Scarborough Shoal. It’s not about fishes or oil. It’s about power.


By A Distant Observer

Some time ago, I offered to contribute here with an article about Scarborough Shoal, its political and legal aspects. While The Society of Honor was discussing matters of various kinds, the country with the most powerful military in the world just elected a demagogue Hitler himself would be proud of. Hence, I thought it might make sense to focus not only on Scarborough Shoal but to discuss the “big picture” first.

This article is about the status quo of Asian politics, its defenders and contestants. It starts with a discussion about Chinese political culture, because China is the obvious contestant of the status quo. Knowing Chinese preferences and intentions means knowing how the international political landscape might evolve in the future. The fate of Scarborough shoal can be seen as an analogy of what happens at large, and is thus not only a matter of emotional discussions, but indicates trends that we might see increasingly on a larger (global?) scale.



The above map shows the virtual southern expansion of China in the South China Sea (1909-1935), taken from François-Xavier Bonnet, “Geopolitics of Scarborough Shoal”. [Link to Large Map]

Let me start with a perspective that emanates from the Chinese government. The tensions we witnessed during the past few years in the Western Philippine Sea (WPS)/ South China Sea (SCS) certainly stems from a growing foreign policy assertiveness by the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC). The CPC was and is always wary of its domestic legitimacy. While trying to bring economic growth rates down to sustainable levels, and by trying to foster domestic consumption, new societal tensions are being created that have the potential to shake the very foundations the CPC’s power is based upon.

Input legitimacy (democratic participation, freedom of speech, etc.) is minimal in China. All the CPC can do is to fine-tune the output-side of legitimacy: perform well in the economic and political realm. While the economic realm was already exploited during the past two decades with much success, the political realm, especially foreign policy, receives increasing interest by party officials. Needless to say that the survival and maintenance of the CPC’s primacy in Chinese politics is the first and foremost priority to which every other political objective has to be subordinated. Would the CPC take an open military conflict over a jeopardized primacy? I would speculate: most likely yes.

Some note that China’s diplomats behave increasingly like their Western counterparts and argue that this is to no surprise, since Chinese officials were socialized in their interaction with Western officials, therefore adopting Western norms and strategic thinking. Hence, the question that arises is; what approach will dominate in the future? Will China’s approach to international relations be increasingly like Western interventionist powers, trying to impose their value system on other countries? Or will it continue to think in the “Confucian” tradition, where other distinct cultures are fairly accepted as long as they accept China as the center of their world? My take is that China has and will increasingly adopt Western approaches to interventionism because other socialist countries, or countries “realigning with their ideological flow”, assure the CPC in its own status and can be exploited domestically for propagandist purposes. However, they will do that much more subtly than the Americans, who still have not abandoned the idea of “nation building” and spreading American-friendly “democracies” around the globe.

China’s time horizon spans decades while Western time horizons span years. China’s time horizon spans centuries when Western time horizons span decades. After the Tiananmen square protest in 1989, Deng Xiaoping’s conclusion was not that the CPC failed to offer more participative or democratic means for the masses, but that the problem was simply the failure of the CPC’s propaganda efforts. It was the time when new education policies were employed to foster nationalistic feelings and to popularize the notion of a “century of humiliation” brought by the imperialist powers of the West. It is worth mentioning that, during this time, Chinese leaders also saw the need to strengthen a so-called “maritime consciousness” of a population that traditionally was rather land-oriented. Increasingly, the CPC can “reap the fruits” of its long-planned nationalism program in order to gain domestic legitimacy.

This is where the South China Sea, or West Philippine Sea, comes into play. Personally, I don’t like either of these terms. “SCS” terminologically assigns the whole region to China. Historical documents prove that even China itself didn’t use the term SCS. Not until it was introduced by Western seafarers. Hence, many Filipinos use the term “WPS”. However, it is very ambiguous what is actually meant by that; does the WPS cover the whole sea up to the shores of Vietnam? Most Filipinos argue that WPS is just a term to describe the maritime area of the Philippine archipelago and its adjacent waters in the West. But it remains unclear to what extent the WPS covers the regions claimed by the Philippines, especially whether the Kalayaan “regime of islands” is included and where the WPS would exactly adjoin the SCS. Hence I would prefer a truly neutral term that is also proposed by a group of Vietnamese: “Southeast Asia Sea” (SEAS). [Readers interested in the matter can sign a petition for change here: Change the name “South China Sea” to “Southeast Asia Sea”]

Being the third biggest country on earth, China shares land borders with 14 states, with which the Chinese government was able to resolve most border disputes in the decades after the establishment of the PRC. The most contentious area, where Beijing seems to dispose the major share of its foreign policy and military resources, is the area of the South and East China Sea. French geographer Francois-Xavier Bonnet argues in a well-researched paper (“Geopolitics of Scarborough Shoal”), that both China and the Philippines claimed Scarborough Shoal since the 1930’s, without the knowledge of each other. Bonnet’s research is valuable in the sense that it is more objective than most other research pursued by Chinese or “Western” (Filipino and American) scholars.

Scarborough Shoal’s history is long and disputed. It was not until 2009 that the Philippine Congress passed the baselines law, which identified the country’s archipelagic baselines, including the Scarborough Shoal, as part of the Philippine territory. This was subsequently protested and declared as illegal by China. In the same year, when Malaysia and Vietnam submitted their view on their extended continental shelf to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS), Beijing reacted with its own submission, introducing the map with the so-called Nine-dotted-line as argument for its claim into the international community. This Nine-Dash line was unofficially known for a long time, and today it is one of the most-cited arguments for the Chinese claim. It remains a big question, however, why Beijing waited until the year 2009 to officially use this map in international argumentation procedures.

In 2012, Chinese vessels de facto occupied the shoal. On 22 January 2013, the Aquino administration initiated an arbitration proceeding against China “pursuant to Articles 286 and 287 of the Convention and in accordance with Article 1 of Annex VII of the Convention” (PH-CN Award). By “Convention” it is referred to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea from 10 December 1982, 1833 UNTS 3 (or “UNCLOS”) that was ratified by the Philippines in 1984 and by China in 1996. In this regard, it is worth mentioning that the US never ratified UNCLOS and, therefore, any invocations by US officials to abide by UNCLOS can easily be disregarded as hypocrisy by Chinese officials.

The jurisdiction of the Arbitral Tribunal (AT) that is concerned with the matter is complicated. That’s why there are a lot of misconceptions about it. Firstly, this Arbitral Tribunal is independent from the United Nation’s International Court of Justice (ICJ). Secondly, the AT is some sort of ad-hoc adjudicator panel at the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) and it uses the PCA’s administration and infrastructure in The Hague. Furthermore, the PCA consults the International Court for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) in Hamburg, especially for advisory opinion. I asked myself why the Aquino administration did not bring the case before the ICJ, since it would probably have had a bigger legal impact. However, this was probably not possible because China obstructed this procedure from the very beginning. And then again, I’m not a legal scholar, hence I don’t have a complete perspective on international judiciary mechanisms.

The Philippines’ request stated that it seeks an award that (quote from the award):

“(1) declares that the Parties’ respective rights and obligations in regard to the waters, seabed and maritime features of the South China Sea are governed by UNCLOS, and that China’s claims based on its “nine dash line” are inconsistent with the Convention and therefore invalid;

(2) determines whether, under Article 121 of UNCLOS, certain of the maritime features claimed by both China and the Philippines are islands, low tide elevations or submerged banks, and whether they are capable of generating entitlement to maritime zones greater than 12 M; and

(3) enables the Philippines to exercise and enjoy the rights within and beyond its exclusive economic zone and continental shelf that are established in the Convention.

The Philippines stressed that it does not seek in this arbitration a determination of which Party enjoys sovereignty over the islands claimed by both of them. Nor does it request a delimitation of any maritime boundaries. The Philippines is conscious of China’s Declaration of 25 August 2006 under Article 298 of UNCLOS, and has avoided raising subjects or making claims that China has, by virtue of that Declaration, excluded from arbitral jurisdiction.”

I assume that most readers interested in the topic already had a look at the complete award that is available online. It consists of almost 500 pages and addresses every of the 15 submissions by the Philippines in great detail. The perhaps most important take away point from the award is, that:

“China’s claims to sovereign rights jurisdiction, and to “historic rights” with respect to the maritime areas of the South China Sea encompassed by the so called “nine dash line” are contrary to the Convention and without lawful effect to the extent that they exceed the geographic and substantive limits of China’s maritime entitlements expressly permitted by UNCLOS.” (p. 67)

This is a big problem for Beijing because it knows (although it would never admit) that small islets, such as Scarborough Shoal, are not able to create its own territorial sea (12 nautical miles), contiguous zone (24 nm) or even an exclusive economic zone (EEZ, 200 nm). This notion was unequivocally confirmed by the award as well. Bonnet points out the irony that China has advocated repeatedly that “If a 200-mile limit of jurisdiction could be founded on the possession of uninhabited, remote or very small islands, the effectiveness of international administration of ocean space beyond national jurisdiction would be gravely impaired” (Statement of the Head of Delegation of the People’s Republic of China, H.E. Ambassador Chen Jinghua, at the 15th session of the International Seabed Authority in Kingston, Jamaica in June 2009, quoted in Indonesia’s communication to the Secretary of the United Nations, July 8, 2010). This is why China has to argue in historical terms, and this is why this ominous Nine-Dash Line and its alleged historical significance is so important in China’s claim.

