It may seem like a blast from the past, but I always see this graffiti on my way to work: Smash US Imperialism! While it may have been a sentiment which was widely-circulated in the Philippines and other countries in the late 1960s up to the Reagan years, with the rise of China in the recent years, this political statement needs to be re-evaluated.
By installing political and economic allies and its fixation to support dictators and repressive regimes, the United States did earn much of the ire of the people in the developing countries during the Cold War. From its involvement in Vietnam, to its support of the Khmer Rouge, and the assistance it extended to the abusive and lethal military establishments in Latin America, the US made Soviet Russia and communism appear as the sanctuary of the victims of capitalism and American democracy. And it is that image of the US which has largely been lodged into the mindset of generations in countries like mine where the US once played god and toyed with us little brown brothers.
But times have changed. Although the decades after the Cold War has not reduced the United States’ intrusion in affairs in regions and countries far beyond its shores, the manner by which these incursions and machinations are done are now closely watched by the global community and exposed by the populations in the places where these actions are made. With the proliferation of documentation devices and access to the internet, suspicious actions, bungled air strikes, and even military operations in countries the US is not supposed to be at war with, have been exposed for the world to see. Placing the United States government and its armed services under the scrutiny of the world, the American people, and the US Congress.
The United States has been the hardest hit by the global economic recession and its economy, as well as its military, is forced to accept financial realities which have limited their capability to effectively enforce military outcomes in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan. While the Obama administration’s decision to pull US troops out of Iraq is admirable and the recent seeming shift to peaceful political solutions with the Taliban in Afghanistan, laudable, these two decisions might also be the result of economic realities that the US political and military establishments have to adjust to.
US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is warmly welcomed to Beijing by the Chief of the General’s Staff Ma Xiao Tian as he arrives at Beijing International Airport in Beijing to start his four-day visit to China on January 9, 2011. Gates’s visit is aimed at improving uneasy military ties between Beijing and Washington, suspended a year ago over US arms sales to Taiwan. (Via)
And then there is China. With its fast growing economy and the increase in military spending, the People’s Republic of China has been putting on weight and stretching its muscles from Southeast Asia to Africa. If before the Chinese have traveled on their own to other parts of the globe on their own personal and commercial interests, now their government moves around to ensure its strategic, economic, as well as political influence. In countries like Morocco, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, North Korea, Burma, and even the Philippines, official representatives and workers from state-owned and funded Chinese corporation have been busy setting up shop and industries on raw materials such as oil, iron ore, aluminum, and other minerals.
In recent years, China has been slowly showing its interest to be a major player first in the affairs of its neighbors, and later in regions such as Africa, Latin America, and even the Middle East. The proliferation of Chinese state-funded and controlled corporations and foreign aid in these countries have been viewed under two lenses by the US and the other major players in in the international community. In one view, the Chinese involvement and presence in these countries have been viewed as necessary; while another view presents it as a move by the People’s Republic to be in places where the US or the EU have not planted their flags.
The problem with Chinese aid is that, unlike those of international aid organizations and other donor countries, it stipulates conditions which require receiving countries to host selected Chinese firms for the development projects. An ugly manifestation of this “tied” aid package manifested itself in ZTE Broadband and North Rail scandals in the Philippines. This concern over China has generated an interest in the halls of power in Europe and the US, while China’s neighbors are closely watching what the recently awakened sleeping giant plans to do in the years to come.
Over the past few months, the Aquino administration has been showing signs of establishing closer ties with the People’s Republic. A couple of months ago, the Philippine government inked an agreement with China which would allow the Armed Forces of the Philippines to purchase military hardware from its good neighbor. And than just a month ago, the Philippines did not send a representative to the Nobel Peace Prize awards ceremony where Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo was an awardee, saying that it was not necessary. Human rights groups in the country condemned the government’s action as kowtowing to Beijing.
As China struggles to position itself as a counter-hegemony to the slowly dwindling power of the US, some sectors in Washington and the Pentagon are wrestling with the possible scenarios that the US might face in the next ten to fifteen years. While China at present may not have the military capability which will rival if not surpass that of the US, the sheer size of the People’s Army and the production capability of the Chinese industrial complex is often viewed as a potential by itself which would give the People’s Republic the power it needs to project among its neighbors and rival countries abroad.
When the time comes that China would out pace the US in international affairs, security, and trade, which I think would not be so far in the future if the US economy does not regain its momentum, I wonder what the world be with China at the helm. Would China be like the US’s old arch rival, the now defunct USSR – strong on the outside, but bleeding on the inside? As a world player, would China also engage itself in installing, funding, and supporting dictators and corrupt regimes? Would China be a better world leader than the US? Much remains to be seen.
Well, if China follows the same path as that pursued by the US during the Cold War, then maybe I will see a different graffiti on the walls in my country. Maybe it will be:
Smash Chinese Imperialism!