Update: The US and the Philippines

US Ambassador Kim, Defense Secretary Lorenzana, and AFP brass receive reconnaissance drones from US. [Photo source: US Embassy]

By Joe America

What is American policy toward the Philippines these days? How will the relationship go in the future?

Let me offer some perspectives. I’ll do this in the form of a somewhat disjointed commentary that we can piece together later.

Leftists oppose the “US-Duterte” regime. This produces the absurdity of leftists protesting Duterte policies as if the US were complicit in shooting drug users. I had a brief encounter with a leftist on twitter that enlightened me as to why leftists still use 1950’s rhetoric about American imperialism. It’s because Americans are helping the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) hunt down communist rebels. There is no idealism to the stance. The pragmatism of armed colleagues being shot gets built up by leftists into a whole socio/political/economic drama of a imperialist US intrusions into Filipino matters. Well, the rebels define that violent path, not America, so we can just leave those troublemakers to their ways as we would just let hamsters run ’round and ’round on a wheel going nowhere.

No one knows the current American policy in the Philippines because President Trump has not tweeted about it. That’s where policy is announced these days. He is applying pressure on China in occasional tweets about the trade imbalance or China’s militarization of the seas. But there is no policy about the Philippines other than some vague concoction of Trump business interests in the Philippines and his affinity for autocrats. The relationship probably just “is”. In other words, it is awaiting some event that will impel it to be defined in a tweet or two.

I commend US Ambassador Sung Kim for his deft diplomacy since he took over the Manila job in late 2016. He has avoided the pitfalls of his predecessor who was too outspoken for President Duterte’s liking. Ambassador Kim seldom engages with the upper levels of Philippine government and confines himself to working with the Defense establishment, US Aid, visas for Filipinos, disaster recovery (Marawi), education, and other activities that help Filipinos. In a way, he treads the high road much as Vice President Robredo does. They both respect the democratic process and institutions that represent the enduring Philippines, even if they don’t like near-term Philippine policies and the uncivil activities of certain trolls, secretaries, legislators, judges, or the President. They keep their eyes down and work diligently. They don’t call Ambassadors diplomats for nothing. Or Vice Presidents classy.

The Philippine pivot to China is absolute, firm, finite, and definite as we see casinos coming to Boracay, infrastructure loans from China (at comparatively high rates), Filipino fisherman chased out of Philippine seas with no protest, a Chinese Telco invited in with no bidding, an uptick in Chinese tourists, and drugs galore (604 kg imported from China with no penalty). We hear Secretary Cayetano and Presidential Spokesman Roque spouting the Chinese line about how all this benefits Filipinos, even though Chinese bidders want to hire Chinese workers, relegating the Philippines to sending its citizens to Saudi Arabia to be boxed in freezers. The absurdity abounds.

But before I chase myself into the dark hole of dismay and depression thinking about how a nation of well-educated adults can have a perverse national character of greed and cruelty, let me concoct a likely scenario or two.

Many nations are starting to feel pressure from China in the commercial arena. Australia, the US, Europe, and elsewhere. Companies (which fund candidates) are starting to lean on their governments. China’s unrelenting ambition for high global stature is becoming overbearing. I tend to think push-back will come from three main sources: the US, European Union, and a collection of Asian nations anchored loosely by Japan, Viet Nam, Australia, Malaysia, and Indonesia. I say loosely because these nations are rivals as well as having a history, some of it not agreeable.

The Philippines for now is stuck in the middle, its leadership favoring China for reasons that are hard to comprehend unless we factor in personal accumulations of great wealth and power. The generals and the people prefer the United States. There are 3.5 million Filipinos living in the US and a few thousand living in China. The US is diverse and her human rights orientation welcomes all races and peoples. Trump’s bigotry is a bump in that, but America will get past it. Contrarily, China is a predominantly racist state with its drive for Chinese superiority fueled much like the overt racism that Hitler used to exert power.

I think China will soon come to grate on Filipinos, whether it be bad manners of tourists, corporate arrogance, economic strife, or conflicts we cannot yet foresee.

The timing of when American push-back against China occurs, and when Filipino push-back develops, will determine how and when the Philippines pivots back to the US.

Right now, US push-back against China is . . . well . . . right now. A trade war is beginning today in fact, as Trump applies tariffs on China to try to gain compensation for China’s theft of American intellectual goods. US warships continue to prowl the contested seas. The rock and the hard place are grinding toward one another.

If President Duterte remains in power for a lengthy time, the three-party dance will become awkward. A tango is only for two. It would be awkward for the Philippines to fully embrace China, a nation that has done nothing for the Philippines or Filipinos. And there is nothing, really, the Philippines can do for China. Except get out of the way.

Filipinos give America a lot. And the US returns the regard.

Water flows downhill.


89 Responses to “Update: The US and the Philippines”
  1. arlene says:

    Oh my, what a grim scenario. Some say they’d rather have the US than China and I agree. What will happen to Boracay, will it also be a Chinese territory in the near future? you’re right Joem, “water flows downhill”. Good morning!

    • A tip o’ the glass of fresh, clear river water to you, arlene! Good morning.

      • i remember back in the election days, someone asked me if it’s necessary to pick between China and US, and which of the two will i pick. i said probably, because they are both superpowers. and I jokingly said US, because at least I already know how to speak in English and Mandarin seems hard to learn.😆

        • Ah, yes. Those Chinese phonetics that, if we get them wrong, we find we are talking about cows instead of mother. 🙂 My son should be speaking Mandarin in a few years. Swimming sideways from the rip tide.

  2. edgar lores says:

    1. I believe most countries — on all points of the compass — are aware of China’s aggressive and brazen interference into their affairs.

    2. The interference, the inroads, are socio-epistemic, econo-political, and military.

    2.1. China has used her large population of emigrants and students to spy on and influence foreign host countries.

    2.2. On the econo-political front, China is pouring a seemingly endless cascade of Yuan to fund infrastructure in all continents. Albeit with a high price of acquiring their own offshore resources of foreign ports and products when recipient countries are unable to pay.

    2.3. And militarily, China has weaponized the South China Sea.

    3. What is alarming is that both China and Russia are seemingly ahead of the US in the development of the next frontier of the armaments race — hypersonic weapons. These are missiles that travel at Mach 5, at least five times the speed of sound.

    3.1. There are two types of such missiles — cruise and glide vehicles. The latter is a nightmare. Glide missiles glide above the atmosphere. They can be nuclear-powered and be aloft for however long. They can keep “it’s target a secret up until the last few seconds of it’s flight.”

    3.2. America’s current anti-ballistic missile defense shield would not be effective against hypersonic missiles. The system would not have time to react. America’s nuclear-equipped submarines and aircraft carriers would only come into play after a devastating first strike. It may be, though. that the American Commander-in-Chief would not be there to order the counterstrike.

    4. Welcome to the new arms race.

    • Factor in lasers which are a part of the US defense shield, and are getting advanced enough to put on airplanes. It is such a waste when we all should be working on technology that will allow us to colonize mars and beyond. We’ve wasted this planet with such stupid thinking.

    • josephivo says:

      “Waste” and the arms race. Previous wars were about maximizing casualties, “carpet bombing”. Currently the major powers are able to kill everyone and destroy everything with a few thousand nukes. So what is the gain of winning a total war?

      Future wars will be very different. Winning will be defined in terms of economic and “cultural” gains. Targets will be very specific, attacks only on specific targets, avoid any collateral damage.

      Explosives with missile and drones as carriers are only one weapon system, lasers and other lethal systems another, but more important will be cyber weapons and “political” warfare by influencing the few number of real decision makers. Artificial intelligence will help to be pinpoint accurate by avoiding any collateral damage and lightening fast by avoiding slow human brains.

      Forget yesterday, think tomorrow. What are Chinese and American political and cultural objective with regards of the Philippines? What is win-win, what is win-lose? For the “lose” situations, what are the targets, who are the influencers, how will the attacks look like, what mitigation is realistic?

      • edgar lores says:

        Hypersonic weapons may not be used practicability to win a total war.

        But they would constitute a threat of great intimidation as to achieve economic, political, and cultural gains.

        In a way, in the now-ending era of her superiority, America used military power as a lever to influence political outcomes and gain concessions.

        Thus, the hypersonic weapons armory will be of great importance. It will be a very big stick.

        • josephivo says:

          …. Yes, there are still a lot of baby boomers around, living in yesterday’s world and in powerful positions.

          But I’m a big fan of TRIZ and Genrich Altshuller and the evolution of inventions. More with less, more functions and less resources. AI is accelerating computer self-learning skills fast, the precision of algorithms growing faster than Moore’s law.

          The military used to be a major driver of scientific research, but Trumps still beliefs in American Nukes First. Xi accelerating Chinese basic research. Putin ahead (?) in major new areas relying on efficient (Jewish) Russian scientific tradition, see Genrich Altshuller.

  3. karlgarcia says:

    All trump tweeted about the Philippines was how he hated CNN during his stay here and he also mispelled Philippines.


  4. Zen says:

    Just saw this news this morning of this’ intellectual theft ‘ in trade by the Chinese which Trump is mad about and I agree with your connecting the dots as to what is happening not only between the US and Philippines in the current scene but also how China could affect the relationship in the long run. Thanks for this collating of facts and some kind of a peep into the future Joe.

    • You are most welcome, Zen. Predictions are difficult when dealing with impetuous leaders like Trump and Duterte. Xi is more predictable. The US took a step backward today with the hiring of nutcase John Bolton to head national security. It’s a reality show government except the nukes are real.

  5. karlgarcia says:


    “Security dialogues between the U.S., Japan, Australia and India aimed at upholding regional stability in Asia Pacific will not sit well with China, experts say.
    If cooperation between the four countries grows, it could potentially push Beijing to further strengthen its military capabilities in the region.“

  6. karlgarcia says:

    Back to the other war.
    Here are some warnings, they maybe old news, but it is still very important.

    Beware of FB quizzes and doing the peace sign while taking a selfie.