Most commentators argued that this ruling is “legally binding”. But what does that mean? I would go as far as to ask: Does it really matter? The US ignored an ICJ’s ruling as well. Why should China, as the new global superpower as it wants to be perceived, abide by any other international ruling? In my opinion, what matters the most in this arbitration is that China “lost face” on the international stage. “Losing face” is a very serious matter in Asian culture, and Chinese people are probably most keen on that. Actually, two surveys (before the ruling took place) among Chinese citizens found a similar portion of about 60% supporting the arbitration. This was because they were so sure that the arbitration would rule in China’s favor and shows how successful the state media is in propagating China’s rightful claims and activities in the SEAS. Shortly after the ruling, Chinese commentators started to argue that this ruling is either not relevant because China never wanted to participate in the first place (what UNCLOS Article 298 allows) or that China will just follow the example of the US that disregarded the International Court of Justice ruling in 1985 on “Nicaragua vs. United States” as well.

This leaves us with the sobering conclusion that, even when the Philippines is right in its claim about the Scarborough Shoal, it might become very difficult to implement it in real terms. Even for the “optimists” who think that the US would somehow step in for Filipino interests or that the mutual defense treaty could be invoked in times of severe confrontation, the theoretical premises are weak.

The CPC has to feed into the nationalist feelings of its domestic audience, and it seems as Beijing chose the SEAS as the theatre for this purpose. In this sense, the issue of the SEAS seems much more important for Beijing than for Washington. Game theorist Thomas Schelling once described this as “paradox of weakness”: governments that are domestically weak are oftentimes more successful in international bargaining than their supposedly stronger counterparts. The more domestic opposition a government can credibly signal to its international opponent, the likelier it is that this opponent will come to meet the domestically weak government’s demands since it does not want a bargained solution to fail after both parties already agreed upon. In other words: It is reasonable to believe that not even the hawkish republicans in Washington would risk a nationalist outburst in China that would threaten the rule of the more moderate fraction of the CPC or established ways of foreign policy interactions. A nationalist outburst or dischargement of the “pragmatic” fraction of the CPC could lead to much more serious confrontation and would probably jeopardize the already weakened US presence in the region.

The authoritarian system in China is nothing else than a continuation of the feudal system of emperors that ruled China for thousands of years. The current President of the Philippines seems to choose the kowtowing strategy, despite his otherwise “proud” and nationalist pretensions. But he will not stay in office forever (after all, he’s already 71). It is high time to show China that the feudal times are over. And that the Philippines is willing and ready to take a stand for its own. But one should never underestimate the ruthlessness of a powerful elite that clinches on its privileges.

So, what can the government of the Philippines do? What can members of The Society of Honor do?

To put it frankly: The diplomatic, political and economical options of the Philippines are bleak. In a contribution to the topic on October 13, Andrew Lim put it as Say goodbye to the West Philippine Sea. It is a classical “David vs. Goliath” situation, since, as suggested above, the Philippines cannot expect much help from the US. I remind the reader of Henry Kissinger’s remarks, that “America has no permanent friends or enemies, only interests.” Even more so, the Philippines should be very, very careful to not serve as a pawn in a great power game between a falling hegemon that is manipulated by the military industrial complex and led by a very inexperienced President Trump, and the Communist Party of China, that is willing to do everything to maintain its power.

However, there are still important things to do:

Keep the conversation between Duterte supporters and critics going: Accepting China as a regional and global hegemon is one thing, adopting norms from it another. It is crucial that democratic values are held high in the political discourse in the Philippines. After all, democracy is still “the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” (Churchill).

Network more with countries that have similar interests (or common opponents) in the SEAS, particularly Vietnam. Sorting out the territorial disputes with other claimant states in the region would not only free up diplomatic resources, it would also create a “closed front” against China. Since Beijing uses Cambodia as a “troublemaker” in ASEAN negotiations, not much can be expected from ASEAN. But if the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia join together in their efforts against a much bigger China, maybe their voices are better heard in Beijing. Not much is to expect from Brunei, that is lead by an opportunistic, shady monarch. Furthermore, the role of Taiwan should be revised, and it should be assessed whether Taipei should be treated as an opponent or if it could be a potential ally in this struggle against Beijing.

And concerning Duterte I say: Let him fail. It might be the only way to proselytize die-hard supporters away from their belief in the infallibility of their beloved leader.

PS: If a reader doubts any of my claims above, please address that in the comments section so I can provide the source of it.

170 Responses to “Scarborough Shoal. It’s not about fishes or oil. It’s about power.”
  1. Zen says:

    I don’t doubt any of your claims at all. I do agree with your opinion that the only way going forward is to let Duterte fail and he has failed miserably. Filipino nationalists even if they only go by Duterte’s nationalist rhetorics still hope that he would lay claim on what is ours by jetskiing to Scarborough Shoal and plant the Philippine flag there. I know it is only a symbol but Duterte satisfactorily convinced the average Filipinos to believe in him, trust in him that he loves his country so. For the Filipinos it couldn’t be about power but nationalism. It has chosen to be the weaker government and nothing you can do about it.

    • Oldmaninla says:

      China has historical claim, Philippines has PCA arbitral claim, since nothing can be done, then with Duterte’s pragmatic approach with friendship diplomacy……live and win on other things peacefully…..

      • Always good to get a pro-China view here that approves China’s historical claim, when the laws and courts don’t give credence to them because history is fluid, not finite. The arbitral win says clearly what the Philippines has claim to, but China disregards it, and Duterte cedes ownership at what gain?

      • a distant observer says:

        China has historical claim? The earliest mentioning of the Nine-Dashed Line is from 1935. Before that, Beijing didn’t even know the geographical facts in the SEAS.

        This excerpt from Bonnet’s paper is rather enlightening:

        ” When, in November 1931, the committee in charge of checking the maps of China and standardizing all the names of places started its work, the island of Triton in the Paracel Islands was still considered the southernmost place of China. However, the war between China and Japan changed the priorities and the committee had to stop its work for financial reasons. These financial problems were so important that the committee had to wait until May1933 to be operational again. Between May 1933 and December 1934, the committee organized 25 meetings and published for the first time, in April 1935, a map of all the South China Sea island groups (the Paracels, Macclesfield, Scarborough and the Spratly Islands) as part of the Chinese territory. Why did the Chinese government change the scope of its territory so dramatically between 1933 and 1934? Since 1931, the territorial integrity of China had been threatened. In 1931, Manchuria was annexed by the Japanese. In 1932, the French government was claiming, for the first time, the Paracel Islands as part of Annam (Vietnam). Moreover, as we have said above, the French government made a second claim, in July 1933, this time on the Spratly Islands. This last claim was made just two months after the Chinese committee on national territory began its work. These two claims of the French government confused the minds of not only of the Chinese public and the media, but also the official authorities like the military and the politicians in Guangdong Province and Beijing. In fact, the Chinese believed that the Spratly Islands and Paracel Islands or Xisha were exactly the same group, but that the French had just changed the name as a trick to confuse the Chinese government. To ascertain the position of the Spratly Islands, the Chinese Consul in Manila, Mr. Kwong, went, on July 26, 1933, to the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey and discovered, with surprise, that the Spratly Islands and the Paracel Islands were different and far apart. This big blunder, showing a complete lack of knowledge about the Spratly Islands, was recognized by the Chinese authorities in their internal documents. For example, the director of the influential newspaper, the Peiping News, Mr. Wang Gong Da, wrote to the Foreign Affairs Secretary, Mr Luo:
        “The Spokesperson of the Foreign Affairs said that a protest was prepared if [emphasis mine] it was proven that the nine islands [Spratlys] were part of Xisha [the Paracels]. Don’t make a diplomatic blunder; these islands are not part of Xisha. Triton Island [in Xisha] is the southernmost part of our territory. South of Triton Island, there is no connection with the Chinese territory. Our so-called experts, geographers, Navy representatives, etc., are a shame to our country”.

        The militaries themselves recognized this blunder. In a secret report dated September 1, 1933, the Military Council defined the policy concerning the Spratly Islands:
        “All our professional geographers say that Triton Island [in Xisha] is the southernmost island of our territory. But we could, maybe, find some evidence that the nine islands [Spratlys] were part of our territory in the past. After all, during the Han Dynasty, the North then the Center of Vietnam belonged to China. Under the Tang Dynasty, the military province of Annam was founded. Under the Ming Dynasty, the expeditions of Cheng Ho put Luzon, Malaysia, and Indonesia into the territory of the Empire. Moreover, at the beginning of the Qing Dynasty, Vietnam was included in our maps. Consequently, and naturally, these nine islands, being located at the center of our possessions, should belong to China. It seems confirmed by the 1923 book of the British Admiralty, China Sea Pilot, which mentions the presence of fishermen from Hainan on Tizard Bank [part of the Spratly Islands]. Unfortunately, this book does not say to whom these islands belong and does not give any evidence of any Chinese administration, the presence of an official representative of China, or Chinese equipment and infrastructure.
        In conclusion, we have only one piece of evidence, our fishermen from Hainan, and we have never done anything on these islands. We need to cool down the game with the French, but let our fishermen continue their activities to protect our fishing rights. Our Navy is weak and these nine islands are not useful for us now ….
        We must focus only on the Xisha Islands because the points of evidence of our sovereignty on them are so numerous that the whole world accepts it, with the exception of Japan”. ”

        The Philippines does not have a “PCA arbitral claim”. It bases its claim to the Scarborough Shoal on international law that both parties ratified long ago. This arbitration unilaterally initiated by the Philippines was just a last desperate attempt to see this international law implemented.

