Napoleon Bonaparte once described China as a sleeping giant. Of course Napoleon also miscalculated other countries – he once described England as a nation of shop keepers. And it was this nation of shop keepers tput a cap on his dream of Bonapartist restoration and sent him to exile. But he was correct about China – today it is an economic and military super power and intent on maintaining dominance in Asia.
And because of this it is intent on making the area we call the West Philippine Sea/South China Sea its own lake. Regardless and no respect of territorial limits of the other Asean countries. In effect this marine corridor , which is rich in mineral and fisheries, becomes a defacto territory of China. Effectively practising Mao Zedong’s maxim political power comes from the barrel of a gun. The gun being the military might of China, the tested PLA and the highly untested navy – although it is one of the countries in Asia with air craft carriers. Think of it as a modern day version of gun boat diplomacy.
What to do?
In terms of the maritime integrity of the Philippines one of basic things needed for defending is naval fleet in Ancient Greece it was the wooden wall of Themistocles – the fleet of triremes that defeated the Persian fleet of Xerxes. Unfortunately, the Philippines lack this and South East Asia does not have a military alliance to make this possible.
So what are our options?
(Nota Bene: Nearly all options here are military options. However it would be foolish to consider the sword and the shield as the only option they are just one of many other tools – foreign policy and economic policy can and should be applied.)
First, Rely on the United States to protect us from China.In as much as this now happening unless China threatens the United States directly, any assistance in the form of hand holding, diplomatic protests and sitzkrieg will be only after something has happened – only after first strike or an invasion. There will be no pre-emptive actions from the United States.
Second, Rely on Japan. In the past Japan has proven its mettle in naval warfare – defeating the Russians in Port Arthur and the Americans initially during World War II. There is of course the issue of Japan and its attempt to impose a Co-Prosperity Sphere in the whole of Asia. It did not turn out well. Of course in World War II, China was among the most oppressed countries by the Japanese Empire. Now it is different, will Japan then become the bulwark against the rise of China? Will and can it provide support the freedom of Asia’s seas? Despite the war time baggage of Japan, it must be remember Japan has the distinction of developing a sound Land and Naval military forces. Also it was Japan who initially supported Filipino revolutionaries during the war of independence from Spain.
Third, Unlikely solution would be actually aligned to China itself. In the absence of the capacity to defend our sovereignty, would it be more practical to become an ally or a junior ally to China? Stranger things have happened. Of course as a junior ally, expected to be treated as Hyena or Fox by the Lion. Then again think of this as a temporary measure.
Fourth, Invest military technology that will eliminate the edge of China. Investing in ICBMs, EMP bombs, Drones and even nuclear bomb. Such an endeavour would need a greater amount of capital and time. .
Unless China implodes politically or become isolationist and dismantle its fleet the reality is that a Super Power has arrived and it is hungry to establish its influence. The Philippines has to deal with it and the usual diplomatic solution is not enough. At the least we need a leadership strong in character and wise to deal with it, which at present we do not have.