The standoff with China over the Scarborough shoal and the competing claims over the Spratly Islands have been all over the news recently. The Aquino government has been blowing hot and cold in its dealings with China. Its only consistent position is allowing the US to increase its military presence in the country and justifying a more frequent conduct of US-RP Balikatan joint military exercises.
It is ironical that while the Aquino government is asserting the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity over these oil-rich areas, it is surrendering the same to the US.
In the interest of presenting a different and progressive perspective, Bulatlat is publishing in full the reply of Prof. Jose Maria Sison of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle on the questions being raised by Renato Reyes of Bayan regarding this contentious issue.
Reply to Questions from Renato Reyes, BAYAN Secretary General
By Prof. Jose Maria Sison
Chairperson, International League of Peoples’ Struggle
April 20, 2012
Renato Reyes (RR): I hope that you can answer briefly the following questions re China, Philippines and the assertion of national sovereignty. We have an all-leaders meeting this Saturday and we are trying to get views on how to deal with the issue of China’s incursions on Philippine territory, the Aquino regime’s response and US intervention.
Jose Maria Sison (JMS): First of all, as a matter of principle, the Filipino people must assert their national sovereignty and Philippine territorial integrity over the issue of Spratlys (Kalayaan) and other islands, reefs and shoals which are well within the 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) defined by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). According to the Philippine reactionary government, it submitted on time to the UN the necessary scientific and technical grounds to define the Philippine 200-mile EEZ under UNCLOS.
The UNCLOS is the strongest legal basis for the definition of the territorial sea and EEZ of the Philippine archipelago. Also, archaeological evidence shows that the islands, reefs and shoals at issue have been used by inhabitants of what is now the Philippines since prehistoric times. But the Philippine reactionary government muddles the issue and undermines its own position by making historical claims that date back only to a few decades ago when pseudo-admiral Cloma made formal claims to the Kalayaan group of islands.
Chinese historical claims since ancient times amount to an absurdity as this would be like Italy claiming as its sovereign possession all areas previously occupied by the Roman empire. The name China Sea was invented by European cartographers and should not lead anyone to think that the entire sea belongs to China. In the same vein, neither does the entire Indian Ocean belong to India.
RR 1: How do we view the incursions and aggressive behavior of China in territories claimed by the Philippines? Is this aggressiveness proof that China has imperialist ambitions and should be criticized as an imperialist power? What is the relationship between China’s revisionist regime and its apparent desire to flex its muscles in the region?
JMS: The Filipino people and progressive forces must oppose what may be deemed as incursions and what may appear as aggressive behavior of China with regard to the territories belonging to the Philippines. But so far China’s actions and actuations manifest assertiveness rather than outright military aggression. The Philippine reactionary government should desist from self-fulfilling its claim of China’s aggression by engaging in an anti-China scare campaign.
The Filipino people and progressive forces must consciously differentiate their position from that of the Aquino regime, its military subalterns and its Akbayan special agents who pretend to be super patriots against China but are in fact servile to the interests of US imperialism and are using the anti-China scare campaign to justify the escalation of US military intervention in the Philippines and US hegemony in the Asia-Pacific region.
At any rate, China must not violate Philippine national sovereignty and territorial integrity, the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and the Code of Conduct it agreed to with the ASEAN. The apparently aggressive or assertive acts and words of China are in consonance with its own premise of national sovereignty and territorial integrity as well as with the bourgeois character of the Chinese state that may indicate an imperialist tendency or ambitions.
The Chinese state is blatantly a capitalist state. Only occasionally does it claim to be socialist so as to cover up its capitalist character as the revisionists in power systematically did in the past. Whatever is its character, the Chinese state must not infringe or threaten to infringe Philippine sovereignty and territorial integrity. When it does, it opens itself to criticism and opposition by political and diplomatic action.
RR 2: On the other hand, would criticism of China serve the US ploy of increasing its military presence in the region by supporting the claim that China is indeed a major threat to Philippine sovereignty? Would such criticism serve to support the claim that China is indeed a major threat while obfuscating the US continuous undermining and violation of Philippine sovereignty? How important is it that the Left join in the assertion of Philippine sovereignty against incursions by China?
JMS: Criticism and opposition to any actual incursion by China is consistent with the assertion of national sovereignty and does not serve the US ploy so long as we expose at the same time why and how the Aquino regime’s posture against alleged incursions by China are meant to serve US goals in the region.