        You’re right in that the Philippine government should pursue a pragmatic approach to the matter that considers the first principle of international relations: might makes right. Hence, it should acknowledge China’s economic and political might, but it doesn’t have to acknowledge China’s porous arguments. This is not some medieval time where Chinese emperors were able to rule over their subjects according to their desire and moods. This is 2017, and even Xi Jinping and his comrades have to accept that.

        • NHerrera says:

          Thanks for the elaboration on the account of Bonnet.

          In my post,

          I used the word “fiction” in my comment,

          China has no doubt aggressively acted in the SCS through its fiction of the Nine-Dash-Line.

          It seems then that on or about 1931-1935, the Nine-Dash-Line is loosely based, among others, by the Chinese on such account as made by Bonnet. I suppose that this matter must have gone through the filtering of the PCA analysts.

        • Oldmaninla says:

          Distant Observer, I’m impressed. Now let us go forward…..after WW2, note the
          surrender of Japan treaties with Taiwan, China and Allied Nations. Note the allied signatories, with these 2 treaties, research them and please explain the return of Spratly and Paracel islands to Taiwan, which was the legit ROC China at that time. The true physical proof of ownership occupancy is Taiwan is the only occupier of the only biggest island, Taiping island in Spratly until the present time. Just for the sake of history records.

          TREATY OF SAN FRANCISCO, ( September 8, 1951)
          TREATY OF TAIPEI, (April 28, 1952)
          Note the signatories to these treaties….

          I’m eager to hear your findings……….

          • karlgarcia says:

            Hope this is not hypothetical. China was in civil war and when the smoke cleared they considered Taiwan as the legitimate signatory, correct?
            This was before any one China policy, correct ?

            • a distant observer says:

              Without any further research, I would say your two conjections are correct Karl.

            • Oldmaninla says:

              One China Policy is for China-US diplomacy only, while Taiwan is always part of China.
              Check history, similar to Jolo, Sulu…….is always part of the Philippines.
              ROC and PRC are parts of one China………like Hongkong and Macao……..

              • karlgarcia says:

                Sir, I had no question that Taiwan was never part of China,
                What I meant was the UN picked sides after the civil war, during the treaty of SF and Taipei , and I was not saying they were correct in doing so,so the main land cried foul that the treaty was illegal since there is only one China.

                if the Chinese claim that history is on their side, then you are correct they have a claim.
                But wars and treaties messed things up, but treaties are what the world recognizes and it seems to me that the latest treaty trumps the ones before it.

                We have historical claim to Sabah,but we can not do anything about it.
                The Chinese think and believe they can do something about it.(their claims)

              • Oldmaninla says:

                Karl, I am with you…..

              • karlgarcia says:

                One China policy is for Us and China diplomacy ONLY?
                It is China telling the whole world deal only with us and break diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

                Now if Trump does not want to recognize the One China Policy and one China Principle, we will be talking about it again, eventually.

              • karlgarcia says:

                Ok Oldmaninla.

              • Bert says:

                The One-China Policy is true and correct…because there is only one China. How could it be possible to have two Chinas? One China plus one China=cannot be, hehehehe. Okay ba ang aking math, NHerrera?

                On the other hand there is only one Taiwan.

              • chemrock says:

                There are Norkor and Sorkor
                North Sudan and South Sudan
                North Yemen and South Yemen, etc….
                There was the ridiculous East Pakistan and West Pakistan

              • Bert says:

                You lost me there, chemp. Were you insinuating that Hongkong be named South China and then the mainland North China? 🙂

                If that’s the case, chemp, goodbye na to the One China Policy, 🙂

          • a distant observer says:

            I was also impressed when I read Bonnet’s research for the first time 🙂
            You raise some very interesting points here. To research and explain these would unfortunately go beyond my current time resources. Maybe there will be a blog article about that in the future 😉

        • Oldmaninla says:

          This Bonnet story is impressive DO, but it is only a story….while the world treaties of Japan, Taiwan(China) with allied nations are documented historical records. The Nine Dash-line has history from Eleven Dash-line……check history further…..

          One more…….Just my simple understanding about UNCLOS PCA arbitration international law. PCA Arbitration is an opinion of UNCLOS agreements by member nations, claim to be international law with no legal enforcement, therefore it’s just one sided opinion, ( China ignored it), similarly, USA ignored the ICJ decision with one of a South America nation, similarly other nations. UNCLOS is useless to America but uses it when it fits……..
          Just my understanding….hehe. What’s your opinion?

      • parengtony says:

        To me it is very clear that Duterte is advancing China’s interest. As to his motivation, my not so unfounded speculation is that it is the same billions of reasons why he is advancing the interests of BBM and GMA. Russia too?.

  2. NHerrera says:

    Distant Observer,

    First reading. Neat and very well presented and argued; and ended with reasonable, pragmatic suggestions. Thanks.

  3. karlgarcia says:

    Re: Wps

    Since my time horizon is only a few years, I recall that it is only in 2012 that we started calling it West Philippine Sea.
    I began to wonder as well as to the boundaries since you asked if it covers the shores of Vietnam.
    It basically thise within our EEZ only.

    Now asto the Southeast asia sea, why not, the problem is the bull in the chinahouse.
    In China, it is called the “South Sea”, 南海 Nánhǎi, and in Vietnam the “East Sea”, Biển Đông.[9][10][11] In Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines, it was long called the “South China Sea” (Dagat Timog Tsina in Tagalog, Laut China Selatan in Malay), with the part within Philippine territorial waters often called the “Luzon Sea”, Dagat Luzon, by the Philippines.[12] However, following an escalation of the Spratly Islands dispute in 2011, various Philippine government agencies started using the name “West Philippine Sea”. A PAGASA spokesperson said that the sea to the east of the Philippines will continue to be called the Philippine Sea.[13]

    In September 2012, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III signed Administrative Order No. 29, mandating that all government agencies use the name “West Philippine Sea” to refer to the parts of the South China Sea within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, and tasked the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (NAMRIA) to use the name in official maps.[14]

  4. karlgarcia says:

    We are not landlocked like China, but we left the maritime domain awareness to the maritime people, it is only recent that we became conscious of our maritime domain thanks to the maritime disputes.

    • Oldmaninla says:

      I am with you, Karl.

      Here are facts.
      Philippines was not interested of South China Sea in the past up until marine Engineer Coloma talked about possible oil in Spratly area during the Marcos era.

      China needs SCS for trade and fishing ground ….indicated in history since…most known during 1405-1433 Ming dynasty “Zheng He” voyages. Huge fishing boat maker. Verify it from history. China called it “South Sea of China” European historian called it South China Sea.

      Philippines does not need SCS fishing area because Philippines’ internal seas, Sulu sea, east of Palawan to Masbate- Mindoro area, to the entire Visayas was so rich in fishes……ask any Malabon commercial fishermen. Smaller fishing boats compared to China huge boats.

      Why would Philippines risks ferocious typhoon belt SCS for lesser fish while Philippine inland seas are so rich particularly Visaya and Mindanao seas. ( I studied in Samar, Visaya).

      Interesting eh!……

      Philippines inland is so super rich in fish resources than any nations. I have many relatives who just catch shoreline fish using small Philippine bancas for daily living. We have two small fishing bancas for fishing only use. There hundreds of night fishermen in Masbate- Ticao areas where I grow up. Should I be interested in SCS typhoon fishing area?

      • sonny says:

        The voyages of Adm Zheng He and his treasure junks were meant to display the power of the Ming Dynasty and declare the hegemony of China over all who came in contact with the fleet and that they don’t need bother fight China. The Chinese fleet covered the length of So China Sea through the Malacca Strait through the Indian Ocean and as far as Mecca in the great Arabian Peninsula and back. This manner of declaring hegemony was attempted earlier during the time of Emperor Kublai Khan and the Sri Vijayan conflict.

        “…With Sri Vijaya under attack and weakened, the rival Javanese kindoms of Kediri and Singhasari grew in power. Finally in 1290, Singhasari drove Sri Vijaya out of Java altogether. The rising power of Singhasari attracted the attention of China’s Mongol Emperor Kublai Khan who in 1289 had demanded a payment of tribute. Kublai Khan’s ambassadors returned to China without their noses. A Mongol fleet arrived in the Java Sea in 1293. “

        The 9-Dash-Line is now the modern version of China’s dragon mindset, IMO.

        • sonny,

          I’m familiar with the Golden Horde’s push west, but did not realize they also pushed south via ships ( I always thought them as riders, not sailors ), very interesting. thanks!