  7. Empires that are more open and universal have usually survived longer. The Roman Empire, The British Empire and the present dispensation: the United States, including the UN that it helped create, just like it created the predecessor of the UN, the League of Nations.

    There also have been Empires aloof to the conquered like the Dutch. But that was just business. The Dutch, like the British, mostly did not interbreed with the conquered.

    Spanish, Russians and Chinese overran entire areas. The Spanish interbred with the conquered but kept mixed-race persons separate. Russians officially did not interbreed but who looked and spoke and acted Russian enough usually passed – Lenin himself was one-fourth Asian. But there was a certain attitude of superiority, otherwise the USSR would not have collapsed with the former Asian Soviet Republics leaving. China always has pushed out minorities – look at Tibet, Xinjiang.

    Even Southern China is full of minorities with languages similar to Vietnamese, Khmer, Thai, Malay – possibly the Chinese pushed them out as well, southwards, leaving these minorities as evidence? Even the original Taiwanese were overrun by Mainlanders, are now a minority in their own country.

    What kind of destiny are Filipinos hoping for together with China? One just has to look at who Duterte is killing: poor, Lumads, Moros. All brown-skinned Filipinos. And those he favors whether it is big-time drug lords or the likes of Sandra Cam and Janet Lim-Napoles? Chinese-Filipinos. And of course you have Persida Acosta who tries to look Chinese but looks like a ghost. Not being racist, but what kind of Philippines and Filipinos is the vision behind all of that? Totally skin-whitened?


      the only sign of that the present admin is showing is in dealing with Japan.

      There was more of an independent foreign policy during Aquino’s time. Especially in stronger dealings with countries of the European Union. Used to be the Philippines relied exclusively on its big brother USA. Hardly even noticed its ASEAN neighbors, Felt superior to them because allegedly they didn’t speak English or spoke funny English like the Singaporeans or Malaysians. That act of course no longer works nowadays, where they are all RICHER. But Aquino did strengthen dealings with Japan and with ASEAN neighbors in general.

      Of course Duterte has enormous, obvious difficulties with white people – which is why the USA was very smart to send an Asian-American Ambassador. On the ground, the EU people in the Philippines like Ambassador Jessen are married to Filipinas and manage to balance.

      BTW the news over here is about how the EU was exempted from Trump’s trade wars.

      The EU has always taken a bit of the middle ground. Trade with everybody but be careful. German ministries were hacked by China some years ago. IT security laws were updated. Recently Russian hackers were “visiting”. There is a lot afoot nowadays. But it ain’t pretty.

      • I think international relations was one of President Aquino’s great unknown successes. The Philippines rose in the eyes of everyone. Even China, I am guessing. Now, everyone thinks the Philippines is a bunch of savages. Even China, I am guessing.

    • BTW the only thing remotely still Chinese about Sandra Cam and Janet Lim-Napoles is that they are experts at Macau cookery.

    • Nice characterization of the way ethnicity drives power, and arrogance drives ethnocentric ideals. The attitude about whiteness in the Philippines reflects a certain reluctance to ‘love who I am’, as if brown skin is the reason for being suppressed.

      Which, I suppose it has been. The missing step is the realization, emotionally, that ‘brown is beautiful’. It was explained to me once that being white is just a cosmetic choice and I nodded one of those nods that says “Well, I hear you, but I am not convinced,”

    • NHerrera says:


      What Irineo has cited, perhaps related to its history of being once a great empire countries pay tribute to, results in an apparent lack of finesse in its dealings — notwithstanding lessons that should have been learned after all of human history to date. If, with its economic power, and let’s admit it, military power, it has that element and a good measure of trustworthiness, it would be a much greater force; and decrease the emerging pushback at this stage of its world ambitions. Of course, Trump has no finesse without question. But the good thing about US is the institutional brakes that it has installed and seems to be working still (?).

      • I think US Republicans have to be shook up. The hiring of John Bolton, who has the demeanor of Adolph Hitler, to head national security, has to be driving the patriots like Senator McCain nuts. Republicans are already losing elections. Wait until some of the quotes from Bolton start shooting across social media. So, yes, US institutions are not totally captured by Trump, as they are captured in the Philippines.

  8. Nice assessment from Chris Albert on Facebook, in response to the article:

    I think the USA has made his choice already Joe America. As you rightly point out a few other ASEAN nations get fed up by Chinas politics. USA in my opinion looks at Duterte as a non trustworthy liability. Hence why they send the USS Vincent and not just any aircraft carrier. They basically brought their own floating island with added missile capacity to match Chinese antics like for like. To my knowledge they fly about 50 sorties a day at the moment in the West Phil Sea, something that must annoy the Chinese no end. Next up Taiwan where Trump ignores them too. Just like with the Ambassadors line of action they decide to leave Dugong on the sidelines, a place that is best suited for him 😉

    Europe already started too as German gov. stopped the sale of two high tech companies to China…… the news outlets have also turned against them since Xi became President for life.
    Boracay is not laying down and just taking Dutertes antics either and I can see the anger raising in the nation who can see him for what he really is, a bullying coward

    • My response to Chris:

      And Canada stopped helicopter sales to the Philippines. So, yes, the Philippines is now an outcast. Nice summary you’ve done.

    • MCD says:

      Very correctly described – a bullying coward. We Filipinos (or at least the 16 million) made a mistake (BIG TIME!) with giving this seat to DU. Incomprehensible why he kowtows to China and blusters the US, EU, ICC – the international committee. It isn’t surprising if he completes his term, that Philippines will really just be a group of island – an island isolated from the international community. Am actually anticipating and praying for a major blunder by DU to incite movement from most of our fellow Pinoys, who are now still in a wait and see attitude… I hope it’s soon before we become a Chinese province

  9. Yvonne says:

    So what is new with the Philippine and U.S. relations?

    Watch this video released just today where the U.S. showcased, in West Philippines Sea, their newest stealth fighter planes with new capabilities to send a clear signal to China that the U.S. is ready to respond to China’s incursions in South East Asia.


  10. Francis says:

    An excellent summary of the trends in Chinese domestic and foreign policy:



    Understanding China’s Rise Under Xi Jinping — By The Honourable Kevin Rudd

    I am pleased to share you with an address that the Honourable Kevin Rudd gave at West Point earlier this month. It is long but worth the read. I wish I had written as it is the clearest exposition of Xi Jinping‘s China I have so far read. Mr. Rudd, a Sinocism subscriber, graciously agreed to let me share it with all of you.

    Mr. Rudd is fluent in Chinese and has several decades of experience working in and on China, including many meetings with Xi and Wang Qishan.

    Mr. Rudd served as Australia’s 26th Prime Minister (2007-2010, 2013) and as Foreign Minister (2010-2012). He joined the Asia Society Policy Institute as its inaugural President in January 2015. ASPI is a “think-do tank” dedicated to using second-track diplomacy to assist governments and businesses in resolving policy challenges within Asia, and between Asia and the West. You can read more about him on his web site.

    Thanks for reading, and for those who only get the occasional free Sinocism email you can rectify that and get my newsletter 4X a week by signing up here.







    MONDAY 5 MARCH 2018

    Next week marks the 216th anniversary of the founding of the West Point Military Academy. Its founding came less than 20 years after the defeat of the British at Yorktown in 1781. It followed the decision by President Thomas Jefferson to establish the United States Military Academy just after his inauguration in 1801. Indeed the United States continental army first occupied this place on 27 January 1778, barely two years into the Revolutionary War, when things were not proceeding all that well against the British in that great conflagration. So you have been here at West Point since virtually the first birth-pangs of this great Republic.

    Over the span of history, this nation has grown from thirteen fissiparous colonies to become the most powerful nation on earth. And while the challenges have been many, you have preserved the flame of liberal democracy throughout the nation’s rise.

    When this nation was being born, China was at its height. In 1799, the Qianlong Emperor died, having reigned for over 60 years. His grandfather, the Kangxi Emperor, had reigned for 61 years until 1722. Between both their reigns, the territorial expanse of the Chinese Empire virtually doubled, occupying some 10 per cent of the world’s land area, 30 percent of the world’s population, and 32 percent of the world’s economy.

    Although the United States sought to establish consular relations with China in 1784, this was rebuffed by Qianlong’s court, delaying the establishment of diplomatic relations until 1844 with the Treat of Wangxia. By this stage, China had already suffered its first major defeat at the hands of the British during the First Opium War. The second defeat would follow less than 20 years later at the hands of the British and the French. And so began China’s “Century of National Humiliation” until the birth of the People’s Republic in 1949.

    As for Australia, proudly an ally of the United States since we first fought together in the trenches in 1918, our short history, at least as a settler society, has been considerably more recent than either China or the US—although our indigenous peoples, Aboriginal Australians, are the oldest continuing cultures on earth, going back 60,000 years. Because Washington’s continental army prevailed at Yorktown in 1781, not only did Britain lose these colonies, it also lost its convict dumping ground at Savannah Georgia. Back in the British Admiralty, after the Treaty of Paris in 1783, they dusted off the navigation charts of James Cook taken some 13 years before, and in 1788 established a convict colony and the first European settlement in what we now call Sydney, Australia.

    China, because of its proximity and size, has loomed large in the Australian national imagination ever since. Just as it now looms large in the global imagination. Not least because China’s new leadership, under Xi Jinping, as of the very day he first came to power as General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party five years ago, claimed that China’s national mission was now one of “national renaissance” (guojia fuxing).

    Xi Jinping, in rallying his party to a future vision for his country, looks deeply to China’s history as a source of national inspiration. China’s national pride at the historical achievements of the great dynasties of the Qing, Ming, Song, Tang, and the Han is palpable. The Chinese political leadership harness their national past selectively, always carefully using rose-coloured glasses, omitting those chapters which may be more problematic for China’s current national narrative. But then again, China’s leaders are no more guilty of this than other countries.

