What China fears is democracy
Last Tuesday, Social Weather Stations released the following findings of its new survey of Filipino public opinion about China (SWS July 3-6, 2020 National Mobile Phone Survey—Report No. 3: “Stratbase ADR Institute sponsors items on Filipino public opinion on China,” www.sws.org.ph, 7/14/20): 61 percent believe that China did not immediately share their information on COVID-19 to the world;
Among those who believe the above, 77 percent agree that China should be held accountable for it;70 percent agree that the Philippine government should assert its territorial rights in the West Philippine Sea (WPS); and82 percent agree that the Philippines should form alliances with other democratic countries that are ready to help defend its territorial rights in the WPS.
The SWS survey was done for presentation to the high-level international conference, “A New Regional Order: Effective Alignment through Strategic Partnerships,” organized by the Stratbase Albert del Rosario Institute. It was timed, of course, for the fourth anniversary of the Philippines’ great victory over China in the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA). (See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=54KEVBPl35k&feature=youtu.be for the conference proceedings.)
The SWS survey shows that the Filipino people strongly support enforcement of the arbitral ruling though several peaceful ways recommended by former Justice Antonio Carpio (https://rappler.com/nation/carpio-rebuts-duterte-ways-enforce-hague-ruling, 7/14/19). Among these remedies are:
entering into a convention with the four coastal states of Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei, to declare that no geologic feature in the Spratly Islands generates an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and that there are only territorial seas from the geologic features that are above water at high tide, as ruled by the PCA; sending the Philippine Coast Guard’s 10 new multi-role response vessels, donated by Japan, to patrol the WPS, catch poachers in our EEZ, and thus assert Philippine sovereign rights to the area; welcoming and encouraging freedom of navigation and overflight operations (FONOPs) of the United States and other naval powers, and sending the Philippine Navy to join the operations, in the South China Sea, including the WPS; inviting the other coastal states to conduct joint FONOPs with the Philippines in their respective EEZs facing the WPS; and supporting private efforts to enforce the arbitral award, such as the case filed by former foreign secretary Albert del Rosario and former ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales against Chinese President Xi Jinping before the International Criminal Court, for crimes against humanity over environmental damage in the South China Sea.
Coupled with previous SWS surveys, it is clear that anti-China feelings in the Philippines are getting stronger with every new instance of bullying by the Chinese government. Perhaps it does not worry Mr. Xi too much, if negative feelings are confined to only one people, and he thinks that the leader of those people is already beholden to him. But as sentiments solidify across several peoples, as well as their governments, will he never venture to mend his ways?
International relations are the concern not only of governments, but also of the peoples represented by those governments. In democracies, the leaders, conscious of their impermanence, keep close watch on popular feelings, and are guided by freely conducted opinion polls.
But in China, where the Chinese Communist Party is supreme, there is no opinion polling. Yet the Party watches the democracy movements in Taiwan and Hong Kong very closely. Just last weekend, the prestigious Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute was “raided” by the police, to prevent it from assisting in a primary for democratic groups aiming to contest the next elections (https://www.scmp.com/print/news/hong-kong/politics/article/3092742/hong-kong-police-raid-office-poll-organisers-involved).