Chinese-Filipino Community’s Dilemma: The Philippines, China, and the South China Sea Disputes


Nationalism and nationhood in post-colonial, cosmopolitan countries like the Philippines aren’t about ethnicity, but, as eminent Sociologist Benedict Anderson suggest, they are instead anchored by an “imagined community” that is bound by shared dreams, sufferings, and experiences. Amid rising tensions in the South China Sea, pitting a powerful China against a beleaguered Philippines, the sizable and well-integrated Chinese community in the Philippines is feeling the heat.

Recently, one of the Philippines’ most celebrated writers elicited highly negative reactions among certain circles, particularly the Filipino-Chinese community, by implicitly questioning their loyalty to the Philippines, specifically in an event of war with China. The last thing the Philippines needs at this point is divisive talk and internal divisions. The Filipino-Chinese community serves as a backbone of the country’s economy, with many among them rising to positions of great prominence — whether in business or politics or entertainment — in the Southeast Asian nation.

Critical Junctures

In their best-selling book, Why Nations Fail, economists James A. Robinson and Daron Acemoğlu discuss the double-edged nature of what they call critical junctures: Seismic events, which shake up the foundations of the status quo. Sometimes, crises create the right kind of exogenous pressure to disrupt a dysfunctional equilibrium, forcing positive change and encouraging innovative adaptation by troubled societies.

In other cases, crises lead to further divisions and, ultimately, the collapse of an entire civilization. In Collapse, Evolutionary Biologist Jared Diamond dramatically chronicles the extinction of certain civilizations due to their inability to adapt to changes in their environment.


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