‘Manchurian’ vs ‘Manhattan’ candidates
The sharply rising geostrategic competition between China and the United States is causing worldwide impacts of crisis proportions. This global rivalry between the international order’s top great powers is roiling the central dynamics of the Asia-Indo-Pacific region. Its destabilizing undercurrents are broadly affecting the economic, political, diplomatic, and security domains of this vast land-maritime space, and the future social development path of Southeast Asia’s huge masses of working people is in peril.
The effects of the China-US contention are also playing out in relation to next year’s Philippine elections. Various Filipino presidential candidates are selectively becoming targets of foreign political influence. This is an outcome of heightening political warfare — mainly covert electoral interference activities and measures — between the two global great powers focused on the Philippines. The political contest among “Manchurian” and “Manhattan” candidates will surely characterize the country’s electoral landscape for the next five months.
This scenario is a result of both China’s and America’s ongoing electoral interventions directed at the country. Their respective gray-zone tactics aim to manipulate the Philippines’ highly centralized political power structure and its overall decision-making processes. This includes shaping the electorate’s basic viewpoint and attitude for either foreign power. As such, these two world powers intend to effectively sway the next Malacañang regime into supporting and upholding their central foreign policy goals and objectives.
The Manchurian candidate’s external outlook and agenda will be to align Manila with Beijing’s foreign policy line. As in the book “The Manchurian Candidate” and its subsequent movies, this particular political figure is envisaged to become China’s head of state-agent in Malacañang. In this case, a Chinese-influenced Philippine president will ensure that the Philippines actively supports China’s expanding sphere of influence and control — or if not, to openly join it.
Additionally, this type of Philippine president could guarantee Manila’s espousal of diplomatic and material aid in furtherance of China’s external relations course. At the very least, the Philippines’ support will merely enhance China’s general standing in international affairs and on the world stage.
Inevitably, Manila’s close collaboration with Beijing would entail the former to endorse and promote the latter’s globally expansive thrusts. This of course, embraces China’s external strategic plans for a synergized cohesion of the immense Eurasian landmass—from the western edge of the Eastern Hemisphere on the North Atlantic Ocean to its eastern edge in the Pacific Ocean—under Beijing’s effectual guidance. Equally, Beijing’s geostrategy includes securing its vital sea lines of communication and key chokepoints encompassing both the Indian and Pacific oceans, especially the “Five Island Chains”—from the coastline of Eastern Africa to America’s western coastline—to fortify its strategic depth versus the US.
Conversely, the key task of the Manhattan candidate will be to protect and project the US’ strategic interests within Southeast Asia—with the Philippines remaining as America’s major base of operations to counteract China. Truly, since Manhattan contains Wall Street, it endures as the heartland of the American capitalist system. As such, its core economic concerns propel forward US imperialism’s wide-ranging foreign policy ventures around the world.
But in reaction to its waning superpower status, America is compelled to strike an imperialist rebalance within the international system. Already, its mounting global strategic offensive on China is to deny it from attaining greater ascendancy in its acute competition with the US. Washington’s belligerence toward Beijing is pursued via a geostrategy—the Hemispheric Arc of Denial—to assert its “free and open” Indo-Pacific policy, with Southeast Asian states as mere pawns on a regional chessboard. And for America’s strategic posture to prevail in this area, it will breed more Manhattan candidates for next year’s presidential election.
Filipino voters must beware of the true nature of the presidentiables by May 9, 2022.
* * *
Rasti Delizo is an international affairs analyst and an activist in the socialist movement.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.