          It’s very Season 7 …

          • sonny says:

            Very informative entry, LC. It’s luscious food for the historical mind and imagination. It makes me wonder less why the Philippines was bypassed by the Sri Vijaya and Majapahit empires.

          • Oldmaninla says:

            Now the postings comments make historical sense……..connecting maritime activities from China, Southeast Asia, Malacca, India, to Saudi Arabia to North Africa from 1200-1450 long before the European conquest in Asia……great!

            • sonny says:

              It can’t be helped, OMIL. The accessibility to popular history effected by the Internet is beyond tremendous. Past histories only available only to scholars and libraries are now available literally at anybody’s fingertips any place, anytime! The only comparable event was the invention of the movable press by Gutenberg.

          • chemrock says:

            Zheng He could have been the first to discover America

            • Oldmaninla says:

              .???. Zheng He made seven voyages.

            • I think when they get past the third Island Chain, they’ll claim California and Alaska.

              • Oldmaninla says:


                I enjoy your very intelligent blog group, the society of honor commit to honorable principle of truth….as old man..those true honorables I salute, but those loose-talkers will destroy your honorable society of honor……just 1cent observation….

                I know enough who can make the Philippine great among your patriotic truthful bloggers, they are the future heros.
                But, those ??? bla-bla loose talkers …….??? So much noises.

              • They are allowed to show themselves so we know the character of those who are trying to shape the landscape. The Society is strong, so no worries.

      • karlgarcia says:

        Thanks, I am very interested in history.
        Chinese had their Naval pride till the so called 100 years of humiliation mentioned by D.O. which began during the Qing Dynasty where they met the Royal Navy during the first opium war.
        Going back to maps.
        Their ancient 900 year old map is said to be literally set in stone.
        The Philippines presented a 300 year old map to the UN.

        Regarding typhoon belt, due to climate change not only the SCS is a typhoon belt.
        And Storms come from the Pacific ocean most of the time(nowadays), before they reach SCS they made land fall here.

        Commercial fishing caused a little fish shortage in some areas. the small fisherman ran out of fish to fish.
        Same with fishpens in Laguna lake only the Commercial Or big fishing companies get the advantage.


        • Oldmaninla says:

          Karl, Bravo to you! your posting observations speak the truth.
          Your so called “China naval pride” is for trade only, for progress…….not for domination.
          The whole Southeast Asia is full of Chinese traders…Singapore Lee Kwan Yeo knew it.
          Visayas seas is natural fishing trap just for Filipinos …super rich in fish, the life blood natural gift eversince.

    • Oldmaninla says:

      Distant Observer was right on!

      Here is my comment…..and questions?
      Distant Obsever was right! It’s about Power!
      Whose power? Is it worth Filipinos shall die for this power?
      What power? Honestly, does Philippines has the power?
      Where is the Power? Shall we ask Duterte? Or Carpio? Or Alberto?
      When do we have power? International law with no enforcement?

      Prudence dictates …….we should be wise to be pragmatic……because,
      Pride dictates….pride comes before destruction…….
      Humbleness dictates ….. peace is coming then progress comes next……….
      Just my 4 cents contribution……

      The old man from southmost Bicol.

  5. gerverg1885 says:

    I think it was never to ‘popularize the notion of a “century of humiliation” brought by the imperialist powers of the West’ since it was only Japan that conquered China two times and so the desire to get even with that small but powerful nation.

    The foremost plan of the Chinese leadership is to completely close the passage of critical resources, particularly oil, to Japan. The WPS or SCS is the shortest route and hence, the most economical, to bring in those resources.

    And since the sea is very rich in natural resources (fish, in particular), they also thought of exploiting it for domestic consumption.

    • karlgarcia says:

      I think it is correct to say that they are propagating or popularizing the notion even if it was Japan who did the dirty work.
      And the opium war with the Brits, will surely be a nagging reminder. ( drugs again?)
      The distantobserver is right be it resources, it is still about power.

      • josephivo says:

        Power, what power are you talking about? Just thinking of a few:

        1- Military power
        1.1- Standing army
        1.2- Potential resistance/guerilla
        1.3- Willingness to support terrorism
        1.4- Virtual domain

        2- Economic power
        2.1- Natural resources
        2.2- Financial
        2.3- Production/infra structure
        2.4- Trading

        3- Political power
        3.1- Stability/maturity
        3.2- Alliances

        4- Soft power
        4.1- Scientific knowledge
        4.2- “Intelligence” sources
        4.3- Relationships/networks
        4.4- “Art of the Deal”
        4.5- “Culture”

        … and China is active in all corners of the power field. Where is our strength to build on? Hindering weakness?

        • karlgarcia says:

          As far as China is concerned when we speak of power, it is most if not all that you have mentioned above.

          In ne of the proposedsolutions mentioned by the observer, he pointed to a triumvirate with Vietnam and Malaysia.
          Malaysia has done a lot of bilateral relationship strengthening with China, being the largest trading partner in Southeast asia and Malaysia is starting to buy military hardware from China, so is Duterte correct in just pursuing a bilateral agreement with China?

          We have lots of weaknesses that must be turned into strenghts, threats into opportunities.

          in terms of alliances, I am for the more the merrier but we know it is not always merry.

          • karlgarcia says:

            On my note to NH,
            I asked about the incident about a Filipino diplomat standing up to a Soviet leader.
            That would be a strength to build on. Some say that is what Duterte is doing, if they mean like what Khruschev has done which was to dress down the US president, then I agree, but what I meant was like Sumulong, the diplomatic way.

        • edgar lores says:

          Here you see the psychopathy of power: in projecting military power, China can be seen to be diminishing its economic power — and possibly its political power — with its trading partners.

          It has been suggested here that this military adventurism is to distract and quell internal dissent, to redirect the pent up energy and discontentment of the domestic audience towards imagined external foes.

          However, in attempting to control shipping through the SEAS, China may well chill global trade, which will lessen economic development and thereby increase internal discontentment.

          Thus perhaps, by impulsively reacting to avoid the impetus for its actions, it engenders the thing it fears most.

    • karlgarcia says:

      Signing of one sided treaties,giving up Macao to the Portuguese, Hong Kong to the British, etc makes them want to tell the world, “you made us suffer and just wait for our revenge.”

  6. alicia m. kruger says:

    China is always in the forefront when it comes to territorial aggression and acquisition. Remember Tibet? They’ve got it too without the world noticing much about it despite many dead Tibetans. Worse is that demagogue Duterte is paving China’s way by canoodling with them. Heck, a Filipino delegation is even going to China perhaps to seal the “Deed of Sale”. . .?

  7. madlanglupa says:

    Yes, it is power for China. The power to control resources and trade, as well to exert its hegemony upon its other neighbors — control either Philippines and/or Vietnam, and they can control and contain both Koreas, Taiwan, and Japan, all within the so-called “first island chain”. In a few decades it’ll be the Chinese centennial by 2049, so it makes sense they have to achieve true superpower status.

    • a distant observer says:

      Agree. What was important for me to show is, that the Scarborough Shoal, and the SEAS in general, is not only about power in the international arena, but it is also about power of a ruling elite over its domestic population.

  8. gerverg1885 says:

    China knows that they have nothing to match with Japan in military terms even without the help of the USA because they are still very much behind in technology…and any war that could erupt between these two countries would end up with China at the losing end. That’s why its only relying on bluster like its ally, the Nokor.

    Japan had long prepared for that eventuality because of the atrocities it committed to China. The Japanese knew that the Chinese had not forgotten the wrongs done to them.

    • karlgarcia says:

      The opium wars exposed their lack of a strong Navy, they should have started building on that, but they are only doing it now when they already have the cash and the power that comes with it, and as the author distant observer said, it is only now that the state is encouraging its citizen’s to have maritime consciousness.

      The Japs are very aware of their past atrocities extended to the second world war.
      Japan has the same problem with Korea recently.

      For the Philippines, all we have for now is the PCA, our foreign secretary is only proving more to us that he is only a temp by postponing discussing of the Hague ruling during our hosting of the ASEAN just not to create further animosity with China.
      True, the ruling will no longer change, but would we look too much of a bad host if we bring it up?

      Further flexing of muscles- For the first time ever China is attending Davos.
      More chest thumping?

  9. edgar lores says:

    1. The founding reality of the US is quite clear as expressed in the Declaration of Independence.

    ”We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

    It may be a myth, but the myth is accepted and endures.

    2. I do not know the founding reality of China. It may lie in the centuries of empire and in the first Confucian cardinal hierarchical rule: ”The emperor over the subject.”

    2.1. Certainly, that shared reality of “Tremble and obey!” seems to extend to this day.

    3. Apart from Confucianism, the other major religiophilosophical system in China is Taoism. Perhaps, we should add a third – Maoism.

    3.1. The main concept of Taoism is Wu Wei. It means “effortless action” or “not doing.” It is “associated with water and its yielding nature.”

    3.2. I believe Bruce Lee used the concept in his “flow like water” or “be like water” philosophy.

    3.3. Which brings me, in my roundabout fashion, to Scarborough Shoal. China is not practicing Wu Wei. Well, no government practices Wu Wei. But it’s an interesting concept, going with the flow. If China went with the flow – the flow being the observance of international law, which is a mandate of heaven (and another Chinese concept) – she would not forcibly claim the shoal.

