This year, the Philippines' conduct on the South China Sea issue has been bewildering: At first, it pretended to be a victim of China's "threat of force", complained that China was preventing it from supplying the warship beached on the Ren'ai Reef, and accused China of refusing to accept arbitration on the issue. Then before the quest for sympathy had even had a chance to run its course, the Philippines suddenly adopted a hard line. On May 6, 2014, armed personnel from the Philippines detained a Chinese fishing boat around the Half Moon Shoal in the Nansha Islands, and on the same day a senior military official of the Philippines announced a so-called "Defense Plan of the South China Sea" through Japanese media channels.
The Philippines tough stance was not taken on a whim: their confidence to challenge China on the South China Sea issue stems from the belief that they have the protection and support of the US.
It is true that the US has signed an "Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement" with the Philippines. And the two countries are carrying on a joint military exercises "shoulder to shoulder", based on scenarios such as "coping with possible invasion" - an obvious dig at China. Therefore, the Philippines indulges itself in the belief that on the South China Sea issue, the interests and stance of the US and the Philippines are as one, and the US will pick up the tab for the Philippines' actions.
In fact, the Philippines has been blinded by its reliance on the US. It fails to see that the US is trying to protect its interests in the South China Sea, which includes the overall stability of the area. The US has tried everything it can think of to constrain China, while avoiding direct conflict. The US needs the Philippines to be its ally, but at the same time it attaches great importance to establishing a new-type great power relationship with China. During Obama's visit to the Philippines, he confirmed in public that the US has no intention of confronting China or restraining its peaceful rise. The American side emphasized that defense cooperation between the US and the Philippines targets terrorism, piracy, smuggling, natural disasters and other areas. Obviously, those areas do not involve China. The US deliberately keeps its policy vague as it is unwilling to provoke China overtly; it would be impossible for the US to help the Philippines attack China on the South China Sea.
China takes an unwavering stand on protecting its territory and sovereignty, and has no fear of provocation from any country. On the incident of the detained Chinese fishing boat, the Chinese coast guard arrived promptly on the scene, and China resolved the issue through diplomatic channels, requiring the Philippine side to release the crew and the boat and give a reasonable explanation.
After the Huangyan Island incident, China implemented regular naval patrols around the island and put an end to Filippino harassment of Chinese boats in the area. Making the same mistake again will do no good to the Philippines.
As a responsible country, China has the confidence and willpower to face interference from outside forces. The Philippines would be well advised to think carefully before acting.
The article is edited and translated from《菲律宾“示强”自讨没趣》, source: People's Daily Overseas Edition, author: Su Xiaohui.