Friday, May 16, 2014

EDITORIAL | Fools Rush In

Only fools rush in.

And if there is a better example of this adage in real life, it’s the Vietnamese. These past few days, thousands of angry Vietnamese took to the streets of Binh Duong province—Vietnam’s industrial heartland—to protest China’s latest incursion in the South China Sea. [1] The China National Offshore Oil Corporation has recently installed an oil rig in the disputed waters of the Paracel Islands which is also being claimed by Vietnam. [2]

In these protests, the mobs targeted foreign factories and other business establishments reportedly owned by Chinese companies. Armed with torches and Molotov cocktails, these mobs set fire to any establishment which had Chinese characters in their names or logos. But as it turned out, the mobs also victimized unsuspecting Taiwanese, South Korean, Japanese, and even Singaporean businesses. Singapore also reported that their national flag was burned during the protest.

In the disputed waters of Paracel Islands, Vietnamese and Chinese ships continue their dangerous game of cat and mouse in an attempt by the latter to block the former’s attempt to drill and extract oil in the area. These events coincided with the recent arrest of 11 Chinese poachers in the disputed Hasa-Hasa Shoal close to Palawan Island in the Philippines [3] as well as the release of a Philippine Navy intelligence report of a possible military airstrip being built in Johnson South Reef, known in the Philippines as Mabini Reef. [4]

Observant Filipinos were quick to react to these events through social media, praising the Vietnamese for their sense of “nationalism”. Most netizens wondered when such actions will begin in the Philippines. Some wanted the Philippines to confront Chinese bullying by sending more ships and troops. A number of comments are just downright racist which reminded me of Nazi racial propaganda.

I pity these netizens for wanting to score a verbal hit against a country reported to have the largest military in the world. [5] It’s stupid how they could endorse war as a diplomatic tool without thinking of its expense and consequences. I loathe how they could equate nationalism with racism and racial purity. If only they are aware there is a fine line between these concepts.

We have become a society of cannon heads and war mongers. Just like our movie role models such as Fernando Poe Jr., Bong Revilla, and Lito Lapid, we would want to go into a fight against forces greater than us without so much preparation and forethought. Unfortunately, our conflict with China is not some movie wherein the underdog will win after a long and arduous battle. Let reality bite and remind us that we are indeed an underdog militarily and economically and that by picking a fight against this “enemy” would prove costly for our people and our resources.

Our country has been independent for more than a hundred years and has existed for an even longer time. Our ancestors have fought battles against conquistadors and imperialists both foreign and local. And while we are supposed to be a maturing democracy, bearing the marks of peaceful and effective use of diplomacy, our reaction to recent territorial disputes proves otherwise.

Nevertheless, we cannot let our false sense of nationalism bring out the worst in all of us. We should not allow our society to be dictated by our childishness and the foolishness of our neighbors. What we need are moderate voices to gauge and guide us. But most importantly, what we need to become is a moderate society that listens and considers the consequences of its decisions before it acts.

[1] - Nga Pham (14 May 2014). Vietnam anti-China protest: factories burnt. BBC News. Retrieved on 15 May 2014.
[2] - Kaiman, Jonathan (8 May 2014). China accuses Vietnam of ramming its ships in South China Sea. The Guardian. Retrieved on 15 May 2014.
[3] - Laude, Jaime (8 May, 2014). 11 Chinese poachers arrested. The Philippine Star. Retrieved on 15 May 2014.
[4] - Ramos, Marlon, and Quismundo, Tarra (15 May 2014). China building airstrip on reef in PH waters. The Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved on 15 May 2014. 
[5] - Hackett, James (ed.) (3 February 2010). The Military Balance 2010. International Institute for Strategic Studies; London: RoutledgeISBN 1857435575. 

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