    Nonetheless, for those who are professionally charged with interpreting China’s future, as you are in this great military academy, it means that we must also take time to understand China’s past. To understand how China perceives the world around it. And to understand how it now perceives its own national destiny in the turbulent world of the 21st century.

    It is one of the reasons why after more than 40 years of studying Chinese language, history, politics, economics, and culture, I have embarked on a fresh research project at Oxford University, seeking to define Xi Jinping’s worldview. This is not a static process. This is a dynamic process. China is as much deeply marked by its past, as it is being reshaped by the unprecedented torrent of economic, social, cultural, and technological forces that are washing over its future.

    Over the last 40 years I have engaged China as a student, bureaucrat, diplomat, member of parliament, foreign minister, and prime minister. And now as the President of an American think tank, part of a venerable institution, the Asia Society, which has been engaging China since the earliest days of the People’s Republic in 1956. Understanding China is a lifelong journey.

    For those of you who would become the next generation of American military leaders, it must be your lifelong journey as well. I argue that there will be no more important part of your professional skill-craft than to understand how Chinese leaders think, how they perceive the world, and how the world should most productively engage them. That applies also to your country’s future political leadership, corporate leadership, and every branch of its military. So I encourage you in your mission.


    Xi’s Political Authority

    The beginning of wisdom in understanding China’s view of the world is to understand China’s view of the future of its own country—its politics, its economics, its society. Xi Jinping lies at the apex of the Chinese political system. But his influence now permeates every level. Five years ago, I wrote that Xi would be China’s most powerful leader since Deng. I was wrong. He’s now China’s most powerful leader since Mao. We see this at multiple levels. The anti-corruption campaign he’s wielded across the Party has not only helped him “clean up” the country’s almost industrial levels of corruption. It has also afforded the additional benefit of “cleaning up” all of Xi Jinping’s political opponents on the way through. It’s a formidable list:

    Bo Xilai, Politburo member and Party Secretary of Chongqing;

    Zhou Yongkang, Politburo Standing Committee member and head of the internal security apparatus;

    Xu Caihou, Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission;

    Guo Boxiong, Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission;

    Ling Jihua, former Chief of the General Office of the CPC and Chief of Staff to Hu Jintao;

    Sun Zhengcai, Politburo member and another Party Secretary from Chongqing;

    And just prior to the 19th Party Congress, General Fang Fenghui, Chief of the Joint Staffs, and General Zhang Yang, Director of the PLA Political Work Department, who recently committed suicide.

    None of this is for the faint-hearted. It says much about the inherent nature of a Chinese political system which has rarely managed leadership transitions smoothly. But it also points to the political skill-craft of Xi Jinping himself.

    Xi Jinping is no political neophyte. He has grown up in Chinese party politics as conducted at the highest levels. Through his father, Xi Zhongxun, he has been on both the winning side and the losing side of the many bloody battles that have been fought within the Chinese Communist Party since the days of the Cultural Revolution half a century ago.

    There is little that Xi Jinping hasn’t seen with his own eyes on the deepest internal workings of the Party. He has been through a “masterclass” of not only how to survive it, but also on how to prevail within it. For these reasons, he has proven himself to be the most formidable politician of his age. He has succeeded in pre-empting, outflanking, outmanoeuvring, and then removing each of his political adversaries. The polite term for this is power consolidation. In that, he has certainly succeeded.

    The external manifestations of this are seen in the decision, now endorsed by the 19th Party Congress and the 13th National People’s Congress, to formally enshrine “Xi Jinping Thought” as part of the Chinese constitution. For Xi Jinping’s predecessors, Deng, Jiang and Hu, this privilege was only accorded them after they had formally left the political stage. In Xi Jinping’s case, it occurs near the beginning of what is likely to be a long political career.

    A further manifestation of Xi Jinping’s extraordinary political power has been the concentration of the policy machinery of the Chinese Communist Party. Xi now chairs six top-level “leading small groups” as well as a number of central committees and commissions covering every major area of policy.

    A third expression of Xi’s power has been the selection of candidates for the seven-man Standing Committee of the Politburo, the 20-person wider Politburo, and the 209-member Central Committee. There’s been some debate among China analysts as to the degree to which these ranks are now filled with Xi loyalists. My argument is simple: it is a much more accommodating and comfortable set of appointments from Xi Jinping’s personal perspective than what he inherited from the 18th Party Congress.

    Furthermore, his ability to prevail on critical personnel selection is underlined by the impending appointment of his close friend and colleague Wang Qishan as Chinese Vice President. Wang Qishan himself has passed the retirement age, but this has proven to be no obstacle to retaining him as an ex-officio member of the politburo standing committee, as reflected in the footage carried yesterday by the Chinese media of the opening sessions of the National People’s Congress. And it is Wang Qishan who will be entrusted by Xi with working-level responsibility for the vast complexity that is now the US-China relationship.

    A fifth manifestation of Xi Jinping’s accumulation of unchallenged personal power has been the decision to remove the provision of the 1982 Chinese State Constitution, which imposed a limit of two five-year terms on those appointed to the Chinese presidency. Xi Jinping is now 64 years old. He will be 69 by the expiration of his second term as President, General Secretary of the Party, and Chairman of the Central Military Commission. Given his own family’s longevity (his father lived to 88, and his mother is still alive at 91), as well as the general longevity of China’s most senior political leaders, it is prudent for us to assume that Xi Jinping, in one form or another, will remain China’s paramount leader through the 2020’s and into the following decade.

    He therefore begins to loom large as a dominant figure not just in Chinese history, but in world history, in the twenty-first century. It will be on his watch that China finally becomes the largest economy in the world, or is at least returned to that status, which it last held during the Qing dynasty.

    Finally, there is the personality of Xi Jinping himself as a source of political authority. For those who have met him and had conversations with him, he has a strong intellect, a deep sense of his country’s and the world’s history, and a deeply defined worldview of where he wants to lead his country. Xi Jinping is no accidental president. It’s as if he has been planning for this all his life.

    It has been a lifetime’s accumulation of the intellectual software, combined with the political hardware of raw politics, which form the essential qualities of high political leadership in countries such as China. For the rest of the world, Xi Jinping represents a formidable partner, competitor or adversary, depending on the paths that are chosen in the future.

    There are those within the Chinese political system who have opposed this large-scale accumulation of personal power in the hands of Xi Jinping alone, mindful of the lessons from Mao. In particular, the decision to alter the term-limits concerning the Chinese presidency has been of great symbolic significance within the Chinese domestic debate. State censorship was immediately applied to any discussion of the subject across China’s often unruly social media. The People’s Daily, in a surprisingly defensive editorial last week, was at pains to point out that the changes to term limits for the Chinese presidency simply brought China’s state constitution into line with the Party constitution, which imposed no term limits on the positions of General Secretary and Chairman of the Central Military Commission. Even more defensively, the People’s Daily was at equal pains to point out that these constitutional changes did not signify “leadership for life”.

    For Xi’s continuing opponents within the system, what we might describe as “a silent minority”, this has created a central, symbolic target for any resentments they may hold against Xi Jinping’s leadership. It would be deeply analytically flawed to conclude that these individuals have any real prospect of pushing back against the Xi Jinping political juggernaut in the foreseeable future. But what these constitutional changes have done is to make Xi potentially vulnerable to any single, large-scale adverse event in the future. If you have become, in effect, “Chairman of Everything”, then it is easy for your political opponents to hold you responsible for anything and everything that could go wrong, whether you happen to be responsible for it or not.

    This could include any profound miscalculation, or unintended consequence, arising from contingencies on the Korean Peninsula, Taiwan, the South China Sea, the Chinese debt crisis, or large-scale social disruption arising from unmanageable air pollution or a collapse in employment through a loss of competitiveness, large-scale automation or artificial intelligence.

    However, militating against any of the above, and the “tipping points” which each could represent, is Xi Jinping’s seemingly absolute command of the security and intelligence apparatus of the Chinese Communist Party and the state. Xi Jinping loyalists have been placed in command of all sensitive positions across the security establishment. The People’s Armed Police have now been placed firmly under party control rather than under the control of the state. And then there is the new technological sophistication of the domestic security apparatus right across the country—an apparatus which now employs more people than the PLA.

    We should never forget that the Chinese Communist Party is a revolutionary party which makes no bones about the fact that it obtained power through the barrel of a gun, and will sustain power through the barrel of a gun if necessary. We should not have any dewy-eyed sentimentality about any of this. It’s a simple fact that this is what the Chinese system is like.

    Xi Jinping’s View of the Party

    Apart from the sheer construction of personal power within the Chinese political system, how does Xi Jinping see the future evolution of China’s political structure? Here again, we’ve reached something of a tipping point in the evolution of Chinese politics since the return of Deng Xiaoping at the 3rd Plenum of the 11th Central Committee in November 1978.

    There has been a tacit assumption, at least across much of the collective West over the last 40 years, that China, step-by-step, was embracing the global liberal capitalist project. Certainly, there was a view that Deng Xiaoping’s program of “reform and opening” would liberalise the Chinese economy with a greater role for market principles and a lesser role for the Chinese state in the economy.

    A parallel assumption has been that over time, this would produce liberal democratic forces across the country which would gradually reduce the authoritarian powers of the Chinese Communist Party, create a greater plurality of political voices within the country, and in time involve something not dissimilar to a Singaporean-style “guided democracy”, albeit it on a grand scale. Despite the global wake-up call that was Tiananmen in 1989, by and large this continued to be the underlying view across the West, always misguided in my view, that China, through many twists and turns, was still broadly on track to create a more liberal political system, if not to create any form of classical Western liberal democracy.

    Many scholars failed to pay attention to the internal debates within the Party in the late 1990s, where internal consideration was indeed given to the long-term transformation of the Communist Party into a Western-style social democratic party as part of a more pluralist political system. The Chinese were mindful of what happened with the collapse of the Soviet Union. They also saw the political transformations that unfolded across Eastern and Central Europe. Study groups were commissioned. Intense discussions held. They even included certain trusted foreigners at the time. I remember participating in some of them myself. Just as I remember my Chinese colleagues telling me in 2001-2 that China had concluded this debate, there would be no systemic change, and China would continue to be a one-party state. It would certainly be a less authoritarian state than the sort of totalitarianism we had seen during the rule of Mao Zedong. But the revolutionary party would remain.

