China’s ‘gunboat diplomacy’

By Perry Diaz

Photo of Chinese guided missile frigate 560 that was reportedly grounded near Half Moon Shoal (Hasa-Hasa Shoal) 69 miles west of Palawan (SOURCE: NAMRIA MAP/CHINA-DEFENSE. BLOGSPOT.COM)

“China frigate leaves shoal: Palace happy,” said a huge electronic billboard, which I saw on the way to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport to catch a plane home last July 16, 2012. The news of a grounded guided missile Chinese frigate near Half Moon Shoal (Hasa-Hasa Shoal) in the Spratly archipelago, 69 miles west of Palawan, raised the tension level between the Philippines and China ever since the latter declared the entire West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) an extension of her territorial continental shelf in 2010.  And China made it crystal clear that this vast body of water — rich in oil and natural gas deposits — is a “core national interest,” which in diplomatic parlance means “non-negotiable.”

China’s military buildup  

And to make sure that everybody — including the United States — knows that she is serious about her stand on the issue, China is building a naval force that would make her the dominant sea power in Asia-Pacific by 2020.  And to let everybody know that she means business, she acquired an old aircraft carrier from Russia and retrofitted it with state-of-the-art technology and is now undergoing sea trials.

China is also building two humongous aircraft carriers, which would give her the ability to “defend” her territorial waters from anyone including the United States who recently announced that she would shift 60% of her naval forces to Asia-Pacific by 2020.

With 11 existing aircraft carriers and a new one — the super aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford — projected to be completed within a few years and operational by 2020, that means that the U.S. could deploy seven carrier battle groups to cover the entire Asia-Pacific region including the geostrategic Indian Ocean.

“String of Pearls”

In theory, if armed hostility broke out between the United States and China, the former could block all the choke points along the “String of Pearls” sea lines of communication that extends from Hong Kong by way of the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea), through the strategic Strait of Malacca across the Indian Ocean, and through the Strait of Hormuz to Iran in the Persian Gulf; and to the Red Sea to Port Sudan where China imports 15% of her oil from West Africa.  And with long-term contracts to develop Iran’s oil fields, China’s dependence on oil from that region makes it imperative that she defends the “String of Pearls” at all costs.

To do so, China needs to develop economic-military relationships with Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Burma, Maldives, and Kenya.  It is not then surprising that U.S. has been trying to partner with India – Pakistan’s nemesis — to counter China’s growing influence in the Indian Ocean.

“Gunboat diplomacy”

Cognizant of her weak position vis-à-vis the United States’ superior military power, China has to take full control of the West Philippine Sea and jump-start a pre-emptive military initiative through the use of “gunboat diplomacy” to force the South East Asian nations into submission.  The recent failure of the 45th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting to issue a joint communiqué is the result of China’s influence over some of the 10 member-nations.

As Mao Zedong was fond of saying, “Power comes from the barrel of a gun,” the current imbroglio in the West Philippine Sea is a testament to Mao’s strong influence on China’s new generation of leaders who embraced the capitalist-socialist economic system of the visionary Deng Xiaoping.  However, with all the economic progress China made during the post-Mao era, China’s new generation of leaders remain steadfast in employing Mao’s “barrel of a gun” strategy. And make no mistake; they are dedicated communist in every meaning of the word.  So, don’t expect them to deal with “democratic” countries within the framework of the norms and conventions established by the United Nations, which, ironically, China belongs to as one of only five member-countries who have veto power in the world organization’s powerful Security Council.

“Creeping invasion”

China’s intrusive and aggressive behavior during the past two decades attests to her determination to annex the entire West Philippine Sea and exercise total military and economic control over this mineral-rich region.

In 1994, two years after the Philippine Senate evicted American military bases from the country, China started her “creeping invasion” of Philippine territory in the disputed Spratly archipelago.  While the Philippine Navy was not patrolling the area around the Panganiban (Mischief) Reef, 130 miles away from Palawan, Chinese troops occupied the reef.  Other than lodging diplomatic protests against the incursion, the Philippine government couldn’t do much.  Today, the Panganiban Reef is fortified with permanent buildings and naval guns.   