    4. More importantly, what is the founding reality of the Philippines? What is our primary value? Certainly, not Equality, Life or Liberty. What is our primary pursuit in Happiness?

    4.1. I believe it’s power as well, but power combined with money. And since we are loath to work for money, we seek it in patronage… which stems from our colonial and pre-colonial past.

    4.2. We all have our own patrons. Even the President has his own. Not only in campaign financiers but in patron nations. And the chain of patronage extends downward to the lowest levels.

    4.3. So our shared reality, our myth, consists of Power, Money, and Patronage.

    4.4. What are the ties that bind? What are the strings attached? Will we ever be free?

    • Nailed it on 4.3.

      How can we achieve equality when PH as a society still has a tacit caste system? The poor remains poor for there are no opportunities available to them to be upwardly mobile. They are the least free of all Filipinos for they are prisoners of poverty and subject to the vagaries of the ruling class.

      • karlgarcia says:

        I wanted to say that the inequality world wide is astounding,8 billionaires ‘ assets equivalent to the bottom half of the world’s population.

        • Juana Pilipinas says:

          Most of them are Americans. Let it be known that most of them are also involved in philanthropy.

          • karlgarcia says:

            I was thinking about that after sending my comment.
            Philantrophy has no or little red tape, and the money goes where it is supposed to go.
            This is in reaction to the article I read about tax dodging among the wealthiest.

  10. NHerrera says:

    Since it is interrelated, I will take the larger context of this geopolitical setting: US versus China.

    China has no doubt aggressively acted in the SCS through its fiction of the Nine-Dash-Line. But these aggressive series of actions are held in check — at least partly — among others through:

    1. US continuing to pursue sea and air navigation in SCS within the context of the PCA ruling, perhaps exploring the limits of the ruling. The British and Australians are planning to undertake their own versions of this sea and air navigation.

    2. Japan acting as a virtual proxy or extension of the US in relation with PH. In fact, we have reports of the next Balikatan exercise to involve US and Japanese forces. (Also there seems to be a contest of sorts about Russian and Chinese military hardware or aid to PH. The previous picture of China lording it over PH immediately after the Laos Summit with “goodbye America” and pre-Trump seems changed.)

    3. US warming up with Russia while cooling with China and poising some trade barriers with the latter.

    4. Whether by design or not, Trump can pursue the concept of Two China as a card to play.

    5. Use Trump’s “undisciplined mouth” to advantage by confusing issues/ policies.

    The above together, and probably more, carry risks. But short of wide-scale armed conflicts, will China break off or downscale diplomatic and economic relations? Who is hurt more?

    How the matter develops we may gauge better after Trump’s one year in office. While Duterte tries to do his thing, the development of the US-China relations will affect the game in our part of the world.

    • karlgarcia says:

      Manong NH,
      Regarding geopolitics, circa Cuban Missile crisis.
      Can you tell us about the incident where senator Sumulong confronted Krushchev in a UN assembly.

      • NHerrera says:


        Without googling, I can only say that I vaguely remember Sumolong in relation to Krushchev. You most probably have better skill to retrieve that incident from the ether? 🙂

      • NHerrera says:

        I can’t resist it. Here is a paragraph at almost the end of the webpage concerning Khrushchev’s UN shoe-banging incident:

        The shoe itself wasn’t mentioned in the US media until Wednesday 12 October 1960. The head of the Philippine delegation, Senator Lorenzo Sumulong, expressed his surprise at the Soviet Union’s concerns over western imperialism, while it, in turn, swallowed the whole of eastern Europe. Khrushchev’s rage was beyond anything he had ever shown before. He called the poor Filipino “a jerk, a stooge and a lackey of imperialism”, then he put his shoe on the desk and banged it.

        • NHerrera says:

          This shows that a mere senator from a Third World country can so rile-up a leader of the then Second Most Powerful Country with nuclear arsenal, enough for the latter to bang his shoe in the UN Assembly — using only CIVILIZED well-reasoned words. No need for a President of an Emerging Country to use foul SOB words — which merited only a snub. What a contrast of the then and now.

    • NHerrera says:


      China declares that Japan’s PM Abe’s four-nation — Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia and Australia — visit sows discord, raises regional tension.

      The link below however ends with this note:

      With the four-nation tour, Tokyo wants to send a message that its respect for a rules-based international system, in contrast to China’s more aggressive behavior in the South China Sea, where it has vast territorial claims, makes it the best partner for Southeast Asian countries.

  11. gerverg1885 says:

    But why didn’t he say when those protests were filed?

  12. Bert says:

    I’m just a poor mountain man living in the hinterland of the Bicol Region and knowledge of history is my weakest point. But I do read tea leaf, and i have a most reliable crystal ball and so my opinion on this subject in this article is purely based on what I am seeing from these paraphernalia, my constant companion.

    What I am seeing is a President Donald Trump who is not a demagogue but a strong leader who is the exact opposite of a President Obama who many Americans said ever governed America, leading that most powerful country from behind.

    But first, please excuse my English and I’m sorry if anyone can’t get the drift of what I am trying to say here.

    China’s domination of the South China Sea will end under the presidency of The Donald, the Scarburough Shoal will remain totally free from any Chinese reclamation/construction, and I am seeing danger of conflict in the Spratley where China constructed military installations on their reclaimed islands. I am seeing The Donald flexing his muscles, utilizing the full power of the US Naval juggernaut in a show of force worthy of being the King of the Jungle, or is it The King of the Sea.

    • Kindly define demagogue.

      • Bert says:

        Joe, my take, from a Google dictionary.

        I believe your President Trump is no Hitler or Stalin.

        I think that he will be a strong president solely for the best interest of America and the world, in the case of what are happening in the China Seas, to contain China from monopolizing the seas there, to stop threatening its neighbors. Specially Japan. One way of stopping Japan from going nuclear is to stop China from threatening Japan. And a nuclear Japan is a grave threat to the world. A strong America with a strong leader can well serve as an effective deterrent to China’s hegemonic ambitions in Asia. And the South China Sea is a life blood of the US economic interest. The Donald will do his best to maintain that life blood at all cost. I think.

        A demagogue is someone who becomes a leader largely because of skills as a speaker or who appeals to emotions and prejudices.
        Though the Greek root for demagogue literally means “a leader of the people,” the word has for centuries had a negative connotation: it actually means a leader who has manipulated the emotions and prejudices of the rabble. The reason for the negative connotation is that in ancient Athens, “the people” were considered to be an uncivilized mob. Two of the most famous historical demagogues are said to be Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin.”

        • NHerrera says:


          Was (still is) a demagogue but will change after January 20? I can’t counter your vision. I have no tea leaf reading skill; and my crystal ball is very cloudy and useless, just like the phrase of the day — note verbale. Cheers. 🙂

          • Bert says:

            Cheers, NHerrera. Trump is not yet president, but, as they say, the taste of the pudding is in the eating. We will see. And Trump winning the election was not because the American people is an “uncivilized mob”. That’s just my opinion. Others may have a contrary opinion about that but I don’t know if our dear Joe here will be happy with that, :).

          • ‘note verbale’, hahaha, cracked me up!

        • karlgarcia says:

          What Japan has done recently is to surrender or lend some weapons grade plutonium to the US, if they left some for themselves remains to be seen, but its compliance with the no nuclear weapons manufacturing on Japanese soil is covered.

          • NHerrera says:

            Aah, the nuclear-weapon game and how it is played. The most scary is that guy from the North who is always trailed by note-taking Generals to record his every utterance. (With a beautiful wife even you or Joe can agree on. 🙂 )

          • Talking about nuclear weapons, there is a possibility that South Korea (SK) will arm itself with a few if Trump does not honor the standing US defense treaty against North Korea. There is a talk about US deployment of THAAD radar system in SK but China and Russia threatened to unite in retaliation if US and SK follows through with it.

            There might be truth in the prediction that the next world war will start in Asia. God help us all if nuclear weapons are involved.


            • NHerrera says:

              Juana, a very interesting read on the recent geopolitical dynamics involving US, SK, NK, Russia and China. But I remain scared most of all about that madman in the North.

              • karlgarcia says:

                We must not forget Iran,Pakistan and India and whose side they are on.

                Hope Space X does not go bankrupt because of failure of its rockets to launch.

                Only place safe is Mars when nuclear war happens.
                China will explore the moon to check if there is a chance to live there one day.

          • Bert says:

            karl, China has a very potent nuclear capability that threatens the very existence of Japan as a nation and as a people. The Japanese is not the type of people who will just wait for armageddon to happen without any chance of winning the battle.

            It’s a matter of life or death for Japan. If the US cannot guarantee a protective umbrella over Japan against a China aggression, Japan will go nuclear, with or without that No Nuclear prohibition. In my opinion.

            • karlgarcia says:

              I agree, Bert Japan can go nuclear anytime because the Nuclear prihibition is not set in stone I think, meaning no laws that have to be repealed, it is one those powerful note verbale.

