The China Issue: Impressions of a military mind



For the last five decades, the Philippines has fought the communist insurgency whose roots and foundations originated from Communist China. In spite of China’s shift to a free market economy and becoming the second largest economy in the world, the foundations of its political system are still basically communist-inspired. Why then did the Philippines, a country founded on democratic ideals, so quickly shift its alignment to China? Is it economic or political, or both?

Notwithstanding China’s claim that it is here as a friend, the signs of its overbearing attitude indicate subjugation and subservience. This will be disastrous to the next generations of Filipinos. China will carry out its foreign relations in the international community predicated on the communist vision of protracted wars.

This article will delve on limited significant factors as seen by a professional soldier who has been exposed to and has managed scenarios relating to crisis and violence, both local and regional.

According to Sun Tzu, “Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat. The battlefield is the scene of constant chaos, the winner will be one who controls that chaos.”

When China declared its nine-dash line in the South China Sea, it was the start of a grand strategy to create chaos in the area. The chaos attracted not only the claimants but the whole world as well. It has become a flash point of conflict and gained world attention. Despite repeated diplomatic protests, China never acquiesced. In fact, it continues to carry out its uncontrolled intervention, be it infrastructure development or intimidation of our fishermen. The chaos has multiplied that neither strong world opinion nor the United Nations can bear on China to slow down.

Frontal confrontation by a world power, like the US, will only exacerbate the situation that may start a world war. Humanity cannot afford such a war. The destruction will be irreversible. Chaos breeds a series of conflicts in many forms. It is not the consequence of the rational pursuit of self-interest. It flows from the deepest wellspring of human nature in the pursuit of power. The leadership of the Chinese Communist Party wields enormous influence. The power that flows from its mantle is creating chaos and conflicts that are changing the global architecture.

Clausewitz said: “War is a continuation of politics.” The political posturing of China is an extension of its war for world domination. It has started with small countries like the Philippines, through economic strangulation, a tightening of the noose that will end in suffocation and eventual voluntary surrender.

The Communist Party has calibrated its mindset for insatiable ambition to be a great power. The struggle for power begins with the attempt to exert influence and extend domination over others. Clearly, China wants to replace the US as the dominant world power. The unfortunate victims of this enormous ambition are small and indefensible countries such as the Philippines that continue to be a whipping boy from the bullying tactics of China. China is drunk with the desire for expansion and the Communist Party rules with this passion.

Is China a friend to the Philippines or an adversary? In military parlance, the indications negate that it is a friend. By not respecting our sovereign rights, we are being treated as a de facto enemy. China has infiltrated and violated the very realm of our legal personality in the community of nations.

We are all well familiar with the Trojan horse. Beware of Greeks bearing gifts — be on guard if an enemy offers an apparent gesture of friendship. Greeks broke the resistance by giving the impression that conflict was non-existent. In like manner, the Chinese have creeped in very quietly offering sweeteners as part of their confidence-building measures to influence our decision makers to accept their concessions, such as in the form of liberal loan packages and developmental projects disguised as altruistic gestures for a country whose appetite for capital is unlimited. We have been mesmerized and infatuated with a Trojan horse, unaware of the real motives, blind to their real intention. Behind these offers is the entry of a huge number of undocumented Chinese workers that has flooded certain businesses in the retail and construction industry.

The tale of the Trojan horse has become a ruse to gain entry into areas of sovereignty and economic dependence. Can we still at least mitigate the ruse? The magnitude is so great unless a superpower intervenes using diplomatic influence and initiative. The Trojan horse principle utilizes the element of surprise. With chaos, defenses are easily infiltrated. We have been taken off-guard. The buildup of military facilities in the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal and Panganiban (Mischief) Reef, among others, has underscored our weak defense system. Friendship and goodwill, which have guided our foreign policy in dealing with China, have actually created a trap where an exit strategy is untenable.

The use of lies and half-truth is a tactic that is widespread in business and commerce, politics, and even in religion. What is not understandable is our penchant for profuse hospitality and trust. The Communist Party of China has indoctrinated its people, especially the youth that comprise the majority of their population, that areas within the nine-dash line are part of China. The tsunami of public opinion coming from this generation of Chinese will be the greatest deterrent to normalize the crisis in the West Philippine Sea. This is misinformation of such great magnitude. What counteraction do we have in our public relations arsenal to neutralize such misinformation?

Why have we fallen into this ideological trap? Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. has expressly stated that the US is our only military ally. This is a very encouraging statement.

US Secretary of State Michael Richard Pompeo, during his recent visit to Manila, categorically stated that the US will react with military dispatch if the Philippines is threatened. However, this statement does not give a response to a specific scenario. When the threat was still manageable, the US never lifted a finger to neutralize China’s creeping invasion. It merely stood on the sidelines as a spectator.

As had been seen in Chile and Iraq in the past, the US waits for a country to deteriorate before it comes in for easier control. In the Philippines, they only came in when the dictatorship was at its ebb of decline. It is, therefore, wishful thinking that we will be rescued by the US from the jaws of China’s uncontrollable ambition.

China will continue its assertive and intimidating stance beyond the realm of acceptable political and diplomatic norms. It will not listen nor act on any diplomatic protest. It will continue to infiltrate and threaten our sovereign rights, and send undocumented Chinese nationals without respect for our immigration laws.

The clouds are slowly closing in on us. What shall we do now?

The article reflects the personal opinion of the author and does not reflect the official stand of the Management Association of the Philippines or the MAP.

Lt. Gen. Jaime S. de los Santos (Ret.) is former Commanding General of the Philippine Army, Force Commander of the 24-Nation Multinational UN Peacekeeping Force in East Timor, Professorial Lecturer (part-time) at UP Diliman, and a member of the MAP National Issues Committee.

The China Issue: Impressions of a military mind