    The reasons were simple. The Party’s own institutional interests are in its long-term survival: after all, they had won the revolution, so in their own Leninist worldview, why on earth should they voluntarily yield power to others? But there was a second view as well. They also believed that China could never become a global great power in the absence of the Party’s strong central leadership. And that in the absence of such leadership, China would simply dissipate into the divided bickering camps that had often plagued the country throughout its history. The Communist Party would continue, therefore, as an unapologetically Leninist party for the future.

    To be fair to Xi Jinping, it should be noted for the historical record that these internal debates were concluded a decade before Xi’s rise to power. The rise of Xi Jinping should not be interpreted simplistically as the sudden triumph of authoritarianism over democracy for the future of China’s domestic political system. That debate was already over. Rather it should be seen as a definition of the particular form of authoritarianism that China’s new leadership now seeks to entrench.

    I see this emerging political system as having three defining characteristics. First, the unapologetic assertion of the power, prestige and prerogatives of the Party apparatus over the administrative machinery of the state. In previous decades, the role of the Party apparatus had shrunk to a more narrowly defined, ideological role. The powers of detailed policy decision-making had gradually migrated to the institutions of the state council. This indeed had been a signature reform under Premier Zhu Rongji.

    That is no longer the case. Xi Jinping has realised that if you remove the Party as an institution from continued structural relevance to the country’s real policy decision-making process, the party over time would literally fade away. As a person who believes deeply not just in the Party’s history, but also the Party’s future, Xi has not been prepared to stand idly by while that happened. Xi has now intervened decisively to reverse this trend.

    A second defining feature of this “new authoritarian” period is the role of political ideology over pragmatic policy. For the previous forty years, we’ve been told that China’s governing ideology was “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics”. As the decades rolled by, at least in the economy, there was much less “socialism” than there were “Chinese characteristics”. In this sense, “Chinese characteristics” became the accepted domestic political euphemism for good old capitalism.

    Few people seemed to have understood that a core part of Xi Jinping’s intellectual make-up is that he is a Marxist dialectician. This derives from the Hegelian principles of “thesis, antithesis and synthesis”. Or in Chinese Maoist terms: “Contradictions among the people”. This forms a deep part of Xi Jinping’s intellectual software. Indeed the importance which Xi attaches to this as an intellectual methodology led him to conduct two formal Politburo study sessions on both “historical materialism” and “dialectical materialism” in 2013 and 2015 respectively. As a dialectician, Xi Jinping is acutely conscious of the new social, economic and political forces being created by China’s “neo-liberal” economic transformation. He would also understand intuitively the challenges which these new forces would, over time, represent to the Party’s continuing Leninist hold on power.

    Both he and the rest of the central leadership have read development economics. They are not deaf and dumb. They know what the international literature says: that demands for political liberalisation almost universally arise once per capita income passes a certain threshold. They are therefore deeply aware of the profound “contradiction” which exists between China’s national development priority of escaping the “middle income trap” on the one hand, and unleashing parallel demands for political liberalisation once incomes continue to rise on the other.

    Xi Jinping’s response to this dilemma has been a reassertion of ideology. This has meant a reassertion of Marxist-Leninist ideology. And a new prominence accorded to ideological education across the entire Chinese system. But it’s more sophisticated than a simple unidimensional ideological response. At least since the 2008 Olympics, which pre-dated Xi’s ascendency, Chinese nationalism has also become a parallel mainstay in China’s broader ideological formation. This has continued and expanded under Xi Jinping. And it has been augmented by an infinitely more sophisticated propaganda apparatus across the country, which now fuses the imagery of the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese nation into a combined Chinese contemporary political consciousness.

    On top of this, we’ve also seen a rehabilitation of Chinese Confucianism as part of the restoration of Chinese historical narratives about, and the continuing resonance of, China’s “unique” national political forms. According to the official line, this historical, authoritarian, hierarchical continuity is what has differentiated China from the rest of the world. This Chinese “neo-Confucianism” is regarded by the party as a comfortable historical accompaniment to the current imperatives for a strong, modern Chinese state, necessary to manage the complex processes of the “Great Chinese Renaissance” of the future.

    The short-hand form of the political narrative is simple: China’s historical greatness, across its dynastic histories, lay in a strong, authoritarian hierarchical Confucian state. By corollary, China’s historical greatness has never been a product of Western liberal democracy. By further corollary, China’s future national greatness will lie not in any adaptation of Western political forms, but instead through the modern adaptation of its own indigenous political legacy in the form of a Confucian, communist state.

    Xi Jinping’s View of the Economy

    A third characteristic of China’s “new authoritarianism”, although less clear than the first and second, is what is now emerging in the future direction of China’s economic program. We are all familiar with Deng Xiaoping’s famous axiom that “it doesn’t matter whether a cat is white or black, so long as it catches mice”. Just as we are familiar with his other exhortation, “it is indeed glorious to be rich”. These were followed by later exhortations by China’s apparatchik class to leave government service (xiahai) and go out into the world (zouchuqu). These simple axioms, as opposed to complex statements of ideology, provided the underlying guidance for the subsequent two generations of Chinese entrepreneurs, both at home and abroad.

    In policy terms, China’s first phase of economic reform (1978-2012) was characterised by small-scale, local family enterprises, involved in light industry; low-wage, labour-intensive manufacturing for export; combined with high-level state investment in public infrastructure, including telecommunications, broadband, road, rail, port, power generation, transmission and distribution.

    In early 2013, at the 3rd plenum of the 18th Central Committee, Xi Jinping released a new blueprint for the second phase of China’s economic reform program, or what was ominously called “The Decision”, or more elegantly China’s “New Economic Model”. Its defining characteristics were a new emphasis on the domestic consumption market rather than exports as the principal driver of future economic growth; the explosion of China’s private sector at the expense of the overall market share of China’s state owned enterprises, which were to be constrained to certain, critical strategic industry sectors; the flourishing of the services sector, particularly through the agency of digital commerce; “leapfrogging” the West in critical new technology sectors, including biotechnology, and artificial intelligence; and all within the new framework of environmentally sustainable development, particularly air pollution and climate change.

    It’s important to track over the last five years what progress and regress has occurred across the 60 specific reform measures articulated in the decision of March 2013. The core organising principle across the reform program was that “the market would play the decisive role” across China’s economic system. The Asia Society Policy Institute, of which I am President, in collaboration with the Rhodium Group, has been producing over the last six months the “China Economic Dashboard”, which looks in detail at the ten core barometers of economic change. What we have concluded is that China has made progress in two of these. First, in innovation policy, where China has made measurable strides, both in policy direction but more critically, in defiance of the usual skepticism about China’s capacity to innovate, in actual economic performance.

    Second, we also measured progress in Chinese environmental reforms, in particular the reduction in the PMI measures of air pollution across China’s major cities over the last two years. However, in five of ten areas, we’ve seen China at best marking time: investment, trade, finance, SOE and land reform. And finally, in fiscal policy, competition policy and labour reform, we see evidence of China sliding backwards against the reform direction it set for itself five years ago. Each of these are the subject of considerable debate across the Chinese economic analytical community, particularly given the perennial problems we all face with data. Nonetheless, only the bravest official commentators in China could now point to 2013-18 as a path-breaking period of economic reform. It has at best been slow.

    This brings into sharp relief the content of the government work report on the economy delivered at the National People’s Congress in Beijing in March 2018. Once again, precisely five years down the track from the original documents, the analytical community will pore over the entrails to analyse whether the spirit of market-based reforms continues to flourish for the future. Or whether it has begun to fade amidst a more general Chinese political and ideological redirection to the left. Or just as problematically, for economic reform to die at the implementation level because of confusing political and policy signals from the centre, meaning that it is much safer to just keep your head down. Or because there are limited local incentives, either personal or institutional, to actively prosecute reform which inevitably generates local conflict with deeply entrenched vested interests. Or, more likely, an unholy cocktail of the above, collectively reinforcing a natural predisposition towards bureaucratic inertia.

    Certainly those at the centre of China’s economic reform team, including Wang Qishan, Liu He and Wang Yang, understand the absolute imperatives of implementing this next round of economic reform. They know from bitter experience that to stand still is in fact to go backwards. And they understand in particular that the only source of employment growth in China’s economy over the last five years has come from the private sector, not SOEs, as China each year is required to absorb 20 million new workers into its labour force.

    Nonetheless, there have been worrying signs. First, the role of Party secretaries within private firms now seems to have been enhanced. Second, there is now an open debate in China as to whether the state should acquire equity within China’s most successful private firms in order to secure broad representation and greater political influence over these companies’ future direction. And third, in the wake of the anti-corruption campaign and other compliance irregularities, we now see a number of prominent Chinese private firms in real political difficulty, and in one case, Anbang, the temporary “assumption of state control” of the company’s assets after its Chairman and CEO was taken into custody.

    Compounding all of the above is still a continuing lack of truly independent commercial courts and arbitration mechanisms. The complication this creates is whether this leads over time to a private capital strike, or a flight of private capital of the type we have seen over the last several years, resulting in a re-imposition of formal capital controls by the state.

    So on the future direction of China’s economy, the jury is still out. Have we also reached a new “tipping point”, as we appear to have done in Chinese politics? Or will this be a more sophisticated Chinese play, consistent with one of the deeper aphorisms of Chinese politics, that “in order to go right on the economy, you must go left on politics” in order to sustain to internal “balance” of the system? The next 12 months with China’s new economic team will be critical.