        • I think he is a demogogue, then, because his main appeal is to emotions. Whether he is a good leader or bad depends on outputs when in office. He is a risky leader, and risk can lead to great gain or total collapse.

          All views are allowed at this blog unless they are rudely expressed, grossly off topic, or selling product, which includes trolls. I discern that you are pushing ideas, and that is most welcome.

          • Bert says:

            Thank you, Joe.

            Also I agree with your “…because his main appeal is to emotions.” He appealed to the emotions of the American people, and the American voters decided in his favor. My belief is that the American people is not to be considered an “uncivilized mob” and so demagogue to describe Trump was farthest from my mind. You know your people better than I do so I supposed I am wrong with my opinions.

            • Well, your opinions make as much sense as anyone’s, but I think most people would consider Trump to be a demagogue, and those who voted for him, the kind that may be able to give them what they need. Whatever that may be. And thanks for inspiring a new article, something about, “What is it we are looking for that our leaders are not providing?”

        • Bill In Oz says:

          Historical notes needed : re Demagogues
          “Two of the most famous historical demagogues are said to be Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin.”
          1 : Hitler at his most sucessful election in 1932 captured 32% of the German vote. IE Another 68% voted for other parties.
          2 Stalin never ever, ever faced a free election : there were no opposition parties allowed by the Communists.
          Ohhhh and by the way neither did Mao. Definitely not a demagogue. Just a plain old dictator like Stalin & Hitler

    • chemrock says:

      Lead me, follow me, or get out of my way. — General George Patton
      Trumps leadership is simply ‘get out of my way’.

      Bert, I don’t share your optimism with Trump. I think Trump is a horrible leader coming in at a terrible time. America is on the cusp of an epic financial meltdown the likes of which the world has never seen before. When America goes into turmoil, the whole world suffers. America has drawn the short straw when they picked Trump. No one can fix America’s financial problems and Trump’s gonna make the unraveling catastrophic. The Rube Goldberg machine I wrote about last November is breaking apart. I’m trying to put a follow-up blog to that which attempts to tie up with Distant Observer’s article.

      • Bert says:

        That’s alright, chemp, we are just speculating on what Trump is going to do and what’s going to happen during his administration. I’m just trying to project a positive result for America and the world based on my analysis from what little I know of the man.

        Eagerly anticipating and waiting for that follow-up blog of yours, chemp.

      • a distant observer says:

        But Trump repeatedly said he will “make America great again”, how can you still be so pessimistic about America’s future? 😉

    • a distant observer says:

      I admit that any Hitler-comparison is always problematic. I was never suggesting that Trump is like Hitler. Before Hitler came to power he wrote “Mein Kampf” while Trump wrote “The Art of the Deal”.
      I just said Trump is a demagogue Hitler would be proud of. Why do I think that? You already provided a definition of a demagogue. Did you ever watch one of his campaign rallies?
      For example one where he made his followers raising their right hand and swearing to vote for him? (

      Or did you see his tweet where he put Hillary next to a “Star of David” (used by the Nazis to identify Jews)?

      I am not going into the outrageous things he said about women, people of color or people with disabilities.

      May I ask you how your forecasting with tea leaves and crystal ball works?

      We don’t have to liken Duterte to Hitler. He already did that himself.

      • Bert says:

        “May I ask you how your forecasting with tea leaves and crystal ball works?”

        I’m sorry I can’t tell, it’s a trade secret, if you don’t mind, :).

        As to Trump being labelled a demagogue please refer to the definition I provided/quoted from a Google dictionary stating that:

        “…it actually means a leader who has manipulated the emotions and prejudices of the rabble. The reason for the negative connotation is that in ancient Athens, “the people” were considered to be an uncivilized mob.”

        As per that definition, the negative connotation of the word ‘demagogue’ was borne out by the fact that “in ancient Athens, “the people” were considered to be an uncivilized mob.”. Please take note that the operative phrase is “uncivilized mob”, without which the word demagogue cannot be considered a negative description of a person, in this case Trump. Now, did Trump rabble-roused an uncivilized mob which is the American people? I don’t think so.

        You have a different interpretation of the word, that I can see. That’s okay, too. No quarrel.

        • a distant observer says:

          No quarrel of course, only discussion 🙂

          Another definition from Wikipedia:
          “A demagogue /ˈdɛməɡɒɡ/ (from Greek δημαγωγός, a popular leader, a leader of a mob, from δῆμος, people, populace, the commons + ἀγωγός leading, leader)[1] or rabble-rouser is a leader in a democracy who gains popularity by exploiting prejudice and ignorance among the common people, whipping up the passions of the crowd and shutting down reasoned deliberation.”

          In ancient Athens, the “demos” was able to participate in democratic procedures. However, it was not a “democracy for all”. Certain groups such as slaves or very poor citizens were still disenfranchised from the process. So the demos consisted of the more privileged strata of Athen’s society, but still they were considered the “uncivilized mob”?

          What is “civilized” and what is “uncivilized”? To me, it doesn’t even matter how “civilized” someone is. In the sense of the enlightenment, that was the basis for modern civilization: “Have the courage to use your own reason!” (Kant).

          You mention you live in the hinterland of the Bicol region. I consider your neighbors at least as “civilized” as some rednecks in the Mid-West who believe in creationism and that climate change is not real (Trump said climate change was a “Chinese hoax”). For a lot of Trump supporters, ignorance, not reasoning, is king.

          • Bert says:

            Now that is something that I cannot respond to. I can read tea leaf, but disparaging the belief of others is actually not my cup of tea. I’m sorry.

            I and my neighbors in the hinterland we don’t feel inferior or superior to anyone. And we don’t even mind being called uncivilized or ignorant by the smarter/’educated’ city guys.

            That’s alright, no quarrel.

            As to climate change, we the hinterland people have been exposed to various extremes of climate variables since our awakening and so, unlike Trump, we believe climate change is real.

            • a distant observer says:

              I want to apologize if my redneck-comparison offended you somehow. This was certainly never my intention. After all, we can all learn from each other, no matter how “educated” we are. I just wanted to show you why I think Trump is a demagogue. But let’s agree to disagree on this topic.
              This comment by a Turkish reporter on Erdogan’s Turkey struck me (I paraphrase):
              “At the same time we know many things that happen in Turkey from history. We know how the misuse of national feelings in politics functions. We know the anomalies that can develop when certain groups get disenfranchised and humiliated. To simply reverse this rejection might not be enough. This marginalization might have already poisoned language and behavior.
              The disenfranchised become a destabilizing danger when they reach a position of strength. They have never learnt to share because they were always excluded.
              There are Muslims in Turkey who feel similar and they have a strong advocate in the Turkish President. The destructive force of such a bottled-up anger is tremendous. It always affects the whole society. But it starts with the language. This language obliterates the contradiction and replaces it with hate.
              That’s why it is eminent to find back to this other language. To a language that allows contradictions and enables again to hear all these fine differences between supposed synonyms.”

              • Bert says:

                Apology accepted, though not needed.

                Being labelled a redneck does not offend me at all because I am one proud brown redneck myself as usually us mountain people got seared by the hot sun all the time while toiling for a living.

                Sometimes we envy the superior city guys for their pale necks but most times we just take it all in stride for we know of their innocence of the enjoyment we’re experiencing cavorting with the heavenly beauty of nature hereabouts.

  13. chemrock says:

    Thank you DO, you covered quite a lot of grounds.

    It is as you quite rightly say “Knowing Chinese preferences and intentions means knowing how the international political landscape might evolve in the future.” That is why whenever I read an article on the WPS issue i take an interest on the writer’s opinion on the Chinese motivation. I restrict my comment to this question of motivation.

    Many are those that say China has it’s eyes on the riches under the seas and it’s industrial progress had given them an insatiable appetite for energy resources. I see you too did not subscribe to this. This has no credence for the simple reason that if it’s the resources they want, there are cheaper and less troublesome ways to go about securing it. But of course, the rich resources are welcome bonus.

    I like your input-output legitimacy explanation. So you said “The CPC has to feed into the nationalist feelings of its domestic audience, and it seems as (if) Beijing chose the SEAS as the theatre for this purpose.” This is the default course of action by unstable political leaderships. Marcos tried to play the Sabah claims card, Duterte has his drug wars, Hitler had his Jews, etc. But would you consider this explanation for China’s island grab cannot stand on 2 grounds :

    1. The cause and effect seems the wrong way round. The island grab was not driven by any national outcry. Prior to 2009 the Chinese public had no idea about the 9 dash lines. But having publicised the 9 dash lines and intruded into the WPS, the CCP created a national issue they now have to defend or their legitimacy suffers.

    2. CCP has their plates full of output legitimacy problems, they don’t need another, certainly not one in which they may ultimately need to confront the number one superpower in the world. What’s on their plate — Senkaku Island dispute with Japan, Taiwan re-unification, HK democracy movements, Xinjiang province problems, Tibet, border quarels with Vietnam, Norkor tantrums that they cannot rein in, etc.

    • NHerrera says:

      Chemrock, your post — a crisp, nice supplementary read to DO’s blog topic. On Item 2, it is a truism but still useful: biting more than one can chew.

    • a distant observer says:

      Thanks chemrock, fair points as always.

