The series of deliberate neglect and turning of a blind eye to China’s continuous incursions on our economy, territory and even military speak volumes on how our very own government positions itself among other countries under China’s patronage. We have surrendered so much to China’s destructive large-scale investments that masquerade as benign, friendly relations.
By MENCHANI TILENDO
It took a while before President Rodrigo Duterte imposed a temporary travel ban on travelers from China amid the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak. Netizens aired their criticisms to the inefficiency of the administration in the face a serious health crisis.
Duterte has been perceived to be subservient to China, especially when he downplayed the sinking of a Filipino fishing boat by a Chinese vessel as a simple “maritime accident.” Despite China’s non-stop hostilities in the West Philippine Sea, the government has pledged its allegiance in exchange for funding of pet infrastructure projects under the “Build. Build, Build” program. Independent research group Ibon reported that the government is seeking as much as US$14.3 billion in official development assistance (ODA) from China to finance 29 ‘Build, Build, Build’ infrastructure projects costing US$16.8 billion.
We have been caught in China’s debt-trap policy as Duterte has agreed with loan deals such as the Chico River Irrigation Pump and the Kaliwa Dam project, while contain onerous provisions beyond the scope of Philippine laws. This surrender of our national sovereignty, in effect, has displaced indigenous peoples from their ancestral lands.
The series of deliberate neglect and turning of a blind eye to China’s continuous incursions on our economy, territory and even military speak volumes on how our very own government positions itself under China’s patronage. We have surrendered so much to China’s destructive large-scale investments that masquerade as benign, friendly relations.
China as a growing global superpower
Although US has been the world’ s superpower for decades now, there have been discussions on whether China is slowly catching up not only in terms of its economic influence but also in political, military, and cultural spheres.
China is aggressively flexing its muscles by creating itself as a major economic partner for countries through its ambitious infrastructure projects under the One Belt,One Road policy. It has sharply created the “China pole” which creates an illusion of economic growth in the poorer parts of the world. According to the World Economic Outlook Database, China is the world’s top exporting and trading country, having exported $479.97 billion worth of goods into the US in 2018. It has demonstrated strategic threats to the US.
Instead of engaging in a trade war which US President Donald Trump has so proudly declared, the Chinese government knew so well that US protectionist measures have always imposed far greater consequences. Therefore, China’s mechanism has always been about ‘calculated negotiations,’ ‘cooperation’, and ‘talks’ — everything listed under Donald Trump’s last resort.
An imperialist country with “socialist pretensions”
Is China an imperialist country?
Vladimir Lenin’s “Imperialism, the highest stage of capitalism” (1916) noted five essential features of modern imperialism. First was the concentration of production and capital developed to such a high stage that it created monopolies, which play a decisive role in economic life. Second, the merging of bank capital with industrial capital, and the creation, on the basis of this “finance capital,” of a “financial oligarchy.” Third, the export of capital, which has become extremely important, as distinguished from the export of commodities. Fourth, the formation of international capitalist monopolies, which share the world among themselves. Lastly, the territorial division of the whole world among the greatest capitalist powers is completed.
Terms such as “finance capital”, “capitalist monopoly”, “bank and industrial capital”, “concentration of production”, may be too ambiguous, but at the bare minimum equip us with the significance of capital accumulation. This holds true to Lenin’s analysis that the most important feature of imperialism is monopoly capitalism. He argued that the rivalries and wars among capitalist powers were inherent given capitalism’s basic feature–the tendency for capital to become more centralized and concentrated.
It is now then important to understand the characteristics of China’s political economy under Xi Jin Ping’s paramount leadership. There seems to be a lasting dilemma on Xi’s “China Dream” that has been partly affected by the US-China trade war as it imposes pressures to China’s domestic economic policy mechanisms. On the other hand, the dilemma has something to do with how Xi Jin Ping gears to welcome the ascendance of private firms in their national economy.
China has heavily banked on the privatization of its social assets, joint-venture policies and real estate policies. Most well-known foreign companies such as McDonald’s , Starbucks, ride-sharing apps have been adopting joint venture structures in China. These companies benefit from this structure through their expansion in various Chinese partners. On the other hand, state corporations in China have been highly involved in cross-border constructions as geographic advantage for trade with other countries. Land policies in China were also converted into sham cooperatives, disintegrating agricultural communities and depriving the farmers of their livelihood. The reduced supply of rural lands in China means more bankable spaces for foreign investors and higher capital accumulation. Their military facilities have also expanded for the purpose of protecting foreign investments.
New player in a multi-polar world
China being at the peak of its capital accumulation and intensified military facilities makes it a new player in the inter-imperialist game. Even as it ponders in the view that it is a developing country, there always stands a question of national interest; on whether its existing ruling class is for the interest of the greater population or not. It has been trying so hard to protect the “socialist objective” by the emergence of state-controlled corporations, but in practice, this protection is not in the interest of the working class and the people. This system has ensured the control of monopoly capitalists and bureaucrat capitalists.
In conclusion, China imperialism poses threats against US as the existing world superpower. However, it will take a long time to earn the respect and cooperation of other developed nations when it comes to building soft powers through infrastructure projects. China’s development partnerships in many parts of the world would not suffice to close its gap between the United States — a country with an unrivaled military and economic capability for the past decades.