    Seven Core Priorities

    There is always a danger facing foreign policy and security policy specialists when they seek to understand and define the capabilities, strategy and worldview of other states. There is always a temptation, given the analytical disciplines we represent, to see these “external” manifestations of state behaviour in the international realm as independent phenomena. The reality is that any country’s worldview is as much the product of its domestic politics, economics, culture and historiography, as it is the product of the number of guns, tanks and bullets held by ourselves, and by those around us.

    That’s why I’ve sought to emphasise in this presentation so far the domestic drivers that underpin China’s emerging worldview. It’s important to bear in mind that those who ultimately shape Chinese strategy, like American strategy, are those who are equally engaged in the domestic affairs of their nations. There is no longer a clinical distinction between the foreign and domestic, the international and the national. Therefore understanding the domestic imperatives of China’s leadership is the beginning of wisdom in understanding the emerging patterns of China’s foreign and security policy behaviour.

    The Party

    China’s emerging worldview, in my own estimation, is best understood as a set of seven concentric circles. The first concentric circle is the Chinese Communist Party itself and its overriding interest to remain in power. This Leninist reality should never be forgotten. It is radically different from the worldview of Western political parties, who while always determined to remain in electoral power while they possibly can, also understand there is a natural ebb and flow in our national political discourse, intermediated by the electoral process.

    National Unity

    The second concentric circle, in terms of the core interests of the Chinese leadership, is the unity of the motherland. This may seem a hackneyed phrase in the West. But it remains of vital concern in Beijing, both as a question of national security on the one hand, and a question of enduring political legitimacy on the other. From Beijing’s perspective, Tibet, Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia and Taiwan represent a core set of security interests. Each within itself represents a confluence of external and internal security factors. Tibet is a central factor in Chinese perceptions of its strategic relationship with India. Xinjiang represents China’s gateway to what it perceives to be an increasingly hostile Islamic world, reinforced by concerns about its own, home-grown Islamic separatist movement. Inner Mongolia, despite the resolution of the common border with Russia decades ago, represents a continuing source of strategic anxiety between China and Russia. Taiwan, long seen as an American aircraft carrier in the Pacific, represents in the Chinese strategic mind a grand blocking device against China’s national aspirations for a more controlled, and therefore more secure maritime frontier, as well as an impediment to the ultimate political holy grail of national re-unification. These “internal” security challenges will always remain China’s core security challenges, apart, of course, from the security of the Party itself.

    The Economy and Environmental Sustainability

    The third in this series of concentric circles is the economy, together with its strategic counterfoil, environmental sustainability. I’ve already referred at some length to the current dilemmas in Chinese economic policy. Parallel dilemmas also confront the leadership over the litany of stories which permeate its own media on water, land and air pollution, and the inadequacy of food quality standards. The tragedy of China’s rapid economic development over the first 35 years was the relegation of the environment. Indeed, the systematic treatment of the environment as simply an “economic externality” to the Chinese development process led to wholesale environmental destruction. China is now paying the price.

    Of course, these are not just domestic concerns for the Chinese people themselves. The quantum of China’s greenhouse gas emissions is of fundamental relevance to the future of global climate security and therefore of the planet itself. Indeed, if China fails to deliver on its future commitments on GHG reductions, as America and my own country Australia are now failing to do, by the time you students of the academy are taking your grandchildren to school during the last quarter of this century, the climate will represent the single greatest security threat to us all. But within the framework of China’s current and emerging worldview, both a strong economy and clean environment represent core determinants of the Party’s future political legitimacy.

    These existential questions, therefore, of clean water, useable land, uncontaminated fish stocks, clean air to breathe as well as continued jobs growth, increased living standards, and all within the constraints of an ageing population, represent the daunting, day-to-day challenges of China’s Communist Party leadership.

    China’s Neighbouring States – Securing China’s Continental Periphery across Eurasia

    The fourth in this widening series concentric circles relates to China’s fourteen neighbouring states. Neighbouring states occupy a particular place in China’s strategic memory. Historically, they’ve been the avenue through which China’s national security has been threatened, resulting in successive foreign invasions. From the Mongols in the North in the 12th century, to the Manchurians in the North East in the mid-17th century, to the British, French, the Western imperial powers including the United States, and then the absolute brutality of the Japanese occupation from the East.

    In Chinese traditional strategic thought, this has entrenched a deeply defensive view of how to maintain China’s national security. But Chinese historiography also teaches that purely defensive measures have not always succeeded. The failure of the Great Wall of China to provide security from foreign invasion is a classic case in point.

    For these reasons, modern Chinese strategic thinking has explored different approaches. First and foremost, through political and economic diplomacy, China wishes to secure positive, accommodating, and wherever possible compliant relationships with all its neighbouring states.

    But beyond that, China is also in search of its own form of strategic depth. We see this in China’s political, economic and military diplomacy across its vast continental flank from Northeast, through Central to Southeast Asia. We see this thinking alive in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. We see it alive in the Conference on International Confidence Building in Asia (CICA). We see it also with the Continental Silk Road, and the Maritime Silk Road initiative which charts its course across the Indian Ocean to the Red Sea and now the Mediterranean. And beyond that we see the Belt and Road Initiative, or BRI. The strategic imperative is clear: to consolidate China’s relationships with its neighbouring states. And by and large, this means enhancing its strategic position across the Eurasian continent, thereby consolidating China’s continental periphery.

    China’s Maritime Periphery – East Asia and the West Pacific

    The fifth concentric circle, or arguably its co-equal fourth, lies on China’s maritime periphery, across East Asia and the West Pacific. Unlike its continental periphery, China sees its maritime periphery as deeply hostile. It sees its traditional territorial claims in the East and South China Seas as under threat, and now routinely refers to these as China’s “core national interests”, placing them in a similar category to Taiwan. China also sees the region as strategically allied against it—with a ring of US allies from South Korea to Japan to Taiwan to the Philippines and onto Australia. Beyond this ring of US allies, the Chinese are fundamentally fixated on the formidable array of US military assets deployed by US Pacific Command across the entire region.

    China’s strategy in response to this is clear. It seeks to fracture US alliances and has said as much repeatedly in its declaratory statements. Its position is that these alliances are relics of the Cold War. China’s deepest strategic concern about the peaceful reunification of North Korea lies in potentially having a unified Korean Peninsula, as a US ally, positioned on its immediate land border. China’s deeper response to its strategic circumstances is to enhance the capability of its navy and air force. Under Xi Jinping, the change in China’s military organisation, doctrine and force structure has been profound. The army continues to shrink. The navy and air force continue to expand.

    Chinese naval and air capabilities now extend to reclaimed islands in the South China Sea. China’s naval and air expansion has also been enhanced by the rapid development of its land-based missile force targeted at both Taiwan and wider US naval operations in the Western Pacific. The strategic rationale is clear: a strategy of air-sea denial against US forces seeking to sustain large-scale US military operations in support of Taiwan, its partners in the South China Sea, and ultimately in the East China Sea as well. China’s overall political-military strategy is clear: to cause sufficient doubt in the minds of PACOM, and therefore any future US administration as to the “winnability” of any armed conflict against Chinese forces within the first island chain. And that includes American doubts over its ability to defend Taiwan.

    The softer edge of China’s strategy in East Asia and the Western Pacific is economic engagement through trade, investment, capital flows and development aid. China’s strategy in this region, as in elsewhere in the world, is to turn itself into the indispensable economic power. In many countries and regions in the world, it has made great progress on this score. This, in many respects, is a simple projection of the scale of the Chinese economy as economic growth continues and China remains on track to pass the United States as the world’s largest economy over the course of the next decade.

    The bottom line is this: in both reality and in perception, China has already become a more important economic partner than the United States to practically every country in wider East Asia. We all know where the wider strategic logic takes us. From economic power proceeds political power; from political power proceeds foreign policy power; and from foreign policy power proceeds strategic power. That is China’s strategy.

    China and the Developing World

    The sixth in my attempted visual image of China’s order of strategic priorities is China’s particular relationship with the developing world. This has long historical roots going back to Mao and Zhou Enlai’s role in the non-aligned movement. It applies particularly in Africa. But we also see it in countries like Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. China’s relationship with the developing world has long been seen as a pillar in the prosecution of its global interests and values. In the current period this has continued with large-scale public and private Chinese trade and investment across Africa, Asia and Latin America.

    Across Africa, China has laid out large slabs of the continent’s emerging infrastructure. Each of these projects is generating its own local controversies. But the remarkable thing about China’s strategy is its persistence and its ability to adapt and adjust over time. Multiple field studies have now been conducted by Western academics on Chinese investment projects in the developing world. Some have not been good. But what is remarkable is how many positive stories are also emerging, on balance. So when China looks for local voices to support its interests, either in the United Nations or across the labyrinth of the global multilateral system, its ability to pull in political and diplomat support is unprecedented.

    China and the Global Rules-based Order

    The seventh and final concentric circle concerns the future of the global rules-based order itself. The United States, combined with its allies, as the victors of the Second World War, constructed the underlying architecture of the post-war, liberal international rules-based order. We saw this at Bretton Woods in 1944, the emergence of the IMF, the World Bank and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, later the WTO. We saw it in 1945 with the UN Charter. We saw it in 1948 with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

    The United States also sought to defend the order it had created with a global network of alliances: NATO in Europe, and bilateral security alliances across East Asia. Across all this, even during the Cold War, the United States remained the dominant superpower. Dominant politically, economically, and militarily. Now we find ourselves in a period of great change and challenge.

    Our Western political systems are under challenge in terms of their own domestic legitimacy. China will soon replace the United States as the world’s largest economy. China will begin to challenge US regional but not global military dominance. China is also creating its own new multilateral institutions outside the UN framework, such as the AIIB. China also continues to expand its strategic and economic reach across Europe and Asia. And Xi Jinping has made plain he does not see China’s role as simply replicating the current US-led liberal international order for the future.

    China has consistently said that this was an order created by the Western, victorious, and by-and-large colonial powers after the Second World War. But China leaves open what future changes it may make to the international rules-based system in the future. The desirability of having a form of rules-based system, rather than simple chaos, lies deep within Chinese political consciousness. Chaos is utterly alien to China’s preferred political approach. But it is important to remember that “order”, the alternative to “chaos”, will not necessarily be an American order, or for that matter a liberal international order of America’s making, where Chinese co-leadership of that order may now be expected or desired.