      As to your points 1. and 2:
      1. The island grab did not start in 2009. Remember the “Johnson South Reef Skirmish” with Vietnam in 1988 or the “land reclamation activities” on Mischief Reef in 1994. I don’t know when exactly the Nine-Dash Line was first discussed in Chinese domestic media. All we know is that 2009 marked the year when Beijing finally used it in international “note verbales” (this word again haha). It is indeed a dangerous balancing act for the CPC to foster these nationalist sentiments and this “maritime consciousness” among its population. A famous phrase by Goethe comes into my mind: “Spirits that I’ve cited, my commands ignore”. The CPC can use the “spirits of nationalism” to enhance its discursive power, but these spirits have the potential to unleash forces which could threaten the very status of the ruling elite in China. Hence my reference to Schelling’s “paradox of weakness”.

      2. Yes the CPC has many legitimacy problems. The SEAS is a theatre however where it can project strength to its domestic audience and divert its attention from the other issues mentioned. The Han Chinese are the basis of the ruling party in China. Xinjiang and Tibet are not of much interest for Han Chinese. Senkaku Island dispute is definitively a foreign policy matter that can be exploited for nationalist feelings. HK democracy movements are a too little phenomenon for the CPC’s grand strategy (as long as they don’t spread to the mainland of course). North Korea is nothing but Beijing’s rabid bandog it keeps for the case it needs to release one.

      • karlgarcia says:

        But was Chempo correct in opining that the island grab was not caused by public outcry?
        Sorry for butting in,I was interested in your exchange

        • a distant observer says:

          Thanks Karl for the follow up. I realize I didn’t address chemrocks critique to the extent it deserves. Sorry for that.
          Yes I agree that this island grabbing was not driven by national outcry. National outcry only followed later, after state media portrayed the PCA’s ruling or American “freedom of navigation” activities in the SEAS as a violation of China’s “territorial sovereignty and maritime rights” and “unnecessary provocations”.

  14. caliphman says:

    What China’s strategic interest in its occupation and fortification of some of the disputed Spratley islands and rock formations including the Scarborough atoll is hard to fathom, pun intended. If these are supposed to be far flung island bases to enable their military forces to exert control over the vast expanse of water they claim as their territorial seas by virtue of their nine dash line, they have neither the naval or air power to contest the United States and its allies in a show of force. The far flung and isolated rocks they have occupied are of dubious economic value but which they must hold onto to assert their avowed determination to defend their territorial sovereignty. It is doubtful that Trump or the US would go to war to dislodge the Chinese from their island fortresses just as Beijing would be reluctant to expand their collection of disputed rock fortesses by wresting these from more well-armed countries bordering the 9 dash line. The political, diplomatic, and legal risk of such a confrontation in exchange for minimal economic and strategic gains argue strongly against such a move. Instead what is more likely given the noises the Trump team is putting forth is that the US may engage in a trade instead of a hot war against China and other regional countries. This is an engagement which might favor China against the US instead of a regional military confrontation where their forces would be inferior and their allues outnumbered.

    • Bill In Oz says:

      Caliphman, in a real war the USA will wipe the floor with the Chinese forces. There is no comparison tho’ the Chinese are trying to rapidly improve their army,navy & airforce and have been for the past 15 years. So my opinion is that China will find some face saving way of a√oiding a military war in the South China Sea or the WPS.

      In an ‘economic war’ it’s necessary to remember that China’s main export destination is the USA. USA tariffs of Chinese exports to the USA to shift jobs back to the USA will hurt China’s economy a lot.

      In many ways this is similar to 1929 when the USA imposed tariffs on German & other countries exports to the USA and precipitated a huge global depression.

      However China’s has huge reserves still of US dollars ) 2.5 – 3 trillion. This will cushion it for a while.

    • Nice pun. I admire your courage in attempting to predict what Trump would do. My bookie refuses to post odds, figuring he might easily lose his shirt, and possibly pants.

      • NHerrera says:

        I am an admirer of Fareed Zakaria and his 8PM Sunday (Manila Time) CNN GPS show where he usually interviews heavy weights. He strikes me as intelligent and sharp.

        Here is his timely comment on who may win in this trade and investment conundrum in view of Trump’s protectionist pronouncements. I paraphrase — China will fill-in the vacuum left by US to the disadvantage of the US.

        • Fascinating and hard to argue with. Thanks for the enlightenment.

        • Bill In Oz says:

          N’hererra, I have no idea who Fareed Zakaria is. So I rely of inaccuracies in the fields I know about to asses him.
          And frankly, he lies and is completely wrong in his statement ” Australia, once a key backer of the TPP, has announced that it supports China’s alternative.”

          The Australian PM was in our media yesterday & today touting the advantages of the TPP and again seeking to have it passed by our senate. As for Pm Keys of New Zealand, he is gone, retired.NZ now has a PM named English.

          If Zakaria cannot get the facts right then I have to say he is not worth relying on as a source. I suggest he is simply spreading misinformation on behalf of Chinese patrons

          It is true that China has become less of an export driven economy since the start of the global depression in 2008. With huge foreign trade surpluses they could afford to move towards domestic demand driven economy.

          But it is also true that foreign exchange has been heamoraging out of China for the past 6 years largely because rich Chinese are organising ‘insurance’ against the increasingly draconican moves by the regime against ‘corruption’ and ‘dissent’.

          • NHerrera says:


            Thanks for the correction — especially coming from an Australian. I will be more careful with Fareed Zakaria then.

            This is quibbling, but if we have to parse the statement,

            Australia, once a key backer of the TPP, has announced that it supports China’s alternative

            may it not sound like, I like Orange, but now having gone to New Zealand, I like Kiwi (too)?

            I am kidding you here. I will go with you on that one.

            BTW, is my associating kiwi with New Zealand ok? I haven’t googled.

            • Bill In Oz says:

              N’heerra, there has been no mention of China’s proposed alternative to the TPP in Australian media.

              Here is a link re Australia still wanting a TPP…Along with Japan.
     from that I saw Turnbul discussing TPP on TV last night…And he was all positive

              BTW , For the past 50 odd years New Zealand’ers have been pleased to be called Kiwis

              • NHerrera says:

                Thanks for the link; it confirms your earlier note on TPP still a go in Australia. And thanks for the note on the New Zealanders and Kiwis. (My wife and I love the kiwi fruit.)

            • But it is true that by abandoning the TPP, Trump would cede the trade driving position to China. Isolationism by needless concession, it seems to me.

      • caliphman says:

        Not courage nor foresight, its simply what came out of his campaign speeches and what the twit has been twitting on twitter. Zakaria as Manong has referred to below is no genius either as he is simply echoing Trumps words and what his recent cabinet picks say about implementing a populist trade policy that risks further hardships on America’s suffering factory and agricultural workers. These US workers may lose their shirts but it is another thing to say that such a misfortune will affects Trump’s personal fortunes as he has proven in his failed casino disasters. Economics is sometimes a little bit more difficult subject to sort out for most people and Trump is no economics pundit even if Farheed is as those who follow his weekly CNN telecast would kniw.

    • a distant observer says:

      I have nothing to add to your comment. Completely agree with your assessement. Since Trump seems somehow influenced by Russia (Putin himself?) his administration’s moves in the region will be probably in line with Putin’s preferences.

  15. karlgarcia says:

    Paraphrasing Yasay: If US wants to stop China, let them, we are out of that, that is what the president means by independent foreign policy.


  16. NHerrera says:


    Federico Pascual Jr. of Philippine Star wrote an interesting article on the evolution of FB Likes on the work of a blogger. He describes the blogger as: a famous blogger who has diversified into mainstream print media as a columnist.

    He was impressed by the credentials (4.7 million Likes on Facebook) of the blogger so he decided to examine the bulging statistics of the blogger.

    I summarize the data he found in a table I show below. Note that the blanks in the table corresponds to Pascual not providing data for them. The time starts at the posting of the blogger’s article at midnight (0:00) and he follows the statistics of the L column (FB Likes) till 9:20 pm (21:20). For further perspective I superimposed a column, CAOL, the cumulative average number of L per hour. My notes below are essentially Pascual’s. I added some notes towards the end.

    1. From posting at midnight, there was no activity on L, T, S, G, and E.

    2. Then a burst of Ls (FB Likes) at 2:00 with a total of 487. Then no activity till 15 minutes later at 2:15 when another burst of Ls came in for a cumulative total of 751. Again no activity for 15 minutes, then another burst of Ls came in at 2:30 for a total of 1,100. (Pascual is rounding the L numbers.)

    3. Such bursts of Ls came in and noted the numbers in the L column. He does not specify the times for these other data, until at 6:25 early in the morning, the total Ls came to 3,800; at 13:35 the total was 9,200; and at 21:20 in the evening the total was 11,000.

    4. He noted that the Tweet came to 1 and got stuck there. Even the FB Shares (S) which we expect to move in sympathy with the FB Likes remained at very low numbers compared to its “cousin” the FB likes.

    5. The interesting thing is Pascual conducted the same observation another day the blogger posted a piece. He said the pattern repeated itself.

    6. My notes:

    – I did the calculation for the column CAOL — my own item not found in Pascual’s piece — and found it interesting that except at the early times, the cumulative average of the FB Likes per hour stabilize in the neighborhood of 500 Likes per hour.

