Extraterritorial privilege of Chinese nationals

Traditional international relations are based on the equation of conflict-diplomacy-war. If you take out diplomacy from this equation, there will be perpetual war.

Sad to say, our foreign policy now seems to have removed diplomacy in our relations with China. President Duterte said that, when he mentioned the West Philippine Sea dispute in a secret meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, Xi threatened Mr. Duterte with war if he brought up the issue again. Since then, that Chinese position has become the cornerstone of our relations with China. It is a colossal bluff by Beijing — which we swallowed.


Border wars are not total wars, but limited wars. The so-called Davidoff Affair confirms that China is not willing to engage in total war over a border dispute. In the 1960s, China and the Soviet Union engaged in armed combat in the Ussuri River. In one of the shadowy operations of the Cold War, Boris Davidoff, the Soviet GRU (military intelligence agent) in Washington, asked for a meeting with an official of the US state department. Davidoff inquired what the US reaction would be if the Soviets knocked down the Chinese nuclear facilities in a preemptive strike.

China’s nuclear industry was still in its infancy then. This was clearly a back-channel message to China. The United States, as expected, transmitted the information to China. Thereafter, the Chinese became conciliatory in the border dispute with the USSR, leading to a treaty that resolved the border dispute.


We must pursue the right policies to force the Chinese into a total war scenario, which they dearly wish to avoid. We cannot fight a total war with China, of course; a total war must be a confrontation between nuclear powers. Thus, it is essential that we forge alliances with nuclear powers. Our mistake is we discarded our allies and instead decided to face China alone

—a case of a rabbit negotiating with a lion. In such negotiations, the outcome is predictable as to who will get the lion’s share.

China is doing to us now what the other powers did to China years ago, wherein capitulation zones were established in the country. If a foreigner violated Chinese law, they could not be tried outright in Chinese courts. China had to negotiate with the foreign powers to assert its authority over the lawbreaker. Invariably, the foreign powers ended up trying their own nationals.

We have seen this happen in two recent cases in our country. When Chinese nationals were discovered working illegally in the Philippines, President Duterte did not order them deported in accordance with our immigration laws. The lame excuse was that it would prejudice our OFWs working in China. This reasoning overlooked the fact that our nationals are working within the laws of China, while the majority of the Chinese in our country appear to be engaged in online gambling or drugs, in violation of our laws.

The recent maritime incident in Recto Bank moved us closer to the capitulation system. Whenever an accident happens in a country’s territory, the local authorities simply apply local laws. One does not negotiate with a foreign country on how the accident should be handled, as we are doing now.

The tradeoff — allowing China to fish in Recto Bank in exchange for giving our fishermen access to Panatag Shoal — confirms our exploitative relations with China. Instead of Chinese vessels fishing only in Panatag Shoal, they can now also fish in Recto Bank under the Duterte-Xi secret agreement.

The sale by the Indians of Manhattan to the Dutch for beads worth $49 has been cited as the worst scam in territorial agreements. But at least in that deal, the Indians received $49 as payment. In our case, we ceded fishing rights to China in Recto Bank without getting anything in return. The right to fish in Panatag Shoal has already been granted to us by The Hague tribunal.


On the basis of the foregoing, it may be time to call the Chinese ambassador in Manila “high commissioner,” vice the American officials with the same title during the Commonwealth Era.

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Hermenegildo C. Cruz is a retired career diplomat who served as Philippine ambassador to the United Nations, Chile, Bolivia and the Soviet Union.

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TAGS: hermenegildo c. cruz, Inquirer Commentary, Maritime Dispute, PH-China relations, Rodrigo Duterte, South China Sea, West Philippine Sea, xi jinping
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