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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

entry arrow7:07 PM | Ranting Against Chinese Bullshit

[This is a strange, rare rant about world politics, and I might erase this post soon because I'm no political scientist -- but this is what you get when you watch too much CNN during Holy Week.]

Lately, I’ve been thinking about that neighbor of ours up north. I can’t help it: China hogs world headlines these days, and even here in the Philippines, the current political scandal that has made the acronym NBN-ZTE a household term has a Chinese side.

And I have somehow come to a conclusion that may have been festering inside me for the longest time, but never bothered to concretely form: I don't like China, or at least its current geopolitical reality. It has all the makings of a new neighborhood bully -- and when they say this sleeping giant is slowly stirring, it can mean that there may come a day that whatever China wants, China gets. What's to stop it from doing anything? Like crossing over to Palawan while we sleep and claiming it as the new Chinese province of 新的天堂? Sure, we can fight back -- but our hapless military against the Chinese Red Army with its current budget of $59 billion will not be a war of equals. There are portents that point to such possibility, however remote and fantastical. Recent history has shown China's tendency for power-grabbing, brutality, stubbornness, and shameless capacity for spin even in the wake of massive international pressure and condemnation. Nobody blinked when China effectively demolished Taiwan's sovereignty in the 1970s. (Now it exists in a geopolitical netherworld, an independent nation, and once recognized as such, in a community of nation that denies that independence.) We all howled when Tiananmen Square was splattered with blood in 1989 -- but China knows the ultimate lesson of history (something that Imelda Marcos knows by heart): people will always forget. And so it clamped down hard on those 1989 students protesters; the world, of course, showed its disgust and called for "something" to be done (but nothing was done); China didn't budge; and tired from all our shouting, we moved on... It will do exactly the same thing to Tibet, even as the region blazes under the gun as the headlines of Tibetan unrest grip the world today. China knows that we may huff and puff, but we also have a short attention span. Think of it: almost twenty years after the massacre in Tiananmen, we all gaily hopscotch towards China's doors upon invitation to its grand coming-out party, the Olympics. U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is right when she said this week that the situation in Tibet is a challenge to the "conscience of the world." It is a challenge because our conscience is always fleeting. It disappears readily like yesterday's headlines. Pelosi also said: “If freedom-loving people throughout the world do not speak out against China’s oppression in China and Tibet, we have lost all moral authority to speak on behalf of human rights anywhere in the world.” This post is my own contribution to the outrage.

What actually amazes me about China's rise to power is that it has largely benefited from the greatest of today's ironies: free market capitalism has actually made rich a staunchly communist would-be rogue. It seems that all that China-crazy businessmen today just see is the profit to be had from this giant -- never mind its record of human rights abuses, never mind its shape-shifting snake of a government. It's all in the numbers, really: 1,321,851,888 people. That's more than a sizable market, 'nuff said. Which all saddens me because it illustrates one more thing about the world: it never operates in a fair scale, especially when there's money to be made. For example, the Philippines may be chaotic and messy, but at least this country has deeply-rooted (and functional) democratic pretensions. And so where does the capital go? To a communist country -- where there's no democracy, where the same messiness occurs (and more often, bloody ones, too) ... it just happens to have "better" market potential. Think about this as well: every time some economic crises come to threaten the region (such as the Great Asian Crash of the mid-1990s), the Philippines always seem to be largely insulated from the worst effects, faring even better than the so-called economic tigers Thailand, Indonesia, and South Korea. But we always get the worst economic reviews, and foreign investors always threaten to pullout at the slightest hint of domestic turmoil, like carnage in a small island down, down south. What gives? I certainly don't believe we are really the most corrupt nation in the region. There's corruption in all levels of our government and business structure, yes, but are our neighbors really that saintly? Or is it just because our vibrantly free press readily fesses up to the charge and does not hesitate to put corruption stories in as front page news? The not-so-free press of the rest of the region ... well, they certainly don't. (Can you imagine Chinese newspapers pulling off a Philippine Daily Inquirer-style headline of ''most corrupt nation in region"? I don't think that will ever happen.) In a sense, we get unfairly crucified because we have the one thing capitalism is supposed to demand for a society: a working democracy, warts and all.

Every time I see all these television shows (or read endless newspaper and magazine articles) about the golden times to be had in China today, something twitches inside of me and I cannot help but think: What about all those poor souls who, in the spirit of anti-capitalist purging, died in the name of communism in the dark days of the Revolution, during the disastrous Great Leap Forward, and during the murderous Cultural Revolution? All these grandiose Olympic preparations, all these swanky new boulevards and skyscrapers in Beijing and Shanghai, all these shiny new wealth... they all come from blood money. I don't begrudge any nation its path to success, but you can't have a bloody history of anti-capitalism and then change our mind all of a sudden just because. Which may be why I don't trust any communist country at all, or any insurgencies of red stripes: in the name of the people, they somehow always become breeding grounds for tyranny and oppression (name one communist country in history that is truly a "people's republic") -- and then, once firmly entrenched on top with most of the populace reduced to robots, they start raking the dollars in.

But this is neither here nor there.
The concern of the now is this: Free Tibet! You invade a free country out of the blue in 1951, the most moral thing you can do is get out of it. Free Tibet!

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