Last June, after more than two months of standoff, Chinese gunboats effectively took de facto possession of the Panatag Shoal when they prevented a Philippine Coast Guard vessel and fishing boats from entering the lagoon inside the shoal.

Last July 4, the Philippines protested China’s move that virtually placed the entire West Philippine Sea including the Macclesfield Bank under the jurisdiction of a newly created city, Sansha, in Yongxing Island  (Woody Island) in the Paracels.  Macclesfield Bank is strategically located east of the Paracel Islands.  It is also claimed by the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam.  Evidently, China’s action seems to signal that she is increasingly solidifying her position on all the disputed islands in the West Philippine Sea.


But what is strange with the latest incident in Hasa-Hasa Shoal is that the Philippine government through Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario has decided not to file a diplomatic protest over the incursion, saying that the incident was probably the result of an accident.  But the question is: What is a Chinese warship — the missile-firing frigate Dongguan — doing in Philippine waters?  Isn’t that a sovereignty issue that should be addressed before China becomes more aggressive?  Or, did the Philippine government – knowing that it doesn’t have the capability to defend the country – decide that appeasing the Chinese “bully” is the country’s antidote against further incursion or  – Heaven forbid! – invasion?  Indeed, just the mere display of warships and gunboats inside Philippine territorial waters would be enough to coerce the Philippine government to acquiesce to China’s territorial claims.

And the ultimate question is: Isn’t it time for the Philippines to arm herself in anticipation of a potential armed conflict with China?  We have become too reliant and dependent on the U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty, which in my opinion is good only on paper.  Since the eviction of U.S. military bases from our sacred soil, do we expect Uncle Sam to come to our aid at our beck and call?  Unless, of course, we’d open our doors and welcome the U.S. military forces back.

But at the end of the day, if there is someone to defend our country, nobody could defend us better than ourselves.  If we can’t, history tells us that we would soon cease to exist as a nation.


13 Responses. Have your say.

  1. albertO says:

    I agree. Pinas must ask the USA to come back in full force, amend the constitution to let the Americans come in and settle in Subic Bay and Clark AFB permanently or become a unwilling province of China. I hope, Pinoys would choose to perish than become communist. Under communism Pinas will be a slave of China. China can exterminate Pinoys if it will suit her strategy like what she did with her own citizens. Killed million chinese with famine, disease and starvation. Which China can do with Pinoys. China consider Pinoys as sub humans. So, they have the right to kill 90 millions of them and leave 10 percent which are of course of chinese ancestry. Pinoys will be obliterated from their poverty stricken existence. So sad to think about.

  2. Roy says:

    Philippines situations is like a dog keep on barking at China with the tail down so low. China knows PH is powerless when it comes to arms conflict. The NPA are happy that communist government will come to their aids. NPA’s dream will come true what they are fighting for many years.

  3. Mac Flores, Jr. says:

    When military confrontation with China is inevitable, can we expect support from our Muslim, Communist and Filipino-Chinese brothers?

    The government should be clear on this issue of support.

    The incoming SONA should inspire the nation as one. The words should be strongly crafted in defending the country against foreign intruder while diplomatic words of persuasion should tirelessly seek peace.

    I hope by this time our military strategists consider the question – What if PHL will go to war alone?

    Regarding a well prepared WAR plan, I remember a historic Commanding general said something like this:

    “If the enemy attacks while I am asleep, the Master War Plan is in my drawer waiting for the generals to execute my orders”.

    Can we do that?

  4. It would be something if the US could again establish a military base in our country, but I would’nt hold my breath on that idea. I’m sure the US could find other suitable places to set up their bases and I doubt very much that Uncle Sam will again trust us after we stuck a huge knife on his back. Even though they gave us their assurances that they will be on our side should the Chinese decide to be more than adventurous in taking over our territories, again I would’nt hold my breath on that. Masyado kasi tayong mabunganga na wala namang ilalabas.

  5. jesse jose says:

    The Chinese are already in Pinas. They have already “invaded” the Philippines a long time ago. As we all know, they now owned the economy of the country. Most of the banks and big businesses in the Motherland are owned by the Chinese.

