In his classic book, The Art of War, Chinese general and military tactician Sun Tzu says: “The supreme act of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”
Sun Tzu wrote his book in 450 BC when China was still a fragmented and backward country. Now that China has become a world power, it is still practicing Tun Zhu’s dictum, and more. China is now bullying its neighbors, particularly the Philippines.
For how can you describe China’s occupation of Panganiban Reef, which is part of the Philippines’ sovereign territory and turning it into a man-made military fortress if not bullying?
And because the Philippines has practically done nothing to censure China’s fortification, it was emboldened to expand its sphere of influence in the West Philippine Sea. In March, hundreds of Chinese vessels dropped anchor at the Julian Felipe Reef which is part of our exclusive economic zone (EZZ) as defined by the 2016 ruling handed down by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.
This time we have protested and our Department of Foreign Affairs has filed some 70 diplomatic protests against Beijing’s illegal incursions. But just like in the arbitral ruling, China ignored our protests. It was the Chinese embassy in Manila, not the foreign ministry in Beijing, that reacted to the protests. It said Chinese fishermen have been fishing in the disputed area “since ancient times” and other countries have no right to complain.
As the neighborhood bully, China has rejected calls from other countries, including the United States, Japan, Australia and the European Union to stop harassing its neighbors in the South China Sea. Aside from the Philippines Chinese maritime forces have also harassed Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia, also claimants to parts of the Spratly Group of Islands.
The political opposition and some well-meaning groups are saying that China’s expansionism in the disputed area is being encouraged by the policy of cooperation of the Duterte administration toward China. This could be true but President Duterte has time and again said that going to war with China is an option that we cannot afford and must be avoided at all cost.
We can understand the position of the government. But what we cannot understand is China’s bullying and intransigence in the face of worldwide condemnation of its actions. Is China now part of a civilized society of nations or does it still live in the dark ages?