    China’s expectation of the future of the order will be one which is more suited to China’s own national interests and values. This means China will want to change things. At this stage, it is not clear how much China wants to change things. And whether the rest of the international community will agree. This will have implications, for example, for the current international order on human rights, anchored in the three current international treaties and the human rights council in Geneva. It will also have implications for the future international economic order, including the WTO, particularly in the aftermath of any unfolding trade war with the United States. As for the future international security order, we now find ourselves in completely uncertain terrain for reasons increasingly shaped by the future contours of both American and Chinese domestic politics.

    There is much public debate about Thucydides’ Trap on the probability of conflict between China and the United States. Just as there is now debate about the Kindleberger Trap, drawn from the experience of the 1920s and 1930’s, when we saw the emergence of strategic vacuum through the global retrenchment of the United Kingdom and an unwillingness of the United States to fill that vacuum in the provision of global public goods. The result was global anarchy of a different sort. My deepest belief is that we must avoid both these traps. Our deepest wisdom must be harnessed in defining another path.


    There are many reasons to study China. It is an extraordinary civilisation in its own right. It contains deep wisdom, generated over more than 4000 years of recorded history. China’s aesthetic tradition is also rich beyond all measure. It is easy to become lost in the world of Sinology. But the rise of China demands of us all a New Sinology for the 21st century.

    One which is familiar with the Chinese tradition. One which is clear in its analysis of contemporary Chinese politics, economics, society and China’s unfolding role in the region and the world. As well as a New Sinology which is capable of synthesising the above.

    We will need a generation of leaders who understand this integrated Chinese reality, in order to make sense of and engage with the China of the future. With our eyes wide open. And with our minds wide open as well. Open to new challenges. Open to new threats. Open to new possibilities. Open to new areas of cooperation and collaboration.

    And above all, open to finding creative paths about how we preserve peace, preserve stability, avoid conflict and the scourge of war between these two great nations, while preserving the universal values, anchored in our international covenants, for which we all still stand.


    The above is an excellent summary of all the major trends in Chinese domestic and foreign policy; it is, I think, an extremely useful baseline for understanding the behaviour of China in these turbulent times.

    Some take-always I got—off the top of my head and relatively unfiltered:

    1. Trump is the President of the US at a time of perceived* (?) “American Decline” and is arguably the lowest denominator of the American Elite. Xi, on the other hand, is State Chairman of China at a time of “Chinese Rise” and is—by many accounts—a figure akin to Quezon: a big, looming figure.


    2. There is an argument against federalism that I couldn’t help but note, after reading this article.

    China is determined.

    I have to review data to make sure of my convictions, but my gut has this rapid-fire assessment: federalism is not the ideal policy to undertake, at this current juncture. Yes, it is true that advocates of federalism have genuine reasons for pursuing federalism: to equalise Metro Manila and the Provinces, to consolidate (let us ignore the one seated at Malacañan for the moment) the democratisation process of the Philippines.

    However, it is clear that federalism only looks viable when we look at matters from a purely domestic view—or when we view PH domestic politics as closed, isolated system when it is NOT.

    Federalism, even in the best-case scenario will weaken the already “weak” PH State. Given the zero-sum, strong-arm tactics of China—this does not bode well for our nation-state’s already frankly pathetic strategic capacity.

    As Kevin Rudd notes in his speech—we cannot separate Chinese foreign policy from Chinese domestic policy. The same can be said for PH foreign and domestic policy.

    What is this weak-kneed authoritarianism but a farce?

    We should be beefing up our institutions. We should be beefing up the capacity of our institutions to beef up the strength of our state to conduct independent policy, including the “independent foreign policy” that Duterte talks about.

    Is this contradictory to liberalism? I don’t think so. A good part of “liberalism” is freedom founded on inalienable rights. What logically follows from the freedom of individuals, is the freedom of groups—of church, of political parties, of sects, of interest groups, of unions, of volunteers—and from those freedoms flows the one of the highest levels of freedoms: the right of peoples to self-determination, to determine the fate of their people(s)—their nation.

    Perhaps—it is perfectly “liberal” to want a genuinely independent foreign policy, of a state capable of conducting independent action?

    Of course, that is what my gut merely says. I haven’t conducted the research yet to truly be convinced by my (so far) provisional opinions.

    • NHerrera says:

      That is a wide scope article on China by Kevin Rudd who certainly knows what he writes about. A good read, at the very least. Thanks, Francis.

    • Long, interesting, rich read. Anyone who pens ‘the analytical community will pore over the entrails . . .’ is all right in my book.

      The seven circle descriptions are so very, very profound. The fifth circle, that I would short-term as “The Seas”, describes China’s ambition to take down US power in the region, including fracturing US alliances. Thus, we see the Philippines in the context of successful work. Also the militarized islands built under cover of lies, deceits, and bluster. Pretty impressive work, all in all.

      • NHerrera says:

        Also interesting is the note about how the Party has studied how it will evolve, how it has employed inputs or wisdom from many, including foreign analysts — perhaps uppermost in their minds what happened to USSR — and eventually decided what they have to do. Its huge population and how to contend with a more liberal evolution must have weighed a lot.

        • NHerrera says:

          I may note in this regard

          – what we consider a democratic way of doing things, where diverse way of looking at things are discussed and a good way is followed — nothing is verboten — but which way is subject to slow implementation and detours (ref, Trump); against

          – a centralized government, and the one described by Kevin Rudd of the present China,

          and I somewhat waver at the long-term viability of the two systems subject to a very fast changing world of AI, facebook, cyberwar and all that these result in the future.

          (I note how Steve Jobs, aside from his own thoughts tried to get diverse and best ideas, but in the end ran an authoritarian organization and may account for Apple’s success — of course, not the least aided by his genius. We may have to admit there is genius in Xi.)

        • Good point. Plus, they must look at the US today and say, “wow, I’m glad we did not go down that fractured, weak path”.

    • NHerrera says:

      When one googles China strategy, one gets quite a few links. One which I find a good companion to the link Francis provided is the following:


      It is rather dated article published in January 2016, but it contents may still be valid because it speaks of Chinese internal geography and politics (in-country geopolitics), since China is not homogeneous (as Japan is). There are three aspects:

      – its eastern region inhabited by Han Chinese, the main ethnic group and which powers most of the Chinese economy;

      – its poor buffer regions at the western side;

      – and the eastern coast which borders the Han region, and through which most of the trade passes.

      China has three overriding geopolitical imperatives:

      – Maintain internal unity in the Han Chinese regions.
      – Maintain control of the buffer regions.
      – Protect the coast from foreign encroachment.

      Of course, now, it extends its maritime power in the South China Sea.


      The article is illustrated well with maps of China and the regions, including population density, and areas with 15 inches or more of annual rainfall needed to maintain an agricultural economy — this happens to be in the Han Region.

  11. NHerrera says:

    Off topic

    This relates to the Pasay City prosecutor office’s recommended filing of an inciting to sedition case against Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV over a privilege speech last year on President Rodrigo Duterte’s alleged undeclared wealth.

    Nineteen senators filed Resolution 697 standing by parliamentary immunity for speeches made at the Senate. The 19 Senators are:

    1 Franklin Drilon
    2 Franklin Pangilinan
    3 Bam Aquino
    4 Risa Hontiveros
    5 Leila De Lima
    6 Antonio Trillanes
    7 Ralph Recto
    8 Sonny Angara
    9 Nancy Binay
    10 JV Ejercito
    11 Sherwin Gatchalian
    12 Gregorio Honasan
    13 Panfilo Lacson
    14 Loren Legarda
    15 Manny Pacquiao
    16 Grace Poe
    17 Joel Villanueva
    18 Cynthia Villar
    19 Juan Miguel Zubiri

    Missing in action are:

    Escudero, Francis
    Gordon, Richard
    Pimentel III, Aquilino
    Sotto, Tito


    • Gordon, Pimentel, and Sotto are in too deep on dictatorship to do anything democratic. Escudero has not been in public view for a long time. I don’t know what’s with him.

      • NHerrera says:

        It seems Escudero has a way of responding to any current hot issues by being absent. May be a default strategy, until he is able to get enough soundings from others and then make his “brilliant” remarks. In the Philippine setting, as long as his ambition is being just a senator — interrupted by required hiatus — that seems a sound strategy. (Of course, he tried the VP adventure but failed.)

    • karlgarcia says:

      Cynthia Villar and Pia Cayetano are being invited by Alvarez yo join their slate as guest candidates.

      Why only as guests, they could not convince Manny Villar to merge with them?(Pdp-Nacionalista or Nacionalista-PDP)

    • NHerrera says:

      An Obvious Dynamics in the Senate Resolution Upholding Parliamentary Immunity

      1. The 19 Senators voted on obvious self-interest and not because of being nice to Sen Trillanes.

      2. In the case of the four — Escudero, Gordon, Pimentel, Sotto — it is a case of a win either way. Obviously, they also have self-interest for that Resolution, but knowing from their “intelligence” that the majority will pass it overwhelmingly anyway, they decided not to join the endorsers thereby curry favor with the Bossman. It is a case of “heads, I win; tails, you lose” for these four.

      3. This means that the Senators are using their “coconuts” when they need to.

  12. karlgarcia says:

    Maybe NH has already pisted this, but here us the US strategy.
    From the same site. geopolticafutures.com


    “A New US Defense Strategy for the Future

    By Phillip Orchard

    The Pentagon’s new National Defense Strategy articulated a profound shift in U.S. strategy, but one that has long been underway: Great power competition, not terrorism, is now the primary focus of U.S. national security.

