Call for enlightened patriotism among Chinese
The struggle for dominance in the West Philippine Sea between the two largest economic and military powers appeared headed for a showdown after a US warship entered the troubled waters, defying China’s warning that such an act would be seen as a direct challenge to its sovereignty claims.
It was good that no physical response from China took place, as dreaded. Meanwhile, the world could be holding its breath as it watches and waits for the next move from either side; even as many countries can’t be sure whether to be alarmed as early as now is to be paranoid and panicky, or there is now a real emergency or an acute danger that cannot be trivialized.
What a welcome news that the UN tribunal ruled that it has jurisdiction over the maritime dispute between the Philippines and China. But it is no cause for genuine rejoicing as yet. Why?
- First, China refuses to take part in the arbitration, even rejecting the tribunal’s ruling.
- Second, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the G-7 (a group of industrialized nations) have failed to stop China from proceeding with its rather intimidating reclamation activities. China has finished the construction of artificial islands, complete with military facilities and two lighthouses—“improvements,” it says, that obviously are meant to solidify its claim.
- Third, any final ruling made by the tribunal may not prosper, since it has no police power to implement its own edict. Either China or Russia or both can veto its decision, they being permanent members of the UN Security Council.
The US plan of sending in the coming weeks more warships and aircraft to the West Philippine Sea as “freedom of navigation patrols” could further heighten the tension, especially as Chinese netizens are demanding a stronger retaliatory response.
But the slightest spark could blow up this tinderbox and set ablaze another nuclear war (which we have been spared in the last eight decades) between major powers that have arsenals of lethal atomic weapons.
This tense situation now (which calls for restraint from all parties concerned), if not averted, could repeat history. (Note the rivalry between Austria and Russia for control of the Balkans ultimately triggered World War I.)
The patriotism of the Chinese people has emboldened their government in bullying other claimant-countries in claiming—and reclaiming—contested areas in their search for rich minerals believed to be deposited underneath the seabed of the disputed waters.
On the other hand, it would also be a greater act of enlightened patriotism for the Chinese people to persuade their government to respect the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea or, at least, wait for a new Philippine administration (after elections next year) for possible bilateral talks that could lead to amicable settlement.
For what good would it serve China, even if it controls the whole world, if this planet (to date, the one and only habitable so far) would be totally destroyed?
—ARMANDO LIBRANDO ALPAY, c/o [email protected]
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