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Why China should not bully the Philippines

Since the issue concerning Chinese intrusion into the territorial waters of the Philippines is now with the United Nations, China ought to take another look at its relations with our country.  History provides an interesting viewing deck from which China should take that second look.  In doing so, China should ask itself the question: Who is not her historic enemy?

The British had a lucrative business in China which they maintained by keeping the Chinese addicted to opium.  They also colonized Hong Kong.  The Portuguese wanted business, too, so they made Macau their colony.

Other European nations extracted trade concessions from Peking (now Beijing).  The Chinese tried to expel the Europeans through the bloody Boxer Rebellion but the foreigners fought back and stayed in China.

The Japanese occupation of China during World War II was very brutal.  Japanese atrocities in Nanking were so widespread that history books refer to the carnage as the Rape of Nanking.  Even the Nazi German consulate there protested the barbarity.

Relations between China and Japan remained uneasy even after the war.  The Chinese resent Japanese textbooks which carry “sanitized” accounts of the atrocities committed by Japanese troops in China.  Today, China and Japan are disputing ownership over some unoccupied islands between the east Chinese coast and southwestern Japan.   

South Korea has had its share of bad relations with China during the Korean War (1950-1953) when communist soldiers from the northern half of the Korean peninsula invaded the south in June 1950.  The United Nations organized a multinational military contingency led by the United States to help the South Koreans repel the North Koreans.  Under the leadership of General Douglas MacArthur, the UN forces were able to push the communists to the north, and even capture the northern capital of Pyongyang.  Just when the UN forces virtually kicked the North Koreans out of Korea, China joined the fighting.  A see-saw war followed, and in 1953, a stalemate forced a truce between both sides.

Taiwan is the arch-enemy of China.  The animosity between them began in the 1930s when war broke out between the nationalist forces led by General Chang Kai-shek, who were in power, and the communist guerillas of Mao Tse-tung.  Although both sides joined forces to fight the Japanese, the civil war resumed in 1945.  In 1949, the communists won the civil war, and the nationalists fled to Formosa, or present-day Taiwan.

Since then, the communist government in Beijing has considered Taiwan a renegade province.  In turn, Taiwan insists that it is the one and only Republic of China.  In the years following 1949, China and Taiwan constantly exchanged artillery fire.  Although the shooting war between them has ceased today, both sides still dislike each other.

The Vietnamese have been the enemies of the Chinese since ancient times.  Relations between them somewhat improved during the Vietnam War, which began roughly in 1959 and ended in 1975.  After the French left Indo-China in 1954, the land called Vietnam was divided between communist North Vietnam, and South Vietnam, an American ally. War ensued between both sides, and China and the Soviet Union quickly sided with the communists.  After Vietnam was unified under a communist government in Hanoi, war eventually broke out between the Chinese and the Vietnamese.  The fighting eventually ended but Vietnam still harbors some resentment against China after the latter, taking advantage of its naval might, seized the Paracel Islands from the Vietnamese.       

Malaysians and the Chinese had their own quarrel as well.  Right after World War II, the British prepared to grant independence to their colony in Malaya.  Singapore, a small British colony near Malaya with a predominantly Chinese population, also wanted independence and thus aligned itself with Malaya.  In time, Malaya became Malaysia, with the letters “S” and “I” standing for Singapore.  Soon after Malaysia won independence from the British, problems involving racial discrimination divided the ethnic Malaysians and the Singaporeans.  Eventually, Singapore bolted from Malaysia and became a separate country.

Indonesia also provides another example.  After the Indonesians ousted their over-staying President Suharto from power, riots broke out in major places in the country.  In the chaos which followed, many Chinese were killed, beaten or raped. Scores of Chinese-owned stores were systematically looted.  According to analysts, the native Indonesians resented the Chinese there because of the economic prosperity the latter enjoyed.

The Philippines does not belong to the list of nations with historical animosity towards the Chinese.  Yes, the Philippines sent an expeditionary force to the Korean War, and yes, Filipino soldiers fought the North Koreans and the communist Chinese troops there.  It must be stated, however, that when Manila decided to send troops to Korea in 1950, the Chinese were not yet involved in the war.

History reveals that Filipinos and the Chinese have strong political and cultural ties.  Because the Spanish colonial leaders in the Philippines looked down on both the Filipinos and the Chinese, many able-bodied Chinese joined the revolutionary army of General Emilio Aguinaldo.  One of them was Brigadier General Jose Ignacio Paua who was a full-blooded Chinese.  Filipinos and Chinese fought a common foe—the Japanese—during World War II.  The Philippines is one of the first Asian countries to open diplomatic ties after China operated under a communist government.  When a Filipino family celebrates an occasion, it usually means supper at a Chinese restaurant.  Many Filipinos play mahjong and are, therefore, familiar with words like “chow,” “pong” and “kang.”  The contemporary Filipino’s list of favorite food items includes mami, siopao, dimsum, hopia and many others which have made it to the local lexicon.  Some Filipinos even have Chinese first names like Xian.

In short, Beijing ought to rethink its expansionist policies towards the Philippines.  This is not to say that China should concentrate its territorial claims against other countries instead.  What is worth emphasizing is that before Beijing flexes its muscles to intimidate Manila, Beijing must realize that it is picking a needless fight with a historic friend.

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