    According to the NDS: “The central challenge to U.S. prosperity and security is the re-emergence of long-term, strategic competition by what the National Security Strategy classifies as revisionist powers. It is increasingly clear that China and Russia want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model – gaining veto authority over other nations’ economic, diplomatic, and security decisions. Long-term strategic competitions with China and Russia are the principal priorities for the Department, and require both increased and sustained investment, because of the magnitude of the threats they pose to U.S. security and prosperity today, and the potential for those threats to increase in the future.”

    The relegation of so-called rogue states and terrorist groups may seem premature, given the immediacy of these purportedly lesser concerns. It’s North Korea that is the focus of a reportedly contentious debate in the White House about whether to conduct a limited, “punitive” strike following the North’s next nuclear or ballistic missile test, and whatever the U.S. decides to do next could lay the groundwork for an extraordinary regional realignment. It’s Iran whose regional ambitions are dominating the attention of core U.S. allies in the Middle East and putting the nuclear deal back in the U.S. media spotlight. And it’s the threat of a major terrorist attack that still paralyzes the U.S. public like no other.

    Meanwhile, in response to the NDS, the Chinese accused the U.S. of being stuck in a Cold War, zero-sum mindset – and it’s not hard to see the issue from their perspective. The U.S. is the world’s sole superpower. For all their ability to frustrate U.S. initiatives from time to time, neither China nor Russia has the intention or the capability to fully replace the U.S. on a global scale. And recent surges in Chinese and Russian assertiveness are, in large part, a function of fundamental vulnerabilities that are left exposed in the U.S.-led order.

    But the U.S. isn’t gearing up to fight a new Cold War, nor dismissing the importance of threats posed by lesser powers. Rather, it’s trying to preserve something akin to the established order without getting overstretched and bogged down in conflicts that are somewhat peripheral to core U.S. interests. The overriding U.S. goal is to be able to manage and contain potential challenges across the globe through more subtle, remote manipulation, using a range of historical advantages, from economic power to its unparalleled naval might to its vast network of security allies and partners. Its approach to combating the Islamic State with a much smaller footprint than during the counterterrorism operations of the early 2000s illustrates how this shift has long been underway. But the U.S. is also grappling with some increasingly evident limitations in its ability to manage critical issues from afar – and larger powers like China and Russia are uniquely positioned to exploit these limitations to complicate the U.S. strategy.

    This is evident in two core areas of focus in the NDS. The first is the heavy emphasis on maintaining the U.S. military’s decisive technological edge, which the NDS says is eroding. According to Secretary of Defense James Mattis, this should take priority over expanding the size of the military.

    China and Russia are aiming to raise the cost of U.S. interference in their respective spheres of influence beyond what Washington may be willing to bear. And with the future of warfare increasingly influenced by the space and cyber realms, Russian or Chinese breakthroughs in these areas would make the United States’ sizable conventional and geographical advantages matter less. The Irans, North Koreas and even Islamic States of the world can dabble in these realms (cyber in particular), but not to the same extent. Nor can they leverage these tools to try to gain some degree of conventional forces parity in the way that China and Russia could to alter the balance of power in their immediate periphery.

    The second, and perhaps most striking, part of the National Defense Strategy is just how much the Pentagon calls attention to threats – particularly economic – that it is ill-suited to do anything about, except in narrow settings. China is the main focus here.

    The NDS states, “As China continues its economic and military ascendance, asserting power through an all-of-nation long-term strategy, it will continue to pursue a military modernization program that seeks Indo-Pacific regional hegemony in the near-term and displacement of the United States to achieve global preeminence in the future.” China’s use of “predatory economics to intimidate its neighbors,” as the Pentagon put it, threatens the U.S. primarily by weakening the alliance structure it would like to lean on to manage distant challenges. Indeed, at last year’s epochal Communist Party Congress, President Xi Jinping admitted that China is still several decades from becoming a world-class military power. Thus, it has little choice but to attempt to use its growing economic heft to forge political arrangements with its neighbors (such as the Philippines) that weaken U.S. standing in the region.

    It’s debatable how effective Chinese economic statecraft can actually be, given the number of other deep-pocketed players in the region (particularly Japan), the fact that China is facing a prolonged economic slowdown, and the high risk of political blowback for leaders seen as selling out national sovereignty to Beijing. Nonetheless, the potential for Chinese economic coercion is why trade was a central component of the strategic rationale underpinning former President Barack Obama’s administration’s so-called Pivot to Asia, which the NDS echoes heavily. And it’s why, despite jettisoning the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact early last year, President Donald Trump’s administration has joined Japan, India and Australia in openly mulling ways to counter China’s One Belt, One Road Initiative. (Whatever the economic or political logic for the U.S. to withdraw from TPP, the pact was designed with broader strategic considerations in mind and would have deepened U.S. influence in key states like Vietnam, likely at the expense of Beijing.)

    The Pentagon doesn’t offer much in the way of specific solutions to this problem. This is, in part, because countering Chinese economic coercion isn’t the Pentagon’s job, and the main point of the NDS is merely to focus attention on what the Pentagon has identified as emerging priorities. But by calling for the U.S. to “enlarge the competitive space” – i.e., challenging adversaries and exploiting their vulnerabilities from multiple and unexpected directions – the Pentagon is making the case for a comprehensively geopolitical strategy. And, after two decades of putting out brush fires across the globe, the U.S. is attempting to refocus on the strategic realities that will dominate its future.”

    • NHerrera says:

      No, I have not posted it. Thanks, it is supplementary to the other links on China.

    • The analysis confirms the pushback mentioned in the blog using the term ‘blowback’. Either way, nations who use the seas and have a developed sense of sovereignty will not rush to China as did Duterte.

      The article describes the US approach as follows:

      The overriding U.S. goal is to be able to manage and contain potential challenges across the globe through more subtle, remote manipulation, using a range of historical advantages, from economic power to its unparalleled naval might to its vast network of security allies and partners. Its approach to combating the Islamic State with a much smaller footprint than during the counterterrorism operations of the early 2000s illustrates how this shift has long been underway.

      If that is true, it is an ‘institutional policy’ that overrides what any one president does, politically. I hope so. With the hiring of whacknut John Bolton to oversee US security, I’m afraid US policy may devolve into some kind of mass murdering psycho approach.

  13. karlgarcia says:

    I think I posted this before, but let us take a look at it again.


    “The Philippines in Play
    May 4, 2017 President Rodrigo Duterte and his nation are being courted by two major powers.

    By George Friedman
    A couple days ago, President Donald Trump invited Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte to visit the United States. On Wednesday, Chinese President Xi Jinping called Duterte. The reason for that phone call has not been revealed, but on Monday, Duterte floated the potential of joint exercises between the Philippine and Chinese navies. Other events have taken place between the two countries, including a visit to Manila by the Chinese vice premier in March. In the meantime, relations between the United States and the Philippines have been rocky, particularly because the administration of President Barack Obama took a hostile position on Duterte’s war on drugs, which included extrajudicial killing of suspected drug dealers by police. Duterte expressed his contempt for the United States as well. At times, he also expressed his dislike of China. Based on Duterte’s behavior, observers concluded that he might be unstable. Now the Americans and Chinese have begun courting him.
    Regardless of Duterte and his varying moods, the Philippines has emerged as a critical country – perhaps the most critical for the balance of power in the Pacific. The Chinese problem, as we have discussed, can be seen in this map.

    The South and East China seas are surrounded by a series of small islands running from Japan to Indonesia. The islands are spaced in such a way that passage between them becomes a choke point forcing Chinese ships into a narrow lane that is highly vulnerable to air and sea interdiction. China depends on international trade, and the vast majority of maritime trade flows into and from the Pacific and Indian oceans. If the Chinese do not have maritime access, they face a profoundly serious economic problem.
    Their major problem is the United States. The geography of the South and East China seas is ideal for a major navy imposing a blockade. China could counter a blockade, but it faces a massive U.S. force that, combined with this geography, makes it difficult. China sees the United States as both unpredictable and prone to imposing sanctions, usually restricting trade. A blockade would be an extreme action, but China cannot discount the possibility.
    Therefore, it must gain access to global oceans on a reasonably secure basis, but its navy is not ready to provide that access. China’s only viable strategy is to gain access by reaching political accommodation with one of the nation-states that make up the archipelago stretching from Indonesia to Japan and use its waters as a relatively secure passage. The U.S. would then have to engage China inside the hostile territorial waters of that country, a much more difficult task.
    The countries in this archipelago include Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines and Indonesia. Japan is not about to reach an accommodation with China, nor is Taiwan. Indonesia has become a major power in its own right and has a history of tension with China. Malaysia does not solve the problem of getting to the Pacific, as the lane is blocked by Indonesia and the Philippines. The Philippines, therefore, is the only practical option for China. The Philippines would provide an excellent exit from the South China Sea and a usable one from the East China Sea. It is in many ways the perfect solution if China could access it.

