The fate of the mice that roar – Sunday, 30 April 2017
It was bound to happen, that of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit statement coming off bland or not at all, except perhaps a statement from the chair of the Asean Summit, who is President Duterte.
And it is not just Mr. Duterte who didn’t want to come up with an aggressive Asean statement on China and its claim over almost the entire China sea.
Mr. Duterte had made it very clear, long before the Asean Summit was scheduled, that he would put the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) ruling favoring the Philippines, and stated many times over that he would put the issue with China over the PCA in the backburner, until such time that he would bring up the issue of sovereignty.
Why would the other Asean leaders then expect the Philippine President to create more tensions with China though a strong statement that would irritate China?
It was said that there was a free-for all discussion among the Asean members on the issue of the Summit statement included in the Chinese South China Sea claim, yet which country would lose out badly if Mr. Duterte went along with the other member states that want a strongly-worded message against China, if not the Philippines?
Then too, even if the Philippine president goes along with the Asean member states’ leaders to come up with a strong statement on China, it is not only the Philippines that is against bringing this up. There are Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar that would protest this too, which means that either no statement will be issued, or yet another bland statement will be submitted, as a consensus will not have been reached.
What puzzles is why these member states insist on striking out against China, knowing that more Chinese forays will be made, which would again mean, the loss of livelihood for the Filipino fishermen, apart from constant confrontations between China and the Philippines and even worse, there would be no regional peace not only in the Philippines but also in all Asean states.
Our Asean neighbors certainly are aware of what went on during the term of former President Benigno Aquino, where the Philippines could do nothing at all to stop China in its sea forays, even when the US government sent its ships near the artificial islands. There was a lot of tension between the two confrontational countries, but what had the Philippines become, if not an Asian mouse that roared against the elephant that is China?
We certainly lost out in the trade game. No big infrastructure project came about when Aquino was president. Sure, the country showed a growth, but jobs were scarce and it was the Filipino domestic workers all over the world, with their remittances that kept the country afloat.
Moreover, that six or so growth and good credit ratings did not do anything for the poor Filipinos, and worse, the drug problem proliferated during Aquino’s term.
Regional peace has come about with the Philippines having a friendly and healthy relationship with China and bilateral talks will bring more peace in the region, rather than the old way of getting America’s formula of multilateral talks.
What is it that the Asean leaders who push a critical stand against China? Do they prefer the Americans, especially under President Donald Trump’s tenure as the Asean leader being our protector and dictating and imposing what the US wants each Asean member state to do things the US way and interfere in their way of life as well as the US dictates are generally to the interest of the US, and not necessarily to the interest of Asean member states.
There is doubt if Indonesia, or Singapore or Malaysia would want the US government to tell them what to do. Many Asean leaders are as nationalistic as President Duterte. Besides, among Asean states, it has been made clear that Asean states will not interfere in each other state’s internal affairs.
So why do some Asean leaders want to strongly criticize China on their claim to the vast expanse of the South China Sea?
If such is what they want, perhaps these same countries can bring their problems to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague themselves and get a favorable ruling which they know China will not recognize. But if they want a war with China, that’s their lookout.
Obviously, however, some Asean member leaders want a strong Asean statement on China, to create the perception that the entire Asean is against China’s claim of the South China Sea, in the hope that such an Asean consensus on this specific issue with China will be sufficient pressure for China to back off its claims.
It won’t work. China, with its military power, is still the super power in Asean and Asia.
Asean mice will just be roaring against the Chinese elephant and that is the only thing that they can do, which will result in breaking the regional peace in the process.