Two great powers. Two lands. One victim of circumstance. These are what make up the controversial US-China Power play in which China has been extracting resources from the Spratly Islands and the Scarborough Shoal also known as the Bajo de Masinloc, lands which are Philippine territory, in order to be independent from the United States of America.
A few years ago, the Philippine Navy captured eight mainland Chinese fishing vessels in the disputed Scarborough Shoal, which is part of the 200-mile Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone. And some time after, the Philippine coast guard reported that several Filipino fishermen were harassed by members of the Chinese navy. According to reports, the fishermen were attacked with water cannons when they sailed near the same shoal.
The incidents sparked tensions between China and the Philippines. However, things became even more intense when China claimed that not only the Scarborough Shoal, but also the Spratly Islands, which is also covered by the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone, are under Chinese sovereignty.
According to many scholars, the two lands are Philippine property. This claim is supported by the book “Bajo de Masinloc: Maps and Documents” which is a compilation of documents that prove that the shoal is part of Philippine territory. Furthermore, Republic Act 9522 defined both the Spratly Islands and the Scarborough Shoal as being encompassed by Philippine archipelagic baselines.
However, China claimed that the two lands are Chinese territory since they are within range of the nine-dotted line that is drawn on their map.
The controversial claim placed strain on both the Philippines and its citizens. On the part of the country as a whole, the Philippines became deprived of a major economic source, since the Chinese navy interference prevented Filipino fishermen from fishing near the shoal and the islands where fish is reported to be great in numbers. On the other hand, hundreds of Filipinos became outraged at the claim and decided to take action by rallying on the streets, causing social unrest.
Yet, in spite of the turmoil, one question still remains unasked by many: Why is China doing this?
The answer is simple, China wants to be independent from the United States of America.
For many years, China has been dependent on the USA for economic purposes. The US, being a consumeristic state, consumes China’s affordable products. As a result, China gains a steady and stable flow of income that can sustain its community.
However, China’s current president, Xi Jinping, apparently has bigger plans for the country.
Xi has set two priorities, both of which are for China’s well-being. The first is economic growth, and the second is political stability.
Both priorities must be given great emphasis in order to achieve the “Chinese Dream”, which is based on Xi’s theme:
“The Chinese dream of national rejuvenation, the renaissance of China after a century of humiliation.”
This is in line with his aim of a “prosperous country with a strong army under the Communist Party of China’s rule.”
Simply put, Xi wishes for China to be a great power in its own right without any aid from the US.
But for China to be independent from the US, it must have its own source of great economic income. And so, even though many scholars and experts have refuted the claim, the Chinese still insisted on claiming that the Spratly Islands and the Scarborough Shoal are their property so that they can extract the resources and minerals of the lands for their own economic benefit.
Upon reflection, the “Chinese Dream” is not inherently wrong but nationalistically admirable. Yet, the method of attaining it is the exact opposite.
The one who had to pay the price of this dream is not China, but the Philippines. The Philippines paid for it by having had to begrudgingly stand by and watch its territories being exploited by foreigners.
Conversely, the Philippines intend to demand compensation, and it has an ally in the form of the United States.
Being a long-time ally of the Philippines, the United States of America intends to stand by its associate state by promising to provide it military aid should it ever need it.
Yet, by doing this, it also competes against China, where it has internal influence as its main consumer.
So in a way, the US wishes to cooperate with the Philippines in order to maintain its ties with it while also competing against China in order to maintain its influence over it.
This is basically the flow of the US-China power play. The two states cooperate and compete against each other to try to gain the upper hand over the other whilst doing it at the expense of the Philippines.
Tensions regarding the power play seem high and achieving peace may seem bleak, yet it is not impossible.
“It is still possible, as long as China will listen to the clamor of the world opinion that it is not to its advantage to engage in these kinds of aggressive acts. There have been several instances of violent confrontations in the past between China and other countries, but eventually these disputes were settled peacefully. So it is still possible,” Rep. Carlos Isagani T. Zarete from the BAYAN MUNA Party-list said during the forum regarding the power play entitled “Asserting Sovereignty: Round Table Discussion”