We must be alert to and oppose the malicious efforts of the US and the Aquino regime to hype China as an imperialist aggressor in order to allow the No. 1 imperialist to further entrench itself militarily in the Philippines and realize its strategy of encircling China and enhancing its hegemony over East Asia and entire Asia-Pacific region. You should take critical notice of the fact that the agents of US imperialism like Aquino, his military sidekicks and his Akbayan hangers-on are presenting themselves as superpatriots against China while they allow the US to increase the presence of military forces and activities under the Visiting Forces Agreement, the Balikatan exercises and various other pretexts.
It is a matter of principle to invoke national sovereignty and territorial integrity against China’s claims on certain islands, reefs and shoals that belong to the Philippines. But we should expose and oppose the US and the Aquino regime for actively undertaking what are obviously anti-China provocations and propaganda aimed at justifying the escalation of US military intervention and further entrenchment of US forces in the Philippines, as part of the strategic scheme of the US to preserve and strengthen its hegemony over the Asia-Pacific region, particularly East Asia.
Further, the US imperialists are increasing their pressure on China to privatize its state-owned enterprises, to restrain its bourgeois nationalist impulses, to yield further to US economic and security dictates and to further promote the pro-US or pro-West bourgeois forces within China. In comparison to the Philippines, China is a far larger country for imperialist exploitation and oppression. Having more economic and political interests in China than in the Philippines, the US is using the Philippines as a staging base for actions aimed at pressuring and influencing China rather than protecting the Philippines from China.
The US-RP Mutual Defense Treaty does not contain an automatic retaliation provision.The US has used this treaty as the basis for the Visiting Forces Agreement and for the escalation of US military intervention in the Philippines. But in case of attack from any foreign power, the Philippines has no basis for expecting or demanding automatic retaliation from the US. The treaty allows the US to act strictly in its national interest and use its constitutional processes to bar the Philippines from demanding automatic retaliation against a third party that attacks the Philippines.
The US and China can always agree to cooperate in exploiting the Philippines. In fact, they have long been cooperating in exploiting the Philippines. The Chinese comprador big bourgeoisie in both the Philippines (Henry Sy, Lucio Tan and the like) and China (within the bureaucracy and outside) are trading and financial agents of the US and other imperialist powers.
RR 3: The Aquino government has availed of diplomatic venues to resolve the dispute. Meanwhile, the Chinese incursions continue. The Philippines is a weak country militarily and has no capability for securing its territory. What would be the requirements for the Philippines to be able to effectively assert its sovereignty (not limited of course to questions of territory)? Briefly, how can the Philippines develop a credible external defense?
JMS: Rather than entertain hopes that the Aquino regime would defend Philippine sovereignty and territorial integrity, the Filipino people and progressive forces must resolutely and militantly expose and oppose the puppetry, shameless mendicancy and the hypocrisy of the regime in pretending to be for national sovereignty and territorial integrity against China while inviting and welcoming increased US military intervention in the Philippines and using the country as a base for strengthening US hegemony in the Asia Pacific region.
Only the Filipino people and revolutionary forces can gain the capability to secure, control and defend their territory by fighting for and achieving national and social liberation in the first place from US imperialist domination and from such reactionary regimes of the big compradors and landlords like the Aquino regime. Otherwise the US and their puppets will always be the bantay salakay at the expense of the people.
When the Filipino people and revolutionary forces come to power, they will certainly engage strongly among others in metal manufacturing, ship building and fishing in close connection with securing the Philippine territorial sea and exclusive economic zone. They shall have internal political-military strength and socio-economic satisfaction. And they shall develop international solidarity and use diplomatic action against any foreign power that violates Philippine sovereignty and territorial integrity.
At the moment, the US and Aquino regime are engaged in a calibrated anti-China propaganda campaign in order to justify and allow the US to control the Philippines and East Asia militarily. We are being
subjected to an anti-China scare aimed at further strengthening the dominance of US imperialism and the domestic rule of its reactionary puppets like Aquino. Right now, we must give the highest priority to fighting these monsters.
The Filipino people and the progressive forces must complain to the entire world against any incursive act of China and at the same time against the maneuvers of the US and its Filipino puppets to use the anti-China campaign to further oppress and exploit the Filipino nation and people. By the way, the Aquino regime blows hot and cold against China. In fact, it is vulnerable to China’s manipulation of Philippine
exports to China like some semimanufactures and agricultural and mineral products.
