I ARGUED in last Monday’s column that President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. must rescind posthaste the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) the unthinking Aquino 3rd government entered into in 2014 with the US. It gives us no benefits at all, it risks us being pulled into a US-Sino war.
The EDCA allows the US to use five Philippine camps for military deployment. Thus, it automatically puts us in the cross-hairs of a Chinese attack, if war breaks out between the two superpowers, which will likely happen if the Asian superpower invades Taiwan.
The biggest development that could prod the People’s Republic of China to finally forcibly incorporate what it has declared to the world since its founding in 1949 as its rogue province which only 14 tiny countries plus the Vatican recognizes as an independent state is Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which all countries in the world recognize as a sovereign nation.
The US, Europe and most countries in the world (except for less than a dozen governments, notably Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) have condemned the invasion, with the rich Western countries providing huge financial and military contributions to Ukraine. However, they cannot directly confront Russia militarily — obviously because this could trigger a nuclear World War 3.
It is a harsh lesson for the world: at the end of the day the Great Powers will do as they wish, as the US itself demonstrated by invading Iraq in 2003, and wreaking havoc on the Middle East, on the basis of the fake news that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine this year and Crimea earlier in 2014 have demonstrated to the world that a big power bullying a small US client country wouldn’t necessarily trigger a world nuclear war. More importantly, these have demonstrated that the US — because of its inherent weakness called democracy — won’t come to the succor of “bullied” countries.
A few US analysts though have given the Ukraine invasion’s impact on Chinese views a different spin by claiming that the Russian invasion has lasted for seven months now, dragging its economy down, probably to an abyss it won’t be able to get out of. China therefore won’t dare follow Russia’s example by invading Taiwan.
But that is a matter of tactics, not goal. “I think the Chinese leadership is looking very carefully at all this — at the costs and consequences of any effort to use force to gain control over Taiwan,” Central Intelligence Agency Director William Burns said in an Aspen Security Forum discussion in late July. “I don’t for a minute think that this has eroded Xi’s determination over time to gain control over Taiwan,” said Burns. “But I think it’s something that’s affecting their calculation about how and when they go about doing that.”
One US analyst explained how the Ukraine war may have taught the Chinese leadership valuable lessons for its invasion of Taiwan. “There are other lessons Chinese leader Xi Jinping might take from Putin’s war that make invasion no less or perhaps even more likely. First, he may learn that he must go all in for a ‘blitzkrieg’ if he invades. That is presumably what Putin intended, and he presumably assumed that after just a few days he would have conquered Kyiv and could install a puppet government there. Resistance would collapse quickly and Zelenskyy would be in exile or dead, that line of thinking went. So, the lesson for Xi could be that he must completely overwhelm Taiwan and take Taipei very fast, using whatever vast number of troops, ships, and planes is required.”
The world would then be presented with a fait accompli of an actual “One China” which after all has a strong justification, that China is merely exercising its sovereignty by invading a rogue province very few nations recognize as a sovereign state. Why go into a nuclear world war that would destroy the planet for the sake of a “rogue province,” most of the world’s leaders would conclude.
Moreover, Europe has been financially supporting Ukraine and participating in the US-led economic sanctions against Russia. This likely won’t be the case if China invades Taiwan.
Philippe le Corre, a French scholar of China and a senior fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School, wrote in a French newspaper: “With Asia, the remoteness — reinforced by the absence of human contact and international travel for two years — does not favor a possible European involvement in a conflict in Taiwan or in the China Sea.” That would mean nearly half of the Western world ignoring China’s takeover of Taiwan. After all, in the bigger scheme of things, Taiwan with its 24 million population (Ukraine’s is 44 million) is expendable compared to China with 1.4 billion people, and with the second largest economy in the world (Taiwan is the 18th largest).
There was a smaller demonstration of US hesitancy in aiding their allies in 2012. China engaged with the Philippines in a standoff at Scarborough Shoal in 2012. President Aquino 3rd, his defense and foreign affairs secretary trooped to Washington, D.C. to beg US President Obama to help the Philippines, even by just sending its smallest warship to the area as a message that America will comply with its Mutual Defense Treaty with the Philippines.
Obama denied the request, and instead asked Aquino to agree to the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, which allows the US military to use five Philippine camps as their forward bases in case it has to fight a war in the region.
Instead of going to the Philippines’ succor, the US tricked our officials into ordering our ship to leave the shoal, on the fake news that the Chinese had agreed to leave it simultaneously. (Details in my book Debacle: The Aquino Regime’s Scarborough Fiasco and the South China Sea Arbitration, available at Popular Book Store rigobertotiglao.com/shop and amazon.com.)
The biggest factor that could have prod China into invading Taiwan is the military dimension. Parallel with the tremendous growth of China’s economy has been the build-up of its military capability, at the same frenzied rate. The “world’s factory” hasn’t just been making cheap products for the household.
As American academics Hal Brand and Michael Beckley, authors of a soon-to-be-released book Danger Zone: The Coming Conflict with China pointed out in a recent Wall Street Journal article, “For the past decade, China’s factories have churned out ammunition and put warships to sea faster than any country since World War 2. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) regularly practices missile strikes on mock-ups of Taiwanese ports and US aircraft carriers, and PLA vessels and aircraft menace Taiwan’s territorial waters and airspace several times a week.”
My sense is that sooner or later, there could be two scenarios.
China invades and occupies Taiwan in a matter of days in a shock and awe manner rivaling the US invasion of Iraq. It sets up a puppet legislature that calls for an election to set up representative government in a year’s time. Beijing undertakes the social engineering and propaganda work it has largely used successfully in Hong Kong. Chinese nationalism — and the youth’s consumerism — are whipped up for the Taiwanese to embrace Beijing’s rule.
This would be much better than a scenario similar to what happened in Ukraine. A drawn-out war between Beijing and Taiwan, backed up by the US but involving conventional weapons. We would be a constant target in that scenario. Forget the promising growth areas of Angeles City, Cebu and Cagayan de Oro where the US will be using Philippine camps.
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