    And, how could we really defend this country from this so-called military “invasion” of China? Let’s face it: INUTIL ang Philippine military. Mga corrupt pa ang mga generals nila. So, how could we? Pobreng-pobre ang Pinas, mga pare ko. And on top of that, RETARDED pa ang presidente ng bayan. So, how could we defend ourselves? Wala na ngang makain ang mga taon doon sa atin, mang-gegera pa tayo? Diosme naman! Anong ipapakain sa mga sundalo natin in a long drawn-out fight? Anong ipapasweldo sa kanila, eh kinurakot na ng mga genersls ang pera ng mga sundalo?

    The solution to this predicament is to bring back the US military in the Philippines. Not only would it deter the feared military “invasion” of China, but it would also bring back “happy-happy” times for many of our women in Olongapo and Angeles cities. And the much-needed jobs, too, for many of the men.

    Believe me, I’ve seen it. When I was in the Navy, I was stationed in Subic, and I’ve seen many happy times there and happy faces on many of our kababayans, especially the womem. The Kanos loved our women and the women loved them back. And many of our women were able to get their Kanos to marry them and bring them here to America. And, as we all know, it’s every Pinoy’s and Pinay’s dream to come to America!

    So, let’s ask America’s military to come on back to PI … and on our knees, too! It’s either the Kanos or the Behos. Take your pick. My pick would be the Kanutos.

  6. Mac Flores, Jr. says:

    If not yet thought of or done yet, PNoy should appoint a special THINK TANK body who will oversee and monitor the issue on Spratly and China’s incursion to PHL territory.

    The special body’s role is to map out recommendations and execution of actions based on short and long term plans.
    The KEY areas could be:

    • DIPLOMACY – Continue using the proper forum in AIRING and soonest FILING of PHL case against China’s squatting, intrusion, illegal fishing and bullying. Network with friendly ASEAN and other countries for support.

    • ECONOMICS – Initiate a movement to cut importation from China and boycott ‘MADE IN CHINA’ products, including restrictions on outflow of foreign currency to China, and trade restriction, etc. Any backdoor trade negotiations must be known by the public and postponed temporarily.

    • MILITARY – PHL soldiers are good in coup de ’tat. Use that strategy against the REAL enemy this time with or without uniforms. The least manpower to do the harm, the better.

    • TOURISM – Start restricting PHL visits to CHINA, likewise restrict/control the inflow of Chinese tourists to the PHL.

    • OVERSEAS LABOR – Start cutting oversees PHL labor to CHINA

    • AMEND THE CONSTITUTION – Let’s leave this to the politicians, lawmakers and the military establishment when it comes to national security issue.

    My suggestion is kind of a joke only. Just don’t let the PHL’s pants down when confrontation actually happen.

    Time is gold and should be in PHL side– JOKE OR NO JOKE at all before it is too late to act.

  7. Badajosnon Macabaian says:

    tamaan sana ng kidlat ang mga ganid na comchi na yan. mga traidor at sinungaling.

  8. perry says:

    Dear Mr. Perry Diaz,

    Please stop reporting updates about China invasion, Wala naman ma gawa ang INUTIL na GOBIERNO NATIN, suma sakit lang ang damdamin ng mamayang Pilipino, and never ever expect any help from UNCLE ASSHOLE SAM, we have no funds to pay their WAR MACHINES. To let you know, Chinese JAMES BONDS is all over our country now, with their own Chinese aliases made in the Philippines, and front as Businessman and women, Still the Government has nothing to do about it.Gumagamit lang sila ng Filipino dummy para sa ownership ng business nila, STILL THE GOVERNMENT NEVER DONE ANYTHING.

    Mr. Diaz, Please tell the WHOLE WORLD about this.

    Thank you.

    (Sent by email)

  9. perry says:

    Dear Perry,

    Not for long, an invasion fleet from China will soon to arrive this year.
    We cannot depend our country.

    (Sent by email)

  10. perry says:

    Hi Johann,

    I share your frustrations. That’s the reason why I’m spending a lot of my time to elevate our people’s awareness of the Red Menace through my writings.


  11. jesse jose says:

    Hey Perry,

    Hala bira, ika nga, gayem. You’re doing one heck of a job, that’s for sure.

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