    The Philippines is also the poorest country in the archipelago. It has a long, love-hate relationship with the United States, which, going back to 1898, needed the Philippines’ geography, but little else. The Philippines’ attitude toward the United States has swung from hostility to dependence and back again. It has a historical bias both in favor of the United States and against it. If there is one nation that represents a solution to China’s strategic problem, it is the Philippines.
    Duterte was elected by a populace enraged by the status quo. This status quo includes the constant threat posed by drug dealers, the failure to evolve economically and the relationship with the United States. Duterte is deeply distrusted by the elite and seemingly admired by broader society, whom he has to satisfy. His means of satisfying that segment of society ranges from brutal attacks on alleged drug dealers to refusing to submit to the United States. From the outset of his government, Duterte has deliberately refused to abide by the niceties of domestic politics or foreign policies, cursing the United States in many ways.
    The Chinese could not help but notice this and have engaged in a subtle courtship of Duterte. The latest episode in that courtship is Duterte opening up the possibility of joint naval exercises. If anything was going to trigger an American response, it was that because to a large extent maritime cooperation between China and the Philippines means the end of the U.S. maritime strategy in the Pacific.
    It made perfect sense, therefore, for the U.S. president to invite Duterte to Washington. Duterte is said to be a thug. He is also the democratically elected president of a country that is of strategic importance to the United States – albeit one the U.S. felt comfortable ignoring in the past. Trump could have condemned Duterte. But if he did, and Duterte succumbed to Chinese approaches, the United States would face a significant problem with an equally repressive Chinese regime. Morally, it’s six of one, half a dozen of the other. Strategically, the Philippines is critical. Without it, U.S. strategy toward China loses one of its wheels.
    It also is not surprising that shortly after Trump’s invitation via a phone call, Xi was on the line to Duterte. I don’t know what was said, but I have no doubt that Xi invited him to visit China again. Because of factors he had little to do with, Duterte has created a bargaining position between two great powers in which he holds many, if not all, of the cards. Anything he asks for is trivial compared to what is at stake for China and the United States.
    There are indications that Duterte had this in mind all along, given his opening attacks on the U.S. and praise for China. Still, what he wants is unclear. He has risks. The elite are pro-American and the masses are not pro-Chinese, just anti-elite. A substantial number of Filipinos live in the United States, and remittances matter. The Chinese might not see his government as a stable platform on which to base their national strategy. The U.S. might decide that a choke point strategy is not viable given Chinese land-based missiles.
    There are endless permutations in a maneuver where the stakes are so high. But in any case, for the moment, the Philippines is in an ideal situation. It is of great value to two great powers, either of which could float its economy with chump change and both of which need the Philippines. Neither of them knows what to make of the Philippine president. The Philippines found its sweet spot, but ultimately, the Chinese need it more, and that is a good reason to stay away from China. The needs of the U.S. permit room for the Philippines to maneuver. The Chinese embrace could become much too passionate for the Philippines’ fragile bones.“

  14. Popoy Del R. Cartanio says:

    Here’s Wakarang type of news, a Wakbokabo type of comment.

    Backsliding, Thievery, Insatiable greed, Idiotpathy and Impunity
    in the street corner lingo of the late forties could inventively be
    the same as: Wakarang, Wakatan, Waknakataw, Wakbokabo
    and Wakawakwak. You don’t call people especially government
    officials to their faces as backsliders, thieves, gluttons, idiots
    and impunitizers as name calling violates their human rights.
    But, BUT will a court convict a person for slander or libel for
    the use of words which do not exist in dictionaries or common
    usage? Just asking: A breaking news, whether true or false
    news can be all of the invented words above like this one below?


    DRONES ATTACK? Just issue the orders to ordinary policeman and foot soldiers
    and citizens with permit to carry guns TO SHOOT DOWN THEM MENACING DRONES.
    There’s no need for a martial law to violate the rule of law.

    Sorry po for giving an examples of a Wakarang news and a Wakbokabo comment..

    • Popoy Del R. Cartanio says:

      However this one SEEMS NOT TO BE a Wakarang of an opinion”

      Martial Law transgresses and contravenes the RULE of law
      Martial Law idiotizes the ROLE of law in civilized society
      Martial Law is an admission of failure of Morals
      among the power elite of the society.

      • Popoy Del R. Cartanio says:


        A constitution is a portrait needed
        to portray the character of a country.
        No written constitution: no need for a portrait.
        Two words martial and law, altogether
        with their mere mention there
        are two devil’s horns that can uglify a portrait
        of a nation’s character.
        Two words that blackens
        the white wings of the power elite.

        • Nice way to put it. Powerful. And a portrait of the way the people who wrote the Constitution look at how it is respected, nay, revered, today, in the Philippines, would look a lot like “The Scream”.

  15. Popoy Del R. Cartanio says:

    China and USA, amid yakking and yakking
    here and there . . .

    two countries battling each other
    even without bombs and bullets
    even when not using their dogs of war
    will surely hurt each other
    when PSY-WAR grow into a trade war.

    Self-inflected wounds can happen
    when raw materials of production
    become insufficient to sustain the
    trade fundamentals of either nation.

    There are many eche bucheches of course
    crucial to the economic aspects of trade
    hi-tech or no tech still needs, it remains
    in the end the raw materials like DNAs
    from which trade items are made.

    Any country it must be said
    that owns enough of it or from imports
    will have the edge in any trade war.

    • karlgarcia says:

      If I recall correctly in one of our conversations that you made a study or had a projecton garbage.

      I dream that one day, once we learn how to make the garbage stuck in the landfills explode due to methane and we learn ways to clean them,
      we could find ways to make use of the materials.

      The e-wastes can give us some precious metals,
      The plastics can give us diesel, nylon, styro, etc
      The construction debris can give us construction materials, yatta, yattah, bla, bla

      Kaya ng pinoy magkapera sa basura.
      But the Chinese already thought of that , and maybe they will just exploit our garbage resources so back to dreaming.

      • That reminds me. I read this article this morning: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/10/china-will-grow-old-before-it-gets-rich

        China is coming upon the same aging problem that Japan has. India is better balanced, with a lot of well educated younger people coming into the work force.

        • NHerrera says:

          Which demographic implication bodes well for PH if we don’t go down the drain faster. May be not as fast, China will have a good source of cheap labor from its virtual province.

          • Right. That is the tragedy. Rather than the Philippines emerging as a successful, wealthier state, it is being primed for China to take the gold and leave Filipinos with the dirt.

            • NHerrera says:

              … primed for China to take the gold and leave Filipinos with the dirt.

              Powerful image that! A gold rush but not for Filipinos, except for a few.

          • Popoy Del R. Cartanio says:

            China growing old? Nah, No.

            China was born old it grew
            From child to child so
            In old age China is still kicking.
            I was in my late teens when
            Pearl Buck watered me, soak me,
            my neurons subsoil with her The Good Earth.

            Quemoy was just a grenade throw
            And just spitting distance, but China
            Would not over run Taiwan in ’49,
            I was arguing with my kanto Tsukarans
            China will not kill or exterminate en masse
            Its own people.

            That’s why in ’68 China preferred to implement
            A rehab for its elite, not like Cambodia’s killing fields,
            Nor Stalin’s purges nor Hitler’s Third Reich but
            A much maligned Cultural Revolution where
            Society’s have-nots tutored China’s have-most
            In the struggle against poverty.

            The West must remember how
            The Chinese crawled and crept
            To help the pioneers of the West
            Build structures across plains and mountains
            To move people and goods
            Into new civilizations.

            Every country has its pimples,
            boils, smelly armpits and assholes
            but there’s the other side,
            the porcelain skin, the fragrant arm
            and the nappy covered behinds:
            the human side of the equation.

            I am a bystander that constantly battles
            My persistent mental myopia,
            I seek no money or glory
            But contentment when I see the positives
            Of both sides in a given equation.

        • karlgarcia says:

          Recruitment agencies must offer Mandarin and all the languague training packages.
          Thanks to Duterte they will prioritize us instead of Indians wifh PHDs.

      • Popoy Del R. Cartanio says:

        Karl, from my old file about garbage
        here’s one:

        Garbage and Poetry

        Naturally poorer people produces less garbage
        But rich people produces less than the poor
        That’s why there’s less rich
        Than more, lots that are poor.
        Is that why there’s more poetry in poverty
        Than there are more prose among the rich?
        January 20, 2005

        • Popoy Del R. Cartanio says:


          Recycled Garbage and Politician

          I once wrote a politician to have
          a sanitized compound in his city where
          garbage trucks loaded enter and exit empty
          a front gate while behind big buildings
          delivery trucks park and load
          recycled and refurbished goods to
          exit by the back gate. Why? I try to infer
          Pera sa basura (Money from garbage)
          would go to people’s projects
          instead of politican’s deep pockets.
          Impractical I was told , but then with
          ideas and attitude of this nature,
          a senate quest for remedial legislation
          can turn a politician’s or anyone’s image
          into stinking garbage.
          March 26, 2018

  16. karlgarcia says:


    Is US-China War really possible over South China Sea Dispute? The US-China Relations are severed at many levels including the recent Trade War, and now the US has again drawn attention towards China’s aggressive approach towards the South China Sea. Recently, a US destroyer was found very close to an island claimed by China which the US called freedom of Navigation. The aggressive military expansion over the South China Sea has garnered global attention.

    France, Britain Support the US on the South China Sea Dispute
    The purpose of the French and British naval fleet entering the South China Sea is to show their support to the US. This also shows solidarity with other allies like Japan and Australia as they believe that China’s claims over the disputed waters go against international rules set after the 2nd world war.

    China’s take on the South China Sea Issue
    On the other hand, China believes that the issue is all about the US trying to keep up its military bases in water. China believes that the US is trying to intimidate China only to maintain its powers over the waters.

    • That’s why it is important for other nations to express themselves, for themselves. It clearly is not a US led coalition that objects. It is a lot of different nations with leaders who are concerned about China. Trump is of the view that the US has too many troops spread around the world. Had China pursued a peaceful path to settle the disputes in the seas, and become a forthright trading partner to other nations, the US military footprint would shrink. But China gave assurances that she would not militarize the islands, but did. Just as she gave the Philippines assurance she would remove her ships from Scarborough, but left them there. Anyone who listens to China has to have an appetite for falsehoods in their logic stream.

      • karlgarcia says:

        Speaking of falsehoods, North Korea’s promise to China that she will denuclearize.
        Very good if it is true, but I am leaning towards its being false.

        • For sure, the past track record is one of bluster and promise. I’m sure there would have to be a huge deal from the US for that to happen. I read that Un’s trip to China was in part to get him comfortable with international norms for diplomatic meetings, in preparation for meeting with Trump. I am thinking this is not posturing, but represents Un wanting to come out and be an international player. All we can do is wait and watch.

          • karlgarcia says:

            Sit back and eat pop corn. Nuclear tests for nothing?
            Denuclearize all your nukes to us says China and Russia.

  17. karlgarcia says:


    Corpyz arges that the US has to have a sub near the Philippines so they can stop an attack from China. Golez argues that they can do it from as far as Guam.
    But Corpyz says if the first strike comes from China, Guam may be too far.

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