Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad warned the Philippines about the perils of allowing a large number of Chinese workers in the country. Here on an official visit, the 93-year-old Malaysian leader last year pulled a shocking election victory in his return to power.
Known for his outspoken views, Mahathir took on global currency trader George Soros by proving him wrong about his dire prediction on Malaysia’s economy. The Malaysian leader diminished Chinese grip on the Malaysian economy during his earlier first term in by imposing Bumiputra—a concept originally coined by Abdul Razak Hussein.
Mahathir should not be accused of having a serious case of Sinophobia. Aside from his desire to assure a higher level of education for native Malaysians, Mahathir’s passion was to set a level playing field in the business sector for ethnic Malaysians and Chinese. This he accomplished without doing what the army perpetrated in the killing of 500,000 Chinese in Indonesia. The number of Chinese merchants and suspected members of the PKI Communist Party alleged to be involved in a coup and killed is estimated to reach a million. The 1965-1966 massacre led to the downfall of President Sukarno and the start of Suharto’s 30-year rule.
Some say the bloody scenario in Indonesia could be reprised in the Philippines. We hope not, because Chinese-Filipino taipans here are helping fuel the engines of growth and actually propping up the Philippine economy.
Philippine legislators have expressed concern that some 200,000 Chinese in the gaming industry have displaced Filipino workers who have to look for jobs overseas, Filipinos are asking if the Chinese workers in the various online gambling are paying taxes that the Department of Finance needs badly for the government’s Build Build Build infrastructure program.
In a sense, Mahathir warned of the Chinese Trojan horse that could make the Philippines a country vassal of the Mandarin cabal in Beijing. Millions of US dollars in loans and grants from China to the Philippines could compromises the country’s independence. Given that Manila has a territorial dispute with Beijing in the South China Sea, the influx here of the 200,000 Chinese workers pose a security problem. Other countries like Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, Vietnam and Taiwan have conflicting claims in the South China Sea where Beijing with its nine-dash line claims nearly the entire body of water which is rich in potential oil, gas and minerals under the seabed.
Secretary of Foreign Affairs Teodoro Locsin, Jr. ,however, allayed Filipinos’ fear of the Chinese debt trap. He said the country can handle bad loans that might compromise its sovereignty.
On the other hand, US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo who received reports of Chinese patrol boats driving away Filipino fishermen from their own waters in the West Philippine Sea reiterated America’s commitment to defend the Philippines from external attack. A statement of US commitment to the Mutual Defense Treaty between Washington and Manila by Pompeo, who was in Manila for an official visit, was received with lukewarm response by the Duterte administration. Former President Barack Obama said the same thing in his visit to Manila during the time of then-President Benigno Aquino III.
Mahathir, like the United States, advocates a freedom of navigation in the vital SCS sea lanes on which trillions of dollars in commercial cargo carried by international vessels pass through. Concern over the Chinese military build-up in the area could impede freedom of navigation which could affect global trade. A confrontation between Chinese warships and fighter planes and that of the US is a flashpoint in the South China Sea which could spark World War III, according to world analysts. This, even as a trade war is already brewing between China and the United States.
Last week, the US sought sanctions by trade allies against buying Huawei products which it believes is at the forefront of hacking into US defense files and electronic companies. Huawei, on the other hand, said it would sue the US government over what it claims is an unlawful act against a duly established global company.
How does Mahathir maintain a sharp mind and keep fit? He said it’s by managing his weight by eating right and also by moving a lot and walking.