China triggers rise of Filipino patriotism

China triggers rise of Filipino patriotism

12:30 AM May 17, 2024

This is a delicate moment in the Philippine – China relationship. It can arguably be claimed that this relationship is one of our longest and most enduring, spawning back almost a thousand years if we are to accept ancient Chinese artifacts as evidence. A trade relationship, definitely; and over time and interaction, a cultural one, too.

Today, studies show that as much as 27% of Filipinos have some Chinese blood in them. Genetically, it would seem logical that our blood ties would make the Chinese influence as most dominant among all foreigners. But it never became so. In fact, for the first time, we are being swept by the drums of war against each other.

While not being a scholar in history, it is clear to me that there was no political history with China, only local political incidents involving Filipinos of Chinese descent. And when there was a moment for the Philippines and China to engage each other as sovereign states, it was as enemies in the Korean war. Filipinos fought as allies of the United States and South Korea while China sides with North Korea.

In the Cold War era, the Philippines stood with Western democracies while China stood out as a prime Communist nation together with Russia. The adverse political relationship, however, did not disturb the cultural and economic ties. Filipinos kept buying cheap Chinese products and never stopped eating Chinese cuisine that was already embedded in the Filipino taste buds.


Political colors were added to Chinese migration into the Philippines from the conflict of Mao Tse-tung and Chiang Kai-shek, which means from the 1940s onwards. Most migrants to the Philippines favored Chiang’s Kuomintang which also coincided with the Philippines doing the same. China backed the North Koreans in the 1950s while the Philippines allied with the United States helping South Korea.

However, as the American-China relationship improved in the 70s, so did ours. The last 50 years have been a dramatic thawing and emerging acceptance of one another – until the 9-Dash line claim of China and its aggressive moves to impose its convoluted concept of empire on others, including the Philippines. Former President Ramos saw it coming and grounded the BRP Sierra Madre to serve as an outpost – or like an extraordinary marker saying part of the ocean belongs to the Philippines.

China fantasized about empire and the 9-Dash Line claim over oceans became its primary face. In the recent decades, China converted its fantasy into an operational mission to make true its claim using superior naval force. The fantasy has been turning into fanaticism. There is only one ending for fanaticism, the same ending we must prepare for.

It is our great misfortune to be strategically located within China’s fanatical delusion of empire. Furthermore, the West Philippine Sea sits on top of massive gas and oil deposits, fuel sources that can catapult China to even greater heights.


Flexing its muscles in 2012, probably sensing President Aquino and the United States would actively cooperate to protect the seas that belonged to the Philippines, China triggered the Scarborough Shoal drama. The Shoal was cordoned by Chinese ships, denying Filipino fishermen access to our traditional fishing grounds.

China put itself in a position that it cannot retreat from, no matter what it says. Too much pride to swallow. Too much greed for the resources they want. Too much firepower in its hands. Too much arrogance among its military-dependent leaders.


The Scarborough Shoal incident gave the Philippines the opportunity to bring the case to the United Nations. As expected, the Philippines won its case against China. Chinese propaganda was not enough; superior military and economic resources were also not enough to change the physical terrain of the earth and its oceans. The arbitral tribunal naturally followed the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) of which China is a signatory, affirming the rights of the Philippines and debunking the 9-Dash Line claim of China.

Despite that, however, the insulting bullying of the Chinese naval and other maritime vessels against our fishermen and re-supply mission boats and Coast Guard ships continued. It has triggered a sharper resentment in the Filipino people. This elevated resentment includes the attempts of some Filipino politicians and businessmen to favor China. No wonder that there is now more noise about treachery and traitors. In the view of many, they have sold their souls to China’s dream of empire – and profited from it.

With an international ruling favoring the Philippines in a territorial dispute, there is now solid basis to engage in a multi-party agreement to protect the rights of countries versus Chinese aggression. The United States has openly given assurances of its participation in an allied defense of the Philippines should it be attacked. Japan and Australia have shown active sympathy as well. Many more are expected to join that allied defense initiative if the Philippines pursues it.

I am seeing the ingredients for a violent confrontation find convergence. That is a sad development because China is not an enemy we want to make, not an enemy we want to fight. But China is not giving the Philippines and the Filipino people any palatable choice other than to submit in fear to superior military and economic might. Filipinos must prepare for the worst; political and civic leaders must work in unison to immediately develop a comprehensive plan.

The Marcos administration must be credited for standing up to China and re-establishing a stronger bond with its mutual defense partner, the United States. It also deserves credit for engaging other nations to join the Philippines to protect, not just our territorial sovereignty and exclusive economic zones, but the open access to international sea lanes.

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Yet, the same administration must understand that major internal bickering will divide and weaken us like the unpopular push for Cha Cha. One hand fighting the other is a classical blunder of moronic dimensions. As China enjoys our political zarzuela, let me relish seeing Filipino patriotism rise.

TAGS: China, opinion

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