FROM odious blogger Jover Laurio and former Aquino 3rd spokesman Edwin Lacierda, to its stalwarts at the highest levels of government like Vice President Leni Robredo, Francis Pangilinan, and even Justice Antonio Carpio, the Yellows have been trying to rouse anti-Chinese xenophobia as their main propaganda thrust against President Duterte.
“The Chinese are invading our territory, they are taking over Filipino jobs, they are mining our sand to build their artificial islands, and they are uncouth people spitting on the white sand of Boracay. This is the fault of Duterte who has been befriending the Chinese.” As Laurio put it in a poster she hung over a pedestrian overpass, and Lacierda in his tweets, Duterte has made the country a “Province of China.”
This in gist has been the Yellows’ newest, most despicable black-propaganda line, since their allegations of extrajudicial killings because of Duterte’s war against illegal drugs have failed. Indeed, that campaign has been a huge feather in Duterte’s cap, with Social Weather Stations’ surveys showing nearly 80 percent of Filipinos supporting it.
Reviving anti-Chinese xenophobia would be the vilest propaganda tack ever to be undertaken by the Yellows. It is dangerous, and a very slippery slope for our country. Racism has been, and will be, a demon that has resulted and will result in bloody wars. That the Yellows are on to that tack only demonstrates their shameful lack of concern for the future of the country, just for the sake of toppling Duterte.
The Yellows know full well that they are fanning the embers of centuries-old anti-Chinese xenophobia in the country.
Even as they profited from Chinese cheap labor and fine craftsmanship, the Spaniards for four centuries put them in the earliest version of ghettos, called the Parian. Twice or thrice a century, when the colony’s economy fell into a crisis, the Spaniards would blame the Chinese, burn the Parian and mercilessly kill its residents who had failed to flee. To justify such pogroms, the Spaniards with the help of the Church demonized them as spreading disease and as godless heathens.
As much as they tightly embraced Catholicism, the indios imbibed Spanish anti-Chinese xenophobia. As historian Vicente Rafael has pointed out, even “mestizo nationalists, incorporating Spanish prejudices, were often virulently anti-Chinese themselves.”
There was a massive post-war migration into the Philippines of Chinese who were fleeing the famines in Southern China during its civil war and Mao’s disastrous 1950s Great Leap Forward. Their eventual success in the retail trade was used to revive anti-Chinese xenophobia, what with almost every town in the country having a Chinese-owned bakery or panciteria. In my generation certainly, was the anti-Chinese limerick “Intsik bejo tulo laway.”
The xenophobia was even propagated in our best cultural works. “Maynila: Sa Kuko ng Liwanag,” produced in 1975 by Lino Brocka, one of the best Filipino directors ever, was widely acclaimed locally and even internationally. It depicted vividly the poverty in our rural areas that drove its young people to Metro Manila, but to horrific tragedies.
Who was the most hateful villain there into whose chest the hero drove a dozen knife thrusts, with the audience cheering? An evil-looking brothel owner, Ah-Tek, the Chinese who made the hero’s boyhood love his kept woman. “Ah-Tek,” a near homonym to the slang for money, atik. The film was rereleased in 2013.
The Americans revived anti-Chinese xenophobia in the Cold War, depicting Mao Zedong and his “yellow hordes” out to conquer Asia. Even during the Marcos years when China supported the new Communist Party, newspaper cartoonists depicted the New People’s Army as chinky-eyed, wearing Mao jackets.
But as the historian Rafael also pointed out, Filipinos are “racial opportunists.” Our “racial feelings are loosely structured, unevenly policed and highly flexible. They run wide but shallow, capable of changing directions, largely dependent on social context.”
With our centuries-old brainwashing to look up to the mighty and the rich, our anti-Chinese racism nearly vanished when the iconic Chinese was no longer the panciteria owner but the mall owner, i.e., the likes of magnates Henry Sy and John Gokongwei. There has been hardly a whiff of anti-Chinese racism when for instance Lucio Tan bought Philippine National Bank and the Philippine Airlines. Sy in fact was accorded the old and very Filipino terms for respect, Tatang; and Tan, Kapitan.
