CHANGES in global events mandate that our political leaders and we as a nation must be circumspect. It requires the shedding off of our prejudices and biases for in the irony of unfolding events our prejudices have become our biases and biases our prejudices. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the abnormal has become a new normal, and being negative is to be positive. Funny and corny but that is how and where we are today.
We stand in the bend watching the superpowers display their economic and military powers. We know by now who are the aggressors, the winners, whiners, and losers. The US of A has pulled its armada from the Middle East after it has laid many countries to waste and changed direction in what is now known as the infamous “Asian Pivot”. But the country it intends to shock with its might is no longer a pygmy it knew 30 years ago or so. Since it completely raised the bamboo curtain in 1979 and invited foreign investors under free-market reforms China enjoyed sustained economic growth that averages at 9.5%. In a wink of an eye, it became the major trading partner of the United States of America. China became the biggest source of imports in the US while China became the US major export market. In time China is the biggest holder of the US Treasury Securities and the mighty dollar reserves. Meanwhile, more than 800-million of China’s population had been extricated from the quagmire of poverty and ignorance.
Truly China has become the biggest economic power in the world. The US hates to admit it and tried to suppress this by putting up all the trade barriers it can think of.
But not a few among us Pinoys are not aware of the mind-boggling economic strides that took place and still taking place in China. Many still think of rickshaws, square tenements for peasants in Duan Da clothes that are made from coarse hemp fibers, and bicycles as a mode of transportation. Our prejudices stemmed from our fetish for American made “Amerikana”, chocolates, chiclets, and aquiline noses of the Westerners. But it is not the fault of many living senior citizens. It was a crime to travel to China then so America was the favorite destination, even until now, by Filipinos who are enamored with and nursed the itch of an American dream - the prospect of prosperity and success.
Thus, our penchant for American-made products, the thrill of riding in Amtrak train which runs faster than the Bicol Express, the jingling of dollar cents in Las Vegas slot machines, Disneyland in California, the Square Garden of New York, the Capitol, and obelisk in Washington DC. At the end of the day, we rush to duty-free shops where people scramble for US brand apparel and what have you only to find out these are made in China.
The stark reality is that China has overtaken many western countries not only in economic statistics but in the transport system, road and bridge infrastructures, manufacturing outputs, some areas in communications technology and scientific advancements, and the number of new millionaires that emerged in just two decades. The peasants now live in high-rise condos and if they do not have cars at least they have scooters. Traffic has become commonplace too and it is not farfetched that you will be in the midst of expensive European sports cars, Japan-made SUVs, and all sorts of American models too. No jeeps, no rickshaws. The speed trains travel three times faster than Amtrak and not content with that they now have Maglev or levitating train.
China is the biggest consumer market in the world and we are linked closely by the West Philippines Sea or the South China Sea. True we have a dispute over tiny atolls but so are the rest of other ASEAN countries. In the language of Foreign Affairs Sec. Teddy Locsin, the conflict is just a small pebble. Indeed, if only our politicians are circumspect as well as pragmatic, there are so many brighter prospects that can be derived from nurturing a good relationship with China. There’s the prospect of joint oil exploration on a 60/40 deal in favor of the Philippines. Cheap money with extremely favorable terms plus some grants and project donations to boot. This is unique only for the Philippines which no doubt has an avuncular space in China leadership.
China is now the biggest market of Davao cavendish banana growers. A group of fishermen started exporting tuna and other fish caught in the vast fishing ground in the eastern seaboard of Mindanao and cultured in fish pens in the aqua-marine preserve in Davao and Saranggani. Unfortunately, it was cut short because the direct flights from Davao to China were suspended on account of the pandemic. But fishing entrepreneurs like Domingo Ang are confident that flights will resume soon and so is the trade.
There is absolutely no reason why China would stir a storm in the West Philippine Sea, as some peddlers of discord forecast. The bonanza that they enjoy today is on account of the volume of exports that pass through that important trade route it will be the height of lunacy to disturb the calm waters that link China with the rest of the world.