shift domestic conflicts and cater to the homespun nationalistic fervor; and to trigger dissension between China and the countries around the South China Sea, thereby giving the Philippines more power in ASEAN.
However, the Philippines are counting their chickens before they are hatched.
As far as economic interests are concerned, such short-sightedness will surely result in long-term losses. China is currently the third-largest trading partner for the Philippines after the U.S. and Japan. Media outlets in the Philippines have commented that the country's economic growth depends more on emerging countries such as China, especially in the wake of the financial crisis which has hit Western economies and markets hard. The Philippines wants to deepen cooperation with China in the fields of shipbuilding, mining, the auto industry, investment funds and energy industries. In light of this, it aims to attract immediate investments from China totaling US$7 billion investment or up to US$50 billion within four years. But this will become a pipe dream if the Philippines continues to undermine China's national interests.
In terms of U.S.-Filipino relations, the Philippines is counting on the fact that the U.S. will support its more aggressive stance. It is debatable, however, if the U.S. would be willing to force a showdown with the world's second largest economy on the Philippines' account.
With regard to public opinion in the Philippines, Benigno Aquino III has seen his support rating steadily decline since taking office, according to Nikkei Business Daily. Rather than increase his popularity, Aquino III's tough stance on the Nansha Islands, saw increasing levels of public dissatisfaction with the government's handling of the economy. After all, politicians count on votes, while voters count on enjoying a decent standard of living.
Last but not least, from the perspective of inter-ASEAN relations, who agreed that the Philippines should act as a "leader"? How can they act in such an arrogant and controlling manner towards other ASEAN countries? If the Philippines is willing to engage in this latest stand-off with China, there is no guarantee that other countries will be so short-sighted as to join them. If the Philippines continues to expand within ASEAN, all other AEAN countries should be on their guard, as the Nansha Islands are unlikely to satisfy Filipino ambitions.
The Philippines' biggest mistake is that they miscalculated China's strength and will to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity. China's position on the South China Sea is consistent and clear: It will retain its commitment to resolving the dispute peacefully with the greatest patience and sincerity. However, patience does not equal "land for peace", and China's peaceful rise does not necessarily preclude the use of force under threat or provocation. Filipino politicians should realize the mismatch between the two countries in terms of comprehensive national strength and military power, and that, as a result, such a showdown is a futile gesture which is doomed to failure.
One of the PLA's supreme commanders Chen Yi once said that "good will be rewarded with good, and evil with evil; if the reward is not forthcoming, it's because the time has not arrived." Politicians in the Philippines would do well to bear this in mind.
The author holds the rank of major-general in the Chinese People's Liberation Army and is executive vice president of the Chinese Strategic Culture Association.
This article was first published in Chinese and translated by Lin Liyao.
Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors, not necessarily those of China.org.cn.