PHIL-CHINA WATCH

By Herman Tiu Laurel

As the dust and din from the Pelosi-Tsai caper and the US-China test-of-wills settles, we can now see clearly who the winners and losers are from the one-week geopolitical drama. The standout winner is without any doubt the People’s Republic of China (PROC) scoring a knockdown of all its opponents in just Round 1, and the biggest loser is clearly Tsai Ing-wen, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the Taiwanese independence movement as well as the Taiwanese people as a whole.

The United States of American was the emperor that lost its clothes in the imbroglio, suddenly stripped of all its hubris and braggadocio as its warships and aircraft carriers scampered off to safe distances just watching and waiting for what else the People's Liberation Army Navy, air force and rocket force would do, unlike its actions in 1995-1996 3rd Taiwan Strait Crisis where two US carrier groups sailed through and around the Taiwan Strait taunting the PROC 27-years ago.

Now the US cannot confront the PROC head-on with the demonstration of its massive force to confront and subdue any challenge to its control of the Taiwan Strait and ability to overcome any defense of the Taiwan Island to thwart the eventual and peaceful re-unification of the momentarily alienated island of the coast of Fujian province. This message reverberates too among the Taiwanese people and methinks this will give the Taiwanese voters some added degree of wisdom.

There is a forthcoming November Taiwan local election, where PROC's message in the 4th Taiwan Strait Crisis, the current one with its demonstration of total control of the security situation of the Taiwan Strait and island, and its sampling of 2,000 Taiwan exports to China with a punitive ban, may provide a pedagogical moment to the young Taiwanese voters who have been giving the DPP its margins of victory in the national elections of 2016 and 2020.

The DPP had been, however, weak in the November 2018 local elections and lost 15 out of 22 local chiefs' election to the China-friendly Kuomintang. This year may be no different, for aside from the apparently successful KMT local government chiefs is this additional campaign platform of “a friendly China is better than an angry China” which is a message that would likely echo until the 2024 National Elections. China’s economic sanctions may improve their voting IQ.

China and Hong Kong combined is still Taiwan's largest export market. Shipments totaled more than USD16 billion in July 2022, compared with nearly USD7 billion in total exports to the US. How can US help at all in that respect, there is simply no alternative for Taiwan but the Chinese mainland market. Even exporting to the rest of the world won’t work for that would be such a segmented market that cannot equal the economic viability of the China market.

The China Customs Administration has suspended imports of more than 2,000 of about 3,200 food products from Taiwan. The imports Beijing has suspended include now 35 categories including fish and seafood, edible oils, citrus fruits and biscuits and cakes, severely damaging publicly listed companies in such sectors as instant noodle and soy sauce producer and frozen foods. Beijing has also blocked wax apples, custard apples, and now added grouper (Lapu-lapu) to the blacklist.

Whatever fruits and other agricultural products and commodities Taiwan produces for the China market the Philippines can produce, and that makes the Philippines a potential winner as Taiwan loses its share of the China market. The Philippines can and should quickly move to produce and take over those products and import orders from China. In early 2021 China banned Taiwanese pineapples and transferred those purchase orders to the Philippines pushing its pineapple exports up by 40 percent.

Taiwan’s adversities now is the Philippines' opportunity, our government and its Cabinet secretaries should be alert to this and quick to take advantage by maintaining and cultivating even better relations with the People's Republic of China that President Bongbong Marcos has clearly directed to be treated as the “strongest partner” of the Philippines, instead what do some Cabinet members do? They alienate the PROC by poorly conceived public posturing.

Take the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Enrique Manalo in his meeting virtual meeting last Aug. 6, 2022 where Manalo "welcomes possible WPS joint patrols with the US" (obviously targeted at China) followed by Department of National Defense (DND) official last Aug. 12, 2022 said that such joint sea patrol can be "explored". Can they just on their own reverse the decision of President Rodrigo R. Duterte in 2016 to shelve the idea of US-PH joint patrols in the SCS without PBBM’s direction?

Sec. Manalo whom our think tank group admires for his professionalism seems to have been mindless in allowing the Amboy (American boys) elements in media focus on this sensitiveness issue of US-PH joint sea patrols issue both to our ASEAN partners and to our major trading partner and now ODA provider China. Did he allow himself to be click-baited by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken into this totally irrelevant and anathema topic today?

What about this high-school boy looking DND official, did he think that he could and should step into the realm of foreign policy now commenting on the joint patrol issue which a Philippine president had already shelved and the new president has not given any new direction on yet? These super-talkative but out-of-line officials are the bane of our national sovereignty, dismissing it every time they face an American and causing the Philippines to lose ground and face with our Asian partners.

Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in the foregoing article are solely the author’s and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the Philippine News Agency (PNA) or any other office under the Office of the Press Secretary.

About the Columnist

Columnist Image

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