After Obama, let's welcome Xi Jinping!
You read it right. The Philippines should invite and welcome Chinese President Xi Jinping as it has warmly invited and welcomed President Barack Obama. Let me explain.
First, the Philippines has already played up its dominant strategies vis-à-vis China and does not have more cards left to play with. The Philippines has already signed the Enhanced Cooperation Defense Agreement with the US, filed a memorial with the UN and has procured equipment for a minimum defense posture. Now that it has some chips (and Uncle Sam) to bring to the table, perhaps it is now time for the Philippines to talk bilaterally with China while also pursuing its other strategies.
Posturing and bullhorn diplomacy is only making matters worse and will not work. It should now be put aside by both parties in favor of bilateral talks.
Second, regardless of what the US or the Philippines will do, China will continue to play its dominant strategy as a rising superpower. There is not much the Philippines can do about this. China will aspire to become a maritime power just like what major powers did in the past. It will not submit itself to international arbitration (like the US). Doing so will have complications for its claims in the East China Sea. It will not allow itself to be disrespected by other countries after being exploited for a long time by colonial powers. The Philippines would have to adjust to this new reality.
Third, the fear of talking to China bilaterally appears to stem partly from lack of deep understanding of Chinese history, psychology and its national interests. The sooner Philippine leaders understand China, the better. The sooner they have strategic face-to-face dialogue, the better. The Philippines should not be afraid to talk to China if it understands the Chinese leader’s psyche.
Fourth, it is naïve to believe that the US will come to the Philippines' defense in the same way that Obama has pledged to come to Japan’s defense in the case of Sengkaku/Daiyu Islands. US officials have already signaled this implicitly saying that the Philippine case is “hypothetical” and the US will not be involved in territorial disputes. China knows that the US commitment to the Philippines is not highly credible. As long as China will not harm the core US interest of freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, the US has no appetite to get into conflict with China. Remember how important China is to the US economy. US foreign policymakers are plain realists.
PH just a pawn
Fifth, China knows that the Philippines is a treaty ally of the US and will be treated as such. The Philippines would have to accept the fact that it is just a pawn in the larger scheme of things between US and China relations. It can be a smart pawn, nevertheless. If the Philippines is looking at examples how to deal with China as a pawn in the larger scheme of great power politics, it should look up to Taiwan, a US ally and once a mortal enemy of China. It is now talking with China. The Chinese are a pragmatic lot.
Finally and most importantly, security concerns should not be the only agenda in Sino-Philippines relations. China will soon be the world’s largest economy. The Philippines should expand its economic ties with China just as many countries in Asia have done so. The Philippines should welcome more Chinese investments and tourists and not be fixated with the South China Sea dispute. The Philippines needs more investments jobs now than get into quarrel with China.
Likewise, an anti-China nationalist sentiment is also not good for the Philippine economy given the significant role played by Chinoy entrepreneurs.They should do more to promote greater understanding between China and the Philippines and not just expand their business in China.
If President Aquino or his officials do not really want to talk to China because they have been frustrated and have taken it personally, then I would nominate Erap to do the job and reboot Sino-Philippines relations. He’s done it in Hong Kong, and chances are he will be well liked in Beijing. It will be wise for Beijing to welcome the mayor of Manila.
Welcome Barack Obama. Welcome Xi Jinping. - Rappler.com
The author is an Assistant Professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore.