By Herman Tiu Laurel

China recovers, West and minions mope

LAST April 15, 2020, Kenneth Kang deputy director of the Asia and Pacific Department of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) told the media that “News of the widespread re-opening of (Chinese) firms and the return of employees to work give us hope that we will see a recovery in the second quarter.”

In its spring World Economic Outlook report released on April 14, 2020, the IMF  also had an astonishing projection for the Chinese economy in 2020 and 2021, that is, “China's economy will likely grow at 1.2 percent this year and rebound strongly to 9.2 percent in 2021,...”

However, Moody’s Mark Zandi – writing in the Philadelphia Inquirer on April 23, 2020 – forecast that the US economy won’t fully recover until the mid-2020s. The slow recovery is likely due to the massive US government and household debt, the CoVid-19 damage to the American service sector (which constitutes 70% of its economy), and the collapse of the US fracking oil industry.

The above is a snapshot of what the entire world can expect in the coming years and an imperative for consideration in the economic and welfare planning of every region and nation. This is especially the Philippines who is being dragged away by agitators from promising ties with China, the new engine for global recovery.

China, the global heavy-lifter          

In 1998 and 2008, China has been the heavy-lifting rescuer, not only of the Asian regional economy but the global economy as a whole.  Few Filipinos know and appreciate this. In 1998,  China maintained the value of its currency and organized the Chiang Mai Initiative funds swap, thereby, supporting the value of other Asian currencies that were then under financial attack by the West.

In the 2008 Financial Crash of the US and Western banking system, China again supported Asian countries by pump-priming the global economy with a multi-trillion Dollar domestic infrastructure investment program that effectively raised the prices of imports and global commodities for its domestic construction and consumption needs.

Today, China is the main supplier of goods needed by the world to survive the pandemic while also becoming the largest importer of consumer goods from the rest of the world. In the two China International Import Exhibitions of the last two years, President Xi Jinping has promised imports worth $45-trillion of goods and services from the rest of the world for the consumption of the Chinese economy.

China’s plan for regional recovery

Last April 14, 2020, the ASEAN+ 3 (China, Japan, and South Korea) countries met via video for a Summit on the CovVid-19 crisis.  In the conference, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang pledged the following:

1. China will provide another 100 million face masks, 10 million protective suits, and other urgently needed medical supplies to ASEAN countries both through grant assistance and via commercial channels;

2. China will support ASEAN in setting up a COVID-19 ASEAN response fund and provide the necessary support through the ASEAN-China Cooperation Fund and APT Cooperation Fund; and

3. China will also support the establishment of an APT (ASEAN Plus Three – China, Japan, S. Korea) reserve of essential medical supplies to make responses faster and emergency supplies more readily available.

To facilitate regional economic recovery, Premier Li suggested the following:  further ease tariffs, eliminate barriers, boost the flow of trade and investment, and keep markets open to each other.

APT countries should open a "fast-track lane" among themselves to facilitate the entry of essential personnel on urgent visits in the fields of commerce, logistics, production, and technological services.

As agreed, APT countries should work toward signing the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RECP agreement within this year to take regional economic integration to a higher level. To facilitate integration, APT and China should use mechanisms, such as the Chiang Mai Initiative towards Multilateralization and leverage the APT Macroeconomic Research Office.

China will also support the recovery plans of ASEAN countries through the preparation of a $10-bilion fund for a COVID-19 recovery facility” by the Beijing-led Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank (AIIB).

Anti-China noise

While China is making every effort to boost the physical and spiritual capacity of the world to overcome the pandemic and its consequent economic crisis,  the US and its allies are hard at work on a blame-game directed at China to drown out the good news and divert attention from its colossal failures in containing the pandemic in their homelands.

On April 26, 2020, an article in the US publication Business Insider published a 57-page memo that advised GOP campaigns to blame China for the coronavirus pandemic and insist the term ‘Chinese virus’ isn’t racist. In other words, the article urged “don’t defend Trump and just attack China.”

Consequently, the Trump campaign has gone on to advocate the following: (a) China’s early cover-up of an epidemic; (b) the Wuhan Institute of Virology as a source of the bioengineered CoVid-19 bioweapon; and (c) sue for trillions in damages over China’s responsibility. Even the Australian Prime Minister has recruited into the disinformation campaign, while Trump himself is spouting the outrageous line of seeking damages from China.

The above seems to be gaining some traction. The RT news channel has already invited British former parliamentarian George Galloway to discuss the “Wag the Dog” scenario namely:  Will all this noise – that apparently over 50% of Americans now buy – lead to the “Deep State” that will start a physical conflict with China as an ultimate distraction. This is reminiscent of Clinton’s bombing of Yugoslavia and Bush’s Iraq War to divert American and World attention from the 9/11 WTC “insider” attack.

