China’s Getting Closer

In April this year we saw aerial photos of the Chinese airstrip and port built on a sand island in the disputed Spratly Islands group. This group of islands, islets, sand banks and reefs off the Palawan coast has been the scene of considerable international skullduggery for many years. So how big a threat is China to the sovereignty and security of the Philippines? If you were to believe everything the western mainstream media has to say, this is the thin edge of the wedge; the start of the slippery slope to total Chinese domination of the world! I beg to differ.

Follow The Money

Let’s follow the money shall we? What is there in these desolate landforms to attract so much aggravation and carry on? First of all there is the potential 17 billion barrels of oil and gas, 3 billion barrels more than what Kuwait currently has and thus a major fossil fuel fund to be controlled. China is competing with the USA for energy and resources all over the world and this close to their own borders it is understandable they want to hold the whip hand. There is also a very lucrative fishery capability in the area. In recent years some 8% of the world’s total catch has come from the waters surrounding the Spratlys. And then there is the strategic value of controlling territory slap bang in the middle of one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. Keep in mind how important export of manufactured goods and import of raw materials is to the Chinese economy.

Who Wears The White Hat?

The reality is, with the exception of Tibet and the odd excursion into Vietnam, China has no history of invading other countries or using violence to influence geopolitical outcomes. Not so the main contender for the role of regional super power, the USA. China, apart from the economic benefits of controlling the Spratlys, sees them as part of its forward defence strategy. Rather than holding off potential enemies at your gates, it is far better to engage them hundreds, even thousands of kilometres out to sea. If we look at the map, their disputes with Japan, South Korea and Taiwan over islands and reefs north of Taiwan are just another episode in their establishing a line of defence out to sea. It makes sound military sense and, given the hegemony of the US to protect their failing dollar and economy, one can’t really hold it against them. Historically China has always been the super power of the region and a mere 200 year ‘blip’ caused by temporary western technological superiority is not something to worry about for a culture that can trace itself back thousands of years. Today China has all the technology it needs, thanks to us having them manufacture everything for us at low rates.

Rethink Your View On China

China is not about to invade the Philippines; they have no need. They can control events in the Pinas through owning the government. They were the major campaign donor of GMA’s push for power in 2004. They have enough on their plate, as does Russia, domestically and have no plans to waste resources, people and power fighting a war they don’t need to wage. So while geographically the Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam may seem to have a more valid claim on these islands, look to the bigger picture and rest assured China will win. When they do, little will change for the worst, if anything. Rather, a more relaxed China will take more of a role in the region than it already does. Something we round eyes, particularly those who grew up in the Cold War era, will just have to get used to in the 21st Century.

Perry Gamsby, D.Lit., MA(Writing), Dip. Bus, Dip. Mktg is a writer and lecturer who lives with his Cebuana wife and five Aus-Fil daughters in Western Sydney. The author of a series of best-selling ‘self-help’ books for expats and those married to Filipinas, he is also a Master of Filipino Martial Arts and a former World Stickfighting Champion who has lived, worked and vacationed in the Philippines since 1988. Perry and his family return to the Philippines on a yearly basis. You can read more of his writing on Philippines topics at


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