Global Times - 01.08.2019

(Jacob Rumans) #1
Thursday August 1, 2019 15

ASIANREVIEW


China leaves its mark in Philippines


US obsession with containment driving China and Russia closer


Page Editor:
liaixin@globaltimes.com.cn

By Dmitri Trenin


July 2019 marks an important
milestone in the Russia-China
strategic relationship. For the
fi rst time, Russian and Chi-
nese bombers have carried out
joint air patrols over the East
China Sea and the Sea of Ja-
pan. The Diplomat quoted a
Russian government decree as
saying that “the two countries
are currently negotiating a new
military cooperation agree-
ment.” The news stories have
resulted in speculation that in
the emerging new global bipo-
lar order between the US and
China, Moscow was casting its
lot with Beijing. The reality is
much more nuanced, but it is
clear that the China-Russian
entente has now reached the
quality of strategic cooperation
partnership in the Western Pa-
cifi c aimed at countering and
deterring the US.
Russian-Chinese military co-
operation did not start recently.
Soon after the normalization of
relations between Moscow and
Beijing 30 years ago, Russia
started selling arms to China.
In the last fi ve years, Moscow
has sold Beijing advanced


weapons like the S-400 air
defense system and the Su-
fi ghter aircraft. Almost 15 years
ago, the