A nation can be compared to a train where the citizens are passengers. The leaders are the engineers who direct the train and the speed with which it travels. If the engineers recklessly run the train along tracks beside a cliff at a rate of unsafe speed, it could very well derail and fall hundreds of feet down killing or seriously hurting its helpless passengers.
Arrogance of power and false dangerous ego based nationalism can blind a nation’s leaders and many of its people – leading them towards a dangerous path headed for sure disaster. How can leaders of nations and many of its citizens be so irrational or be so blind as not to see that they are bringing their people to hell?
The history of mankind is full of stories of charismatic ego driven leaders who impressed upon their people that it is their manifest destiny to rule the world and that their time has come for these glorious moments. Leaders might be labeled by their own people as being “great” especially when they have conquered other nations – but in actuality, they were not only terrible scourges to the people they conquered but also were curses to their own people who eventually suffered much because of their blind ambitions to rule the world.
Within human beings are the seeds of good and evil. There is a terrible frightening force within us that operates on a personal and group level that makes us blind to the evil that we do – even causing us to see the evil we do as good. Hitler’s attack or invasion of neighboring economically and militarily weaker countries: Poland, France, England, Holland, etc. – swelled the hearts and minds of many Germans with national pride. They even closed their eyes and numbed their consciences to the mass slaughter of innocent Jews as necessary for the motherland to conquer the world. They saw Nazism as good instead of the horrible evil that it was. What terrible forces blinded them from clearly seeing the evil that they were doing and made them even think they were doing something good?
In the case of Hitler’s Nazi Germany and Japan’s Tojo governments in WWII, it was a combination of group ego, false nationalism and power tripping over lording it over weaker helpless nations. Their lack of respect and brutality towards other nations eventually led to their defeat, the destruction of their countries and much suffering for the Japanese and German people.
These evil leaders had their temporary victories and glories, but over time, they incurred the combined wrath of those countries they invaded and oppressed which in turn regrouped and made them and their people pay heavily for their bullying oppressive grabbing ways. Hannibal, Napoleon, Japan’s military leaders in WW II, Hitler, Mussolini, Saddam Hussein – are some examples of ego driven leaders who initially successfully invaded and conquered other countries but eventually paid heavy prices for their megalomania and dragged their people down with them. Eventually, other countries they had not yet invaded realized that they could be the next victims. They allied themselves with those similarly situated and went to the rescue of the conquered countries whose citizens also fought from within to defeat the invaders.
Is China heading towards the same destructive direction? With its recent remarkable economic success, China has expanded and re-armed with modern weapons its armed forces – now the largest in the world in terms of number of military personnel. Will China’s arrogant behavior of immoral policy decisions and showing no respect to other nations who are much weaker militarily – lead the Chinese people along a dangerous path where eventually, the whole world will ally to bring China down as a rogue evil nation?
Here’s the thing:
The primary obligation of any government is to provide a good honest efficient government that constantly attends to the general welfare of its people. Ideally, governments should provide its citizens with the basics of: economic opportunities for honest livelihood, defense against foreign invaders, protecting the citizenry from dishonest individuals in the private and public sector, education and health services and promulgating conditions that would enable many to reach their highest potentials as human beings. This also means having a non-strangulating political environment for individuals that affords free legitimate self-determination choices for happy fulfilling lives.
But in addition to these, governments also have a moral obligation to its citizens of maintaining the respect and goodwill of other nations by avoiding aggressive immoral illegitimate ego and greed based oppression of weaker nations that cause a sense of outrage in the global community. The lessons of history show that no nation, however big, wealthy or powerful – can carry on with unjustified coercive policies against other nations without risking the security of its own people or internal strife among its own people.
Noveaux rich China with its aggressive bullying territory grabbing military actions against weaker nations, support of corrupt oppressive governments and non-respect for the patent rights and intellectual property belonging to citizens of other countries – is fast heading towards a downward road to hell for its citizens.
As in Hitler’s Germany, some of China’s current political and military leaders and many of its citizens may be ego tripping with their new wealth and military might. It appears that they are escalating their abuse of power in many ways – seeing themselves as clever with their nefarious ways. Hopefully, the more rational among the Chinese people will look at history and see that the present course they are on will lead their nation to self-destruct – and that they should do all that they can to prevent this.
Consider some of China’s policies. According to Transparency International, China has very close ties with many of the most corrupt and oppressive human rights violator nations – supplying them with armaments, equipment and various infrastructures – in exchange for concessions to their oil, minerals and other natural resources. These include countries like: Sudan, Chad, Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea, the Congo, Zimbabwe, North Korea, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, etc. Billions of dollars go to the pockets of the dictators in these countries instead of benefiting the impoverished hungry populations which rightly own the wealth of their countries. How much bad will is China incurring with the victim citizens of these countries?
