By Perry Diaz
Since the early 15th century, before Spain took possession of an archipelago in what is now the Philippines, China had claimed the entire island of Luzon as her territory. However, China’s presence in Luzon was limited to what is now the province of Pangasinan. But now — 592 years later — recent events are raising the specter of Chinese colonization of the Philippines for the second time in history.
In my article, “Who discovered the Philippines?” (April 13, 2007), I wrote: “Chinese traders — who were also involved in the Spice Trade — started coming to the Philippine archipelago in the 11th century. They went as far as Butuan and Sulu. However, most of their trade activities were in Luzon.
“In 1405, during the reign of the Ming Dynasty in China, Emperor Yung Lo [also Yong Le] claimed the island of Luzon and placed it under his empire. The Chinese called the island “Lusong” from the Chinese characters Lui Sung. The biggest settlement of Chinese was in Lingayen in Pangasinan. Lingayen also became the seat of the Chinese colonial government in Luzon. When Yung Lo died in 1424, the new Emperor Hongxi, Yung Lo’s son, lost interest in the colony and the colonial government was dissolved. However, the Chinese settlers in Lingayen — known as “sangleys” — remained and prospered. Our national hero Dr. Jose P. Rizal descended from the sangleys.”
It was during the reign of Yung Lo that Admiral Zheng He led several expeditions to many parts of the world. Hundreds of ships were built including large vessels called “treasure ships.” Yung Lo also built the Forbidden City; and went to war against his neighbors including Korea, Japan, and Vietnam. In 1424, he died after falling ill during a campaign in Mongolia.
Yung Lo’s son Hongxi inherited an empire that was almost bankrupt. He implemented drastic fiscal measures to stop inflation. His first edict was an order stopping Zheng’s expeditions. Zheng was then retired and his treasure ships were moved to Nanjing where they were left to rot. Hongxi’s reign lasted only a year. He died in May 1425. China then ceased to be a maritime power.
Fast-forward five centuries. In 1949, Mao Zedong and his communist People’s Liberation Army (PLA) came to power after defeating Chiang Kai Shek and his nationalist Kuomintang forces in a bloody civil war. Chiang and his forces fled to the island of Taiwan where he established a government-in-exile. Mao took control of mainland China and established the People’s Republic of China (PRC). He claimed Taiwan as part of China’s territory. But Chiang also claimed the mainland as part of the Republic of China (ROC) based in Taiwan.
Upon Mao’s death in 1976, Deng Xiaoping took power and instituted market-economy reforms, which is a combination of socialist and capitalist systems. For the next four decades China progressed into an economic power. Today, China’s economy is second only to the U.S.
When Xi Jinping came to power in 2012, he immediately pursued his “Chinese Dream,” which is the revival of imperial China that had maintained Chinese hegemony in Asia during the reign of the Ming Dynasty. “The great revival of the Chinese nation is the greatest Chinese Dream,” Xi said before taking office.
Two years later, China started building seven artificial islands on top of reefs and shoals in the Spratly archipelago. Upon completion, the Chinese built airfields that could accommodate large aircraft and deep harbors where Chinese warships could dock.
With the militarization of these islands, which are less than 200 miles away from the province of Palawan, Chinese forces are now at the doorsteps of the Philippines ready to strike when the time is ripe.
According to a reliable source in Manila, most of the Chinoys (short for Chinese-Filipinos) are patriotic and loyal to the Philippine flag. However, some of them are believed to be pro-China “sleepers” ready to act when called upon by their PLA handlers. Some of them are sons of rich taipans who sent them to China to study. Allegedly, some of them took PLA officer’s training. It is also alleged that units of the PLA have already infiltrated the country posing as foreign workers.
It is interesting to note that prior to the outbreak of World War II, thousands of Japanese nationals were working in the Philippines. Many of them were sleepers and once war broke out, they put on their military uniforms and joined the invading Japanese forces.
Meanwhile, the anti-communist forces in the Philippines have organized themselves as the “Save Our Soldier” Movement. Interestingly, the acronym for “Save Our Soldier” is SOS, which is the international code signal of extreme distress and an urgent appeal for help. The question is: Is the SOS Movement poised and ready to act if Duterte forms a pro-communist revolutionary government? One can only surmise that the probability increased due to recent confluence of events.
If these rumors are true and come to fruition, then China’s timetable for control of the First Island Chain could be achieved. In an article titled, “China to take Second Island Chain by 2020,” published in 2013 in the Want China Times, it said: “In 1982, Admiral Liu Huaqing, the former commander of the PLA Navy and the mastermind of China’s modern naval strategy, said that it would be necessary for China to control the First and Second Island Chains by 2010 and 2020. The PLA Navy must be ready to challenge US domination over the Western Pacific and the Indian Ocean in 2040. If China is able to dominate the Second Island Chain seven years from now, the East China Sea will become the backyard of the PLA Navy.”
If the South China Sea totally comes under Chinese control and the First Island Chain is broken with the occupation of the Philippines, China would then be in a position to challenge the U.S. for control of the Second Island Chain. If China prevails, it would bring China right into Uncle Sam’s doorsteps, Guam.
Possession of the Philippines would be a triple victory for China and, conversely, a triple whammy for the Philippines – politically, militarily, and economically. Indeed, the economic value that China would gain is immeasurably humongous. Rich in oil, gas, minerals, and marine resources, the Philippines would make China far less dependent on oil and gas from the Middle East and Africa.
However, the price that China may have to pay could be very stiff. Predictions for 2017 – Year of the Fire Rooster – don’t bode well for China. Although the Fire Rooster is the sign of dawn and awakening, it is said, “The union of the Fire elements with the Rooster’s Metal during 2017 will create great tensions, this will create an electric atmosphere that will intensify the actions of the leaders of several nations and in the economies that will generate even more deterioration in the political climate. Further migration is thought to be caused by strong wars and climate change. It is predicted that some governments will take a tough line of mandate, there will be a lot of authoritarianism and there will be many threats of various kinds that could be the cause of more clashes between nations.”
Now that we have a glimpse of what the Year of the Fire Rooster would bring, perhaps China should take heed and get the hell out of the Philippines. Xi should concentrate in fixing China’s economic problems and clear the toxic air that is killing the Chinese people. Xi must remember that in this day and age, colonialism is a thing of the past. Meanwhile, Duterte should lead the Filipino people within the legal framework of the Constitution. He must remember: What goes around comes around.