When the Filipino people and revolutionary forces win, they shall be able to bring up through official representatives the issues concerning the UNCLOS to the UN General Assembly and the Hamburg-based International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea. They can encourage the cooperation of certain countries like Russia and Norway to avoid unwelcome impositions from US, UK and Netherlands in the exploration and development of oil and gas in the areas of the Philippines.
Even at this time, approaches can be made to China to avoid confrontations and tensions over the territories that belong to the Philippines and to engage in all-round cooperation for mutual benefit, especially for the advance of national independence, the industrial development of the Philippines and the termination of the extremely oppressive and exploitative US hegemony over East Asia, which victimizes both the Philippines and China.
RR 4: What approaches would you like the Philippines to make towards China? Were such approaches taken into account in the 2011 NDFP proposal to the Aquino regime for an alliance and truce? In this regard, what can the Left do in view of the rabid servility of the Aquino regime to the US.
JMS:China has been known for its policy of dealing diplomatically solely with the state (rather than with the revolutionary forces) in any country and for its flexibility in considering the needs and demands of that state or country. It is not as imposing and as aggressive as the US in diplomatic and economic relations with other countries. It tries to comply with what it professes, such as the principles of independence, non-interference, equality and cooperation for mutual benefit.
Thus, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines has proposed to the Aquino regime strategic alliance and truce in the context of peace negotiations. It has challenged the Aquino regime to make a general declaration of common intent with the NDFP to assert national independence and end unequal treaties and agreements; expand democracy through empowerment of the workers and peasants; carry out national industrialization and land reform; foster a patriotic, scientific and pro-people culture; and adopt an independent foreign policy for world peace and development.
A key part of the NDFP proposal is for the Philippines to approach China and other countries for cooperation in the establishment of key industrial projects for the national industrialization of the country. Certainly, it would be greatly beneficial for the Filipino people that the Philippines is industrialized and ceases to be merely an exporter of raw materials, semi-manufactures and migrant workers, mostly women.
But the US agents in the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process and in Akbayan and Aquino himself supplied information on the NDFP proposal to the US embassy and Washington. They proceeded to cook up the anti-China scare campaign in order to undercut the proposal and serve US imperialist interests. It would be absurd for BAYAN, Bayan Muna and MAKABAYAN to join the rabidly pro-Aquino Akbayan or even compete with it in the anti-China scare campaign that draws away attention from US imperialism as well as justifies US military intervention and aggression in the Philippines and the whole of East Asia and the Asia-Pacific.
The people should know that the agents of US imperialism in the Aquino regime have used various malicious and cruel tactics to block the road to a just peace. The tactics include the abduction, torture and extrajudicial killing of NDFP consultants in violation of JASIG and the continued imprisonment of hundreds of political prisoners in violation of CARHRIHL.
RR 5: How would you describe the contradictions between the US and China? On one hand, the US is wary of the rise of China as a military power and has sought to encircle China, yet on the other hand, the US economy is closely linked to China’s. and China is said to be the biggest creditor of the US.
JMS:There is unity and struggle between two capitalist powers in the relationship between the US and China. The US is not yet really worried about China having the military strength that can be projected outside its borders. It is more worried about China’s military strength being able to defend China, fend off US imperialist dictates and threats and combat separatist forces in Taiwan, Tibet and Xinjiang.
The US strategy of encirclement is calculated to keep China as a friendly partner in the exploitation of the Chinese and other peoples. The US and China have already more than three decades of being close partners in promoting and benefiting from the neoliberal policy of globalization. The super-exploitation of the Chinese working people, China’s trade surpluses and huge indebtedness of the US to China are matters well within the negotiable relations of two capitalist powers, which would rather go on taking advantage of the working people rather than go to war against each other.
The efforts of China to find its own sources of energy and raw materials and markets and fields of investment can be at times irritating or even infuriating to the US (when the conflicts of interest occur as in Iran, Sudan, Libya and Syria). But the capitalist powers can settle their relations with each other at the expense of the working people and underdeveloped countries, until the crisis of the world capitalist system further worsens to the point that a number of capitalist powers accelerate their aggressiveness and even become fascist in their home grounds.