Ironically, the highly-respected Lancet medical journal has just issued a statement with a group of 27 prominent public health scientists from outside China saying “We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin” and praise the “remarkable” work of Chinese health professionals.

Philippine anti-China-ists

The Philippines has far more than its fair share of anti-China-ists who have found lucrative careers in the mainstream newspapers and academe. Many of these social media trolls are only too happy to spout pseudo-nationalist but ignorant tirades that mask their bigotry, racism, and plain buffoonery.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer currently fanning social media rage and reaction to a music-video promoted by the Chinese Embassy that features local talents Imelda Papin and Jhonvid Bangayan with Chinese diplomat Zia Wenxin and actor Yubin.

Singer and Camarines Sur Vice-Governor Imelda Papin has defended the music-video saying, “The lyrics are beautiful. It’s all about helping during this time (of the pandemic), unity in helping, ... holding hands for a beautiful future.” Indeed, China’s help during this time of COVID-19 has saved many Filipino lives, especially health front-liners who have benefited from China’s donation of thousands of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) units.

The latest Inquirer reports and the usual anti-China press tout the numbers of “dislikes” (150,000) versus “likes” (2,000). Despite the presence of some real names we can recognize 150,000 fails to impress me as Filipino FB users totaled 70-million in 2019. After all, the anti-Duterte minority is very noisy in its hatred of President Duterte, but he still gets 80% approval ratings.

The anti-China-ists say the music-video is “propaganda.” But in a polarized milieu, any information can always be interpreted as propaganda. And who knows better about propaganda than the anti-China-ists? After all, their cause lives only in propaganda through the mainstream media and online trolls.

Inquirer columnist Ceres Doyo recently made a gratuitous attack on China entitled “Like a thief in the night, China...” to describe the arrival of a Chinese-operated vessel at Homonhon Island to haul chromite ore from Techiron Resources Inc.  But then she writes that the Catholic Bishops Conference reported that “the [Philippine] government has ’allow[ed] a Chinese-manned vessel to load...” So, if the government knows... Who’s the thief?

Clearly, the anti-China-ists specialize only in slander. They never carry intelligent discussions to consider constructive and beneficial international relations, productive economic enterprise, and humanitarian welfare initiatives.

Iisang Dagat (One Sea) for millenniums

By its sheer size and trading muscle, China has served as the focal point for economic and cultural progress of Asia and Southeast Asia from the days of Rajah Kiling of the Kingdom of Butuan 1,000 years ago and through the 1400s when Sultan Paduka Batara of Sulu sailed to Beijing to be declared as the brother of Emperor Yongle of China. It remains to be the focal point today as confirmed by the IMF 2021 prediction about China’s “surge.”

Thus, it is both timely and urgent that President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s pivot to China be reinforced and enhanced: the Philippines’ economic recovery and the nation’s welfare depends on it. In contrast, the US is facing the Greater Depression and is actually in retreat everywhere, while masking its defeats with braggadocio and black propaganda against imagined enemy China.

Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian’s music-video project seeks to heighten Philippine-China solidarity with the metaphor of the One Sea (Iisang Dagat). With cooperation, the One Sea will remain free to be shared by all stakeholders while being preserved through a “code of conduct” that will be adopted through dialogue, negotiations, and coordination.

China and the Philippines forged the template of the One Sea vision when they signed the 60/40 oil and gas sharing joint venture for the Reed (Recto) Bank minerals. What should follow is a fisheries agreement, and after, further pacts on other mineral ores development.

Actually, Vietnam  – because of its adamant appropriation of once-French colonial claims – is the most intransigent claimant, even stealing Pugad Island from the Philippines in 1975 and actually being the biggest poacher in waters claimed by other countries such as the Philippines, as Sec. Delfin Lorenzana has confirmed.

The futility of the anti-China campaign

Nothing that the anti-China-ists have predicted about China has materialized, from compliance with the Permanent Court of Arbitration decisions to the expected US military support in the imagined conflict that would ensue. But without shamE, they carry on with disinformation to sabotage the blossoming cooperation of the Philippines and China engagement.

In its vision of “A Community of Shared Future for Mankind”, China has a message of peace, harmony, and prosperity for the World. China also has the heft and size and a successful socio-economic system that has been tested by crisis after crisis, including the now existential CoVid-19 challenge that is more daunting than any of the World Wars and the economic peril of the Great Depression.

The US and its minions must stop moping, stop brooding, stop cursing, review its socio-political system, re-emphasize the “pursuit of happiness” for all its people, be forward-looking and start cooperating with China to help rebuild the global community in the new multi-polar world. 



About the Columnist

Image of Herman Tiu Laurel

Herman Tiu Laurel is a veteran journalist and founder of think tank PHILIPPINE-BRICS Strategic Studies.