    – It seems that the troll army or bots have a quota to fill: about 500 likes per hour; and it came in bursts because the troll army or bots probably have to do other things than attend to this particular blogger only; they most probably have other bloggers to serve; and their own other gainful work.

    (If the reader has time, it may pay to read Pascual’s article. It incluides other notes from an international perspective.)

    • chemrock says:

      It’s obvious Tweeter is a self-tweet.
      Could the L be automated?

    • So her readership is fake, like her news and maybe certain other qualities of the blogger that need not be mentioned here. But somehow the masses are picking up on the popularity of the President and that has to have a calculation somewhere.

      • NHerrera says:

        Sorry for the low-quality retort: the masses may not know about the statistics above but the huge number of Likes; ergo her gospel is true; ergo her gospel on PRD is true; so I am a very satisfied supporter; and if not a supporter before, I am now.

        Re — fake, like her news and maybe certain other qualities of the blogger that need not be mentioned here you have 20/20 vision Joe; I wear glasses but noticed too.

    • Edgar Lores says:

      The first question to ask is: Who is behind this grand effort at deception?

      I surmise it is the Marcoses who are behind this.

      This social media campaign started some years ago. definitely before 2010. I believe the main platform before was YouTube. There are some videos there that are anti-Aquino and pro-Marcos.

      Now the battlefield has shifted to FB, with Twitter a distant second.

      So this effort has been going on for some years now… and not only during election seasons.

      Make no mistake: it is a deadly serious continuous effort on a grand scale with no expenses spared.

      How much does it take to maintain this army (assuming the Likes are not triggered by bots)?

      The second question to ask is: And what for?

      The answer should be pretty obvious: Power, Money, and Patronage.

      What is remarkable is the Chinese-like will to power, the ruthlessness, and the consideration of time horizons. It is multi-generational. This is our Age of Civil War that parallels the Sengoku period in Japan.

      The public is being played, and the Marcoses are playing a long game. And they are playing for keeps.

      • chemrock says:

        And Duterte has been duped into giving a high moral chair to one whose name we don’t mention.Someone should send him a copy of Pasual’s findings.

    • cha says:

      Why are people even so obsessed with this person? She owes her popularity and notoriety as much to her fanatic readers and followers (fake accounts and all) as with those who react and condemn to everything and anything that comes out of her poisoned pen. I refuse to read anything from her and yet my newsfeed is almost always filled with others re-posting her trash and what they think about it; thus making her seem so much more consequential than she actually is. She is at best a distraction, an easy target for releasing one’s anger and frustration that is actually better directed at those that allow her lies to perpetrate. Put Philstar on the spot. They are the bigger problem here. And every other news organisation and media outlet that provide a platform to those who distort if not actually invent their own truth.

  17. Bill In Oz says:

    Following this conversation has prompted me to start reading again C P Fitzgerald’s “The Southern Expansion of the Chinese People”, published by Praeger Publishers in 1972…It does not cover ( of course ) any of the changes that have happened within China since 1972..And which were largely unpredictable then – at the height of the Vietnam war.

    But the patterns remain the same. Here are Fitzgerald’s opening remarks to his Introduction :
    ” Chinese influence, Chinese culture and Chinese power have always moved southwards since the first age of which we have historical evidence.”

    So could China’s expansion into the West Philippines Sea be just a consequence of old habits ?
    A habit from the past which is hard to shake off for China ?

    However in former times China’s movement southwards never met any ‘major power’ opposition. Times have changed. Now there is a world power named the USA which projects it’s military, political, cultural and economic power all along the the perimeter of China from the China sea to South China sea

  18. Bert says:

    “It is doubtful that Trump or the US would go to war to dislodge the Chinese from their island fortresses….”—caliphman

    I will give it a 50/50 odds that under the Trump administration those Chinese military installations in the Spratleys artificial islands will be destroyed by the US Naval forces either by overt or covert means. As to whether that would cause a world nuclear war would depend on China’s reactions to such an eventuality but in my opinion China would not risk it. Still, the risk is there but what to do? The South China Sea is a vital economic choke point and as long as China continues in attempting to put a stranglehold on that vital sea lane, Japan, the US and the rest of the western powers can’t afford to just watch and be squeezed little by little to the point of final economic suffocation. It is a matter of necessity. In my opinion.

    • Oldmaninla says:

      I’ll bet Win-Win mature diplomacy will happen…. because War is suicide-mutual destruction… nuclear means, Ukraine is the example.. Iran too.
      If you simply focus and see your war side story , you’re like blind men and the elephant.
      I’m not pro- China or pro-Philippines, but just see the broader side of history events.
      Be pragmatic… Zero-Sum game of win or loss is not the game in 21 century.
      Russia, USA, China are all the same…..all fearful of nuclear war. Look at North Korea situation situation……… is not Zero-Sum game, only birth, death and tax is win or loss, I think……matanda na ako to know the reality of life.

      • sonny says:

        From one old man to another I understand what you are saying. “… all are fearful of nuclear war.” Consider:

        Pres Eisenhower knew, saw the CARNAGE of a world war. Because of it he is blamed for allowing the spread of Russian communism in the Cold War. Yet he provided for the defense of the USA at home by building the 42,000-mile Freeway system to serve civilian commerce and military mobilization.

        The destruction of an all-out nuclear war is unthinkable: nobody will survive it, during and after. We have seen the tame version of atomic bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. The aftermath of a total nuclear war will cover the whole world with radioactivity that no biological being can survive.

        • sonny says:

          Think Fukushima and Chernobyl nuclear reactors.

          • Oldmaninla says:

            Exactly,,,,Tumpak, lahat may takot…..kaya all the war talks, provocations are just to satisfy the intellectual gyrations…….ego………pride comes before destruction.
            Only bilateral or multilateral diplomacy works for peace and instability and progress……..

            • NHerrera says:


              I quote a portion of the post above:

              Russia, USA, China are all the same…..all fearful of nuclear war. Look at North Korea situation situation………..

              Agree about Russia, USA and China’s fear of nuclear war, but your post above seems truncated with respect to North Korea.

              Is Kim Jong-un (= North Korea as in “L’Etat c’est moi” or “I am the state”) fearful of nuclear war too? The nature of his fear seems different to me . He seems more fearful of his generals or subjects than a nuclear war?

      • Bert says:

        This is not a matter of what I want to happen, or what you want, Oldmaninla. This is a matter of necessity, of the economic survival of Japan, the US, and the rest of the western powers.

        Under the administration of Pres. Obama, eight years of diplomacy did not work with China and within that eight years we are seeing now the extent of what China will and can do under that veil of diplomacy you’re talking about. Give China another eight years of that same kind of diplomatic environment and you will be seeing the whole ocean within that nine dash line turning into fields of military installation the likes of what has been done in the Spratleys.

        I am not advocating for war. I am expressing an opinion of the potential that I think will likely to occur during and under the administration of a President Donald Trump. I could be wrong.

        • Oldmaninla says:

          Only possible crazy national leader of NK might make mistake…… else who would be the second crazy leader in your intellectual guess?

          The fear of God and the fear of nuclear devastation is the beginning of peaceful wisdom…
          Only the truth will set us free……..whatever it means……….
          War talks and provocations just satisfy our intellectual gyrations…….

          By the old man……

          • Bert says:

            “Only possible crazy national leader of NK might make mistake…… else who would be the second crazy leader in your intellectual guess?”

            Easy question, easy answer. The second crazy leader in my “intellectual guess” would be China’s.

            Provoke a hungry lion (The King of the Jungle, or, is it The King of the Sea) and deprive it of its source of livelihood and you will end up inside the lion’s belly..

          • josephivo says:

            “The fear of God and the fear of nuclear devastation is the beginning of peaceful wisdom”, isn’t it the opposite? For most “the fear of God” means “the fear of OUR God”, all other Gods are a blasphemy and have to be fought with all we have (see history). Nuclear power is strength, it deters the opponent, the word fear here is an euphemism having the opposite meaning and peace by scaring the others, “I have the biggest”.

            • karlgarcia says:

              Thank you Joseph, I agree on all points. If fear of God leads to peace there would have never been wars in the name of religion.

  19. karlgarcia says:

    speaking of crazies. and diplomacy

    What if the Chinese will say that its bases are for a missile defense system to protect the South from a possible nuclear ICBM attack from Nokor and Iran, will that work?

    In the 90s, the world thinks the cold war is passé and there will never again be an arms race, and WMDs were either addressed or believed to be merely a hoax.

    But as we can see WMDs and arms races are still around, and fear of being blown to thy kingdom come is the only way to maintain peace, as you say.

    speaking of gyrations – gyrations can either distract you or make you more focused depending on what you are watching.

  20. Oldmaninla says:

    Filipino tayo…. matalino….

    Life is so precious for loose talks. Sabi sabi is vain.
    Ang naniniwala sa sabi-sabi walang bait sa sarili.
    Please translate…….matanda na ako.

  21. chemrock says:

    If an old map is the basis for China’s claim to the 9 Dash Lines, maybe they can now calim the whole world based on this 1418 map

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