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China’s Synthetic “Peaceful Rise and Soft Power”

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It is not new to many of us, every time we hear this line from China’s government officials, that they are committed to the “path of peaceful development, upholds the defense policy that is defensive in nature and commits itself to actively developing friendship and cooperation with countries around the world, especially neighboring countries.”

Although this statement seems to be a template conveniently used by Beijing to relieve tensions in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), ASEAN members particularly claimants in the disputed Spratly Islands and non-ASEAN countries can’t help but attach names to China’s actions in asserting its indisputable claim over the whole SCS.

One such example is from an Indonesian security expert, Andi Widjajanto, a professor at the Department on International Relations Studies at the Universitas Indonesia based in Depok. He said, China would become a “ruthless monster” and “China will rule over the region and the world and its financial and military dominance will ignite resistance and militaristic reaction from member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.” (Source: Jeffrey M. Tupas and Ryan D. Rosauro, Inquirer Mindanao 7/15/11)

There are other “name tags” that needs no elaboration as we witness the strain growing as days passed in the hotly contested area in the world – the SCS. Pundits wonder, experts and ordinary people alike are watching the possible confluence of events. Is Beijing’s “peaceful rise” and the so-called “soft power” approach are mere synthetic?

It is very clear from the warning of the Indon security expert that China plans “to become a hegemonic power” by 2020. But from the speech of China’s Defense Minister at the Shangri-la Dialogue in Singapore that I attended, he reiterated that China has no plan of becoming a superpower.

Do we hear another doublespeak?

In this kind of situation where we are all in at the moment, when a possible regional conflict is in the offing, we just can’t afford to have another dose of rhetoric and deceit.

Our country has experienced enough “bullying” from our neighbor and only to find out this report that : “… the $892 million deepwater semi-submersible drilling platform (Ocean Petroleum 981) that China Daily reported as having left Shanghai on May 24, 2011 bound for the South China Sea. According to the China press, this is “the world’s most advanced super oil rig” capable of operating at a water depth of 3,000 meters and drilling depth of 12,000 meters, with nine power generators on the platform that can provide electricity for nearly 200,000 people. It took China three years to build this rig which is set to start operating in August.”

And, “China is already counting on the future oil to be drawn from the Spratlys to fuel China’s massive energy needs and it is deploying its lone aircraft carrier, newly-purchased from Russia, to the West Philippine Sea to protect it.” (Source: Telltale Signs: The Dragon and the Mosquito by Rodel Rodis posted @Fil-AmForum)

Now, we ask, what will happen now to the commitment of Beijing as “advocate to safeguard regional peace and stability and enhance mutual trust,” among nations in the region?

Can the aircraft carrier safeguard regional peace or just increase tension because obviously its purpose is to secure their super oil rig. And by next month, the world’s most advanced super oil rig by China will start to operate. How can this move “enhance mutual trust?”

Sadly, it only points to one thing, all our questions and maybe, the sentiment of all patriotic Filipinos that there’s no such thing as China’s claim of peaceful development and soft power. I hope that the persistent rumor of a sell out in 2005 is not true. Was there really a secret bilateral agreement duly signed in China and witnessed by our consulate to explore the Reed Bank? This contract was reportedly different from the tripartite deal of JMSU with China and Vitenam.

It is up to us and the rest of the region’s country claimants to be ever vigilant in order to avoid a regional conflict and share the bounty which is God given black gold.

By Erick San Juan




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