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BEYOND SIGHT: Why did China’s diplomacy miserably fail in the Philippines?

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By Monsi A. Serrano 

Six years under the tutelage of China’s puppet and the Philippines’ first psychotic President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, should have provided ample time for the Chinese Communist Party to win the hearts of the Filipino people. However, this never happened, and gladly, not even came close. Let me explain why.

Many misinterpreted Duterte’s flamboyant leadership style and ended up regretting their choice. They believed that with Duterte at the helm, our country would be steered to salvation rather than damnation. However, in the end, many felt not just the pinch but the punch of Duterte’s misgovernance. Of course, he simply laughed at those who embraced the fallacies of false cause, false analogy, false dilemma, and endless fallacies in their “assumptio non probata”.

Duterte is a master of deceit and, perhaps, a devil incarnate. He convinced everyone that he came from a poor family, but it’s rare for a political clan to remain impoverished after ruling for more than five decades. On that tactic alone, it’s a bad indicator. Nevertheless, a million trolls employed by the government propagated his narrative on social media, and for the undiscerning Filipinos, they believed it. Their belief is akin to a joke I heard before, “The Cockfighters and the Duck.”

The question is, how do you know when there’s a stupid man at a cockpit arena? The answer is when someone brings a duck. How do you know if someone is even more foolish? The answer: when someone bets on the duck. And how do you know if there’s a syndicate working in the cockpit? When the duck wins over the rooster.

When Duterte won, I said to myself, “This is the beginning of the end for the Philippines and the Filipino people.” And that is due to his incompetence, Chinese-centric foreign policy, and wanton disregard for human rights — a leadership style reminiscent of Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin.

As a journalist vocal about Duterte and his shenanigans, I didn’t escape his wrath and that of his trolls. I received threats, and the police frequently visited our house over the past six years since September 2016. They called my wife, asking me to refrain from criticizing the government, threatening to shoot our house. Lastly, my Facebook account was mass-reported (and frequently suspended), and I was asked to produce several IDs. I decided to write to Facebook, refusing to submit my passport after already providing three IDs to establish my identity and prove that my account is not fake.

All of these are what I had to endure during his time. Looking back, this style is very much like the situation in China—despotic. I remember being kicked out of the China Embassy Viber Media group not because I was belligerent, but because I couldn’t stand their style of using “media” within the group chat to answer on behalf of the embassy.

For us journalists, we clarified whether their collaborators in the Viber group who answered our questions were appointed by the embassy to speak on their behalf. There were heated discussions among us, and on the side, some media colleagues and I expressed our surprise with how these so-called journalists can prostitute their craft. When they sensed we were not going to stand down seeking clarifications on issues, especially on the West Philippine Sea, someone from the China Embassy group invited members in the group chat to have some drinks, but no one accepted the offer. One joked in our personal chat that perhaps those China defenders were Beijing scholars paid to defend China despite the palpable truth about how they treat us Filipinos.

China: The Taker and Bully

The unanimous decision of the arbitral tribunal in the South China Sea handed down in July 2016, favoring the Philippines, should have paved the way for a peaceful resolution of the conflict. However, China, despite being a signatory of UNCLOS, rejected the ruling, and Duterte is instrumental in the territorial expansion and building of military facilities inside the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone. So, the reclamation activities, and other activities, the unabated harassment of Philippine vessels in our own EEZ (and as of this writing), another incident of endangering the lives of our compatriots when Chinese coast guard and militia vessels attacked by ramming on the vessels and water cannoned them that caused serious engine damage to the vessels.

This tactic is not only undiplomatic but also idiotic, knowing that there’s no place in the realm of diplomacy for this kind of move. You’d see the semblance of how Duterte ruled the country in the six agonizing years for the Filipinos and the diplomats who expressed their concern in the way he viciously attacked his naysayers.

From whatever angle you look at it, diplomacy is not in the vocabulary of China, and that’s how they see it. This is also why many Filipinos are aloof with them, and if there’s existing Sinophobia, there’s no one to blame but China and Duterte. Duterte emboldened many Mainland Chinese to disrespect his very own Kababayan, and that is so enraging.

Remember the MRT passenger Chinese lady Jiale Zhang who threw a plastic cup of taho at the police in the Metro Rail Transit station? Mainland Chinese harassing Grab drivers when they were stopped from spitting inside the car or putting their feet on the headrest of the car from the backseat? Tell me why this kind of behavior from these Chinese is happening? Of course, who’d not forget Duterte’s favorite Mainland Chinese guy, Michael Yang?

In my humble opinion, if China wasn’t tricked by Duterte, they could have won the hearts of the Filipinos if they did some piggy banking in the community. This long-standing practice of the diplomats made them closer to the people in the country host.

The United States, Japan, the European countries, South Korea, Israel, Taiwan, to name a few, have successfully embarked on this strategy. But China’s diplomacy sucks. They lack practical intelligence, and the key to winning the hearts of the people is not by force but by being with them. It’s Sociology 101, like enculturation, acculturation, assimilation, and amalgamation. I hope one of their diplomats took up their sociology subject seriously so they can cascade down to their colleagues. Learn from the Italian Jesuit priest Matteo Ricci, who successfully brought Christianity to China by studying Chinese language and customs.

With this ongoing tag of war and hide and seek, bullying of China against the Philippines and Filipino people, there’s no way they can expect Filipinos to be cordial to them anymore. While we Filipinos are typically friendly and hospitable, we all had enough of your bullying. Yes, you may continue to embark on your “exchange program,” which I call the Stockholm syndrome class for the journalists, as I know, you’ve won to corrupt some of them. Their pro-Filipino view made a 180-degree turn. Whether it’s due to monosodium glutamate or Methamphetamine HCL, only you know.

For years, despite the standing and overwhelming decision of the Hague Tribunal’s South China Sea in favor of the Philippines, China remains adamant on the decision. Instead of allowing the rule of law to prevail, they take Duterte’s way of bullying, and trust me, you will never win the heart of the Filipino people!

But let me tell you something, people, “If you want honey, don’t kick the beehive.”

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