There seems to be an inane question being spread in social media asking: Should we in the Philippines should strategically or diplomatically choose to be allied to our former colonizer USA or our neighbor China? My answer is, no need, none of the above.
In geopolitics, there are no permanent friends & no permanent enemies, only permanent interests.
Why? In geopolitics, there are no permanent friends or foes, only permanent interests. The former top American diplomat Dr. Henry Kissinger himself said: “America has no permanent friends or enemies, only interests.”
I believe even the Americans wouldn’t take us the Philippines for granted as already “in their pocket” if we have more powers as equidistant and close friends, therefore possibly increasing economic, civic and military aid for us.
Learn from Thailand, Malaysia, South Korea & Indonesia in balanced & independent foreign policy
We should pursue a truly independent foreign policy that is pro-Philippines, not subservient or too entangled with either of the two rival superpowers USA or China—both of which are also pursuing their own self-interests.
Why not be good friends with the two rival superpowers and let them both compete to woo us the Philippines, in the same way the more pragmatic and astute political leaders of South Korea, Thailand, Singapore under the late brilliant statesman Lee Kuan Yew, Malaysia under the fiercely-independent and very wise former Prime Minister Mohamad Mahathir, Indonesia and others have been doing for years?
Philippine nationalists such as Senator Claro M. Recto, Senate President Jovito R. Salonga, Senator Lorenzo Tañada, Senator Jose W. Diokno, historian Renato Constantino and others were wise and correct in fighting for an independent foreign policy, not allowing the Philippines to become subservient or a client state of any power whether in reality or in the perception of others.
Even the controversial President Ferdinand E. Marcos was a supreme pragmatist who understood realpolitik; he tried to forge a more independent foreign policy for the Philippines by boldly opening diplomatic relations with the former Soviet Union, China, Cuba, Libya and many other countries.
Not only equal good ties with USA & China, also with Russia, South Korea, Japan, Iran, etc.
More than that just striking a real balance of having equally good relations with both the U.S. and China, we in the Philippines should be like our Asian and Asean neighbors in strengthening our relations with other powers like Russia, South Korea, Japan and others.
Diplomats of Iran told me that in the six years of the Noynoy Aquino administration, the Philippines has not imported any oil from Iran due to the USA-led trade sanctions but America’s two closest Asian allies South Korea and Japan continued to import Iran oil due to the primacy of their own economic interests.
Why balanced foreign policy can maintain good USA trade & unleash rapid growth in China trade
On the question of foreign direct investments (FDI) of the world’s two biggest economies, since the Philippines is America’s only former colony in Asia and has for decades in the post-World War II era been an ally of America, it is natural that American FDIs and other commercial activities still exceed those of China. However, the wave of the future seems to be accelerating bilateral trade, investments and other increased economic exchanges with the rising economic superpower China.
Also, due to the diplomatic imbroglio between the Philippines and China under former President Noynoy C. Aquino, there were no significant FDI inflows from China in the past six years unlike huge inflows to our other Asean and Asian neighbors including countries like Vietnam with which China has territorial disputes too.
We also shouldn’t forget that China is now already the world’s No. 2 largest economy and a rising foreign investor, therefore it is beneficial for us in the Philippine to normalize our bilateral relations and compete against our neighbors for China FDIs too.
On the question of Philippine investments in China being larger than China investments in the Philippines which has been raised by some politicians, of course that is the situation even for Taiwan, Japan, USA, Singapore, South Korea, Malaysia, etc., because of the sheer size and economic importance of the world’s biggest market potential of 1.3 billion people. There are far more USA, Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Thailand and other foreign direct investments in China, than China FDIs to these countries.
Philippines lags behind Asean, even Taiwan, South Korea & Japan in wooing affluent China tourists
On the question of tourism, due to the diplomatic impasse between the Philippines and China under the Noynoy Aquino administration, we have missed a lot of opportunities to tap and woo over the world’s biggest source of affluent tourists China. In contrast to our situation, our Asean neighbors and other Asian countries have boosted their economies with huge influx of China tourists.
While we in the Philippines only received less than half a million China tourists in 2015, Thailand alone welcome eight million China tourists, and even perceived political rivals Taiwan and Japan have each welcome millions of affluent China tourists every year.
Last but not the least, we the Philippines should not get unnecessarily entangled in any military alliance with the either the U.S. and China. Both of these powers seem to be jockeying for strategic dominance in the Asia Pacific region and especially in our region’s economically vital high seas.
The U.S. as the world’s top superpower naturally wants to maintain its extensive military presence worldwide as the traditional “policeman of the world” and to safeguard its vital national interests, while the rising economic powerhouse of China wants to beef up its own national security defenses around its land and sea frontiers. China wants to secure its seas and borders almost in the same way (but to a lesser extent) than the 1823 “Monroe doctrine” of the U.S. covering North, Central and South American regions.
If we in the Philippines can seek to uphold a truly independent and only pro-Philippines foreign policy, then we ideally shouldn’t be entangled in the military rivalry of the two superpowers U.S. and China. In fact, I propose that we the Philippines should help promote the idea of making our whole Asean region a nuclear-free zone of neutrality, peace and harmony.
We the Philippines can also as bridge of understandings between the two former World War II allies of ours, to help strengthen U.S. and China cooperation so that both could lead the world towards global peace and prosperity for all. The future of Philippine foreign policy and of the world shouldn’t be viewed as a zero-sum game, but as a win-win situation for all!