EDITORIAL: Tension in the Far East

There’s absolutely no question that the People’s Republic of China has always considered Taiwan as its province, and despite the island’s autonomous existence as a democratic nation since Chiang Kai Shek’s defeat by Mao ZeDong, China’s eyes have focused on reunifying it with the mainland. Now that the giant of Asia has an enormous military might, it is flexing its military muscles and showing off that it is now ready to take the island back.

The refusal of China to accept the international arbitration ruling that denies China’s claim for most of South China Sea and China’s unilateral construction of military stations thereafter were clear indications of the giant’s ultimate aim. The recent visit of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan has nothing to do with China’s anger toward the U.S. because of our ideology and strength in almost all phases of life and world respect. It was a pretext for something China just wanted to do anyway. It simply needed a spark to start the fight. After Speaker Pelosi left Taipeh, China began to encircle Taiwan and announced military drills using live ammunitions, even landing missiles in Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone, which never received any sign of apology whatsoever.

This show of force has, for several days now, disrupted many economic and travel routes by air and sea, diverting business flights and cargo ships, or stopping/cancelling/stranding them altogether. China’s military exercises were further extended one more week, adding more anxiety to an already stressed region.

As a Filipino-American now residing in my home country, I worry about what’s going to happen to the Philippines if and when China begins to conquer Taiwan, which is only a few miles north of our Batanes Islands. China has occupied several of the Philippines’ outlying islands, despite of our repetitive diplomatic complaints. China knows that’s all we can ever do now, lodge diplomatic complaints, regardless of whether or not they care to respond. Our leaders know we are incapable of military confrontations because of our smallness, but we are never short of brave men and women willing to offer lives for our country.

I wanted to understand former President Duterte’s stand on befriending China despite its open show of disrespect toward our sovereignty. I wanted to understand why our fishermen couldn’t go to their traditional fishing grounds in our Exclusive Economic Zone, even facing water hoses by Chinese ships and losing their livelihood. We even end up buying “imported” fish from South China Sea, which are actually ours in the first place!

I wanted to understand why we had to accept loans from China for our infrastructure projects at very high interest rates compared to that being offered by other countries nearby. I am not a foreign policy expert, but I understand a weak one when I see one.

There’s a high possibility that China will try to get Taiwan now, because of the rising tension and its president’s desire to leave a legacy that Mao failed to accomplish. The question is: Will the U.S. and its allies help Taiwan, considering that the One China Policy exists? It’s ironic that this policy doesn’t really jibe with the reality of a country’s belief.

The One China Policy was created to please a growing economic giant that has become a super power in this world. But Taiwan is not a communist country it is a democracy as it has always been. How can an independent “province” be considered part of China when it runs counter to the mainland’s ideology? Well, should China achieve its goal, Taiwan will have to face defeat and follow the victors. But before that happens, the people of Taiwan, I am sure, just like us down here, will raise their flag and fight till the end.