As a result of Marcos’ executive decrees in 1978 liberalizing Chinese immigrants’ naturalization, succeeding generations of Chinese have been able to move into professions such as architecture, engineering and medicine, enhancing their prestige in social circles. The doctor you go to for consultation in a top-of-the line hospital, I was told, would likely have a Chinese name.
However, the Liberal Party and its wider circle the Yellow Cult have been stirring up xenophobia to get at Duterte for various reasons and factors, other than their calculation—a very wrong one—that the centuries-old embers of Filipinos’ anti-Chinese racism is so easy to stoke.
From the brink
This would serve to conceal what really has been the very understated achievement of Duterte: He pulled the country from the brink of certain economic ruin, which would have resulted from the Aquino 3rd regime’s move to make the Philippines an enemy of China, because of his anti-Chinese rantings over the South China Sea disputes, and more importantly his government’s filing of a suit invoking the Unclos.
If a Yellow regime had won in 2016, it would have worsened our relationship with China to the brink of a total cut-off of ties. China’s Communist Party leadership would have had to bow down to the calls of even ordinary Chinese to make the Philippines “pay” for its aggression against so-called Chinese territory.
The Scarborough Shoal incident in 2012 was depicted in China as the result of the Philippines sending a warship against unarmed Chinese fishermen. The Aquino government was in fact so stupid that it even released to media photos of Navy troopers boarding Chinees fishing vessels nearly pointing their Armalites at Chinese fishermen. Chinese authorities during that episode had to censor hundreds of thousands of social media postings criticizing the People’s Liberation Army Navy for not defending the Chinese fishermen by sinking the Philippine Coast Guard vessels.
The Chinese authorities in fact started to move during the Scarborough Shoal stand-off, when they impounded our exports of bananas on the excuse that it had to go through stricter inspections, and tourist firms (which are all owned by Chinese government corporations) suspended all operations to the Philippines. Could we have retaliated by impounding Chinese exports of commodities — which probably now represents 80 percent of products sold in our groceries??
We just have no product China cannot export elsewhere, and Asean — even the Vietnamese who lost over 100 navy men in fights with China in the South China Sea over territory — would be falling over each other asking the Chinese to give them instead the investments and government loans it had intended for the Philippines.
Whether we like it or not, the biggest economy of the world today, China, could very afford to boycott the 34th largest, the Philippines, just as the US did with Cuba in the 1950s. And in a reverse of the Cuban experience, which drove it to be totally dependent on the Soviet Union, we would be totally dependent on the US.
That, I suspect, was the US intention, so we would be its complete puppet, which it desperately needs as China is emerging as the economic and military power in Asia, and Asean countries are so smart not to be its lackeys.
The US started in 2011 its so-called “Pivot to Asia,” which was its euphemistic term for its redoubled efforts to contain China’s rise in the region and maintain its decades-long hegemony there. It was not a coincidence that tensions in the South China Sea broke out right after the US implemented its “Pivot to Asia.”
One of its propaganda aspects is for Asean countries, especially us, to see China as the Evil Empire in Asia, just as the US had successfully painted the Soviet Union as being so.
We have a dispute with China over who rightfully owns islands and rocks in the South China Sea. But we also have such disputes with Vietnam and Taiwan, who occupy most of the “prime real estate” in what we call our Kalayaan Group of islands.
But a report in the respected US media firm Bloomberg pointed out: “History shows that China has tended to avoid inflaming its territorial disputes; Communist Party leaders have settled 17 of China’s 23 disputes since 1949, sometimes receiving less than 50 percent of the land at issue.”
Our territorial dispute with China is far, far from being an issue to get angry about, much less a cause over which to incite our centuries old anti-Chinese racism. The Yellows are so shamefully trying to make it so.