In the Philippines and other surrounding countries, China’s leaders are outrageously claiming that territories within 200 miles of these countries rich in fish and vast energy resources are theirs – even if the United Nation’s Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS) affirms otherwise. China bases its claim on what is obviously recognizable pure fiction simply used as a reason to oppress weaker nations to take over their territories and valuable resources.
China’s premises its claim on an ancient Han Dynasty map and also on an arbitrary map made by an individual in Chiang Kai Sheks’ Kuomintang government in 1948 – which indicated China’s territory with a U shaped (like a cow’s tongue) so called “9 dash line.” Even some Chinese scholars indicate that the Chinese claim is so arbitrary that it cannot be sustained on factual or legal grounds.
If China’s leaders are acting in good faith and truly believe that they have a valid claim, then they should have no problems in having their claim and the conflicting claims of other countries adjudicated in the International Tribunal on the Law of the Seas (ITLOS) utilizing the UNCLOS law to which they are signatories. Why won’t China agree to this fair objective process meant to resolve ocean territorial disputes between countries unless China’s leaders themselves know that they are pushing a bogus claim which cannot withstand judicial scrutiny?
They want to take over Philippine territories because of the enormous resources found there so they simply are using brute force by squatting and claiming fictitious rights on these. Initially, being cautious, China was first using veiled methods to take over islands in Philippine territories – such as claiming that they were merely putting a resting station for their fishermen in Mischief Reef. It turned out later that what they built was a permanent military garrison. To take over Scarborough Shoals, they sent in over a hundred disguised fishing boats accompanied by armed patrol boats.
In the interest of peace, seeking to avoid armed heated confrontation with the giant Chinese dragon and seeking a diplomatic solution, the Philippines has agreed to cool the situation in Scarborough by withdrawing its ships from the area with the understanding that China would do the same. Not only did China not withdraw its ships, it even increased their numbers and also roped off the area preventing Philippine fishing and patrol boats from entering Philippine territory which is only 120 miles from the Philippines’ Zambales province and over a thousand miles from China. Some reports indicate that Chinese ships were recently observed unloading construction materials in the Scarborough area.
Emboldened by its strategy and the ease with which it can gain valuable territory without a fight, China is using the same strategy to take over other areas clearly inside the Philippines 200 mile economic zone. Only now, their takeover plans are no longer veiled but includes outright arrogant declarations that these waters and land inside Philippines territory is theirs and that it is the Philippines which is trespassing. Not only do their fishing boats now come in and out of Philippine waters without permission but Chinese cruise ships and missile carrying war ships do the same. Three of these recently deployed themselves near Ayungin Shoals, their next target for occupation.
At the Shangri-la Dialogue Conference in Singapore on June 2, 2013, Chinese Lt. General Qi Jianguo, Deputy Chief of the Chinese Liberation Army – openly declared Philippine territory as theirs: “We don’t see any necessity to resort to an international tribunal. Patrols by Chinese warships and surveillance vessels within our own territory are totally legitimate and uncontroversial.”
Major General Zhang Zhaozhang, a professor at China’s National Defense University, recently openly disclosed in a television interview the Chinese strategy to take over Philippine territories: Chinese warships have been “wrapping Panatag (Scarborough) like a cabbage” successfully keeping Philippine patrol and fishing boats away. “We can adopt this method elsewhere.”
Zhaozhang gleefully added: “We have successfully sealed the area. If the Philippines wants to get in, they have to ask our permission…Our fishermen can carry out their production safely while our country’s marine rights and sovereignty are safeguarded.”
These statements clearly indicate China’s strategy from the start and for the future. They were feeling out how the Philippines and the US, its major superpower ally – would react if they took a small piece of Philippine territory using bully tactics and coercive intimidation. Having had two seemingly successful grabs, they now believe that they can now proceed with their cabbage strategy at will – grabbing one area after the other until they possess everything.
Engaged in obvious duplicity, at the same time that they are engaged in these blatant territorial grabs, they are telling the world that their intention is to have peaceful relationships with their neighbors and want only mutual cooperation and development – as General Qi did in the Shangri-la dialogue.
China’s political and military leaders are outsmarting themselves and going on a very dangerous deadly course of action for its people. The Philippines, the United States, the surrounding countries – are not exactly fools and are very aware of China’s trickery and insincerity. The more China’s leaders engage in these immoral activities, the more they incur the ire and resentment of the global community.
Very clearly, the Philippines now knows what China’s takeover plans are from the very beginning and for the future. If nothing is effectively done to stop China from carrying out its cabbage and other devious strategies, within a short time, not only will Chinese war boats, patrol and fishing boats be regular fixtures in Philippine waters, Chinese oil rigs and oil tankers will also be common sights.
Given these blatant immoral actions on the part of China, what should the Philippines do?
Here’s my take on this:
China or at least its leadership is generally no longer the China guided by the principled thoughts of its great philosopher sages like Confucius, Lao Tzu, Mencius and others who were concerned about humanist values such as: human rights; love and respect for family and neighbors; a commitment to truth and justice.
While the world should rightfully rejoice with the long suffering Chinese people on its new found prosperity, it should also be aware of the dangers that face the Chinese people and the world – because of the dark directions where some of her leaders are taking them.
The official modern China of today, sad to say, has incorporated in its present thinking much of the ugliness found in western corporate culture: Insatiable greed; the loss of spirituality; a callousness to the sufferings of exploited people; a willingness to use military force and other devious methods to grab the territories and resources of weaker nations; supporting oppressive corrupt foreign dictators and a lack of sensitivity to notions of fairness and justice.
Like a vampire constantly thirsty for blood to sustain its life, China constantly is now constantly lusting for oil, minerals and other resources to fuel her continued hunger for continuous wealth. If only she were willing to play by the rules and pay fair amounts for these resources as other nations do, she would be viewed more favorably by the world. Instead, she has taken the way of brigands and pirates deciding to take these resources by force. As such, she has targeted resource rich Philippines and other neighboring militarily weak countries to be her victims.
Victim countries like the Philippines must now take a bold firm stand to defend themselves against China’s grabbing bullying tactics. It’s now or never. Given her track record of duplicity, China cannot be expected nor trusted to take the moral high ground in its dealings. China’s cold hearted leaders appear to be mainly preoccupied with economic, military and political power concerns and the hell with who gets hurt.
Given the reality that the Philippines and neighboring countries are facing a heartless mighty dragon who wants to take what is not hers, what choices does the Philippines have? Filipinos must either fight or run away and live with the unpalatable thought that they and their country are being abused, raped and pillaged before their very eyes.
Many Filipinos have been lulled into inaction by the thought that we have already brought this matter to the United Nations for arbitration. This is hardly a solution. China’s officials have hinted that they will not submit to the jurisdiction of the UN Court on this matter. Moreover, it will take at least four years before this arbitration process is completed. Meanwhile, China continues to take and occupy strategic points in our territories. When these points are connected, China will then claim that the area enclosed by the lines all belong to them.
There are also those who keep on floating the idea that the solution can be found through diplomatic means. China has repeatedly announced that they are open to discussions. But they condition these discussions to bilateral negotiations where only China and the Philippines will be involved: no input from the United Nations or other countries. Correctly, the Philippines as well as former US Secretary Hillary Clinton, have rejected this arrangement. The results are predictable. China’s tremendous leverage over the Philippines, as Clinton pointed out, will leave the Philippines with little bargaining power. Diplomacy will work only if both sides are in good faith.
In dealing with a country like China where moral principles are not primary considerations, we can expect that the only forces that will serve as leverage for the Philippines are factors that affect China’s national pocketbook and the risk for them that other countries will ally with the Philippines including superpower USA which will equalize the face off.
I believe that if the Philippines wants to retain its territories and resources, it has no other choice but to immediately defend against China’s intrusion. But this must be done intelligently. We must try to ally with as many countries as possible and get the support of the majority of the global community. The world must clearly be informed through a concerted public and social media campaign of the truth about China’s immoral use of its military might to grab the Philippines and other countries’ territories and resources.
The Philippines must learn from the experience of Vietnam in 1988. Unarmed Vietnamese sailors were dispatched by the Vietnamese government to Johnson Reef which was well within Vietnam’s economic zone to keep Chinese sailors from occupying the area. China also claims this area as theirs. When the Chinese Navy ships got there, they massacred the unarmed helpless Vietnamese sailors with 37mm anti-aircraft guns killing 64 of them and seriously wounded many. The Chinese filmed this episode and proudly displays it. It can easily be accessed in YouTube.
The Philippines must place well trained and well-armed men with heavy artillery in different areas within its 200 mile economic zone. Aside from professional soldiers, these fighters can also include civilian volunteers who understand the risks involved which might mean giving their lives for a noble cause. Even long term prisoners who can be trained to fight and who might want to volunteer to be stationed in these areas for at least three years, in exchange for their freedom, should be considered.
The Filipino people are called upon at this important time – to fight for the wellbeing and welfare of generations of Filipinos and defend the country against the obvious greed of a foreign aggressor.
Note: Atty. Ted Laguatan is a US based human rights lawyer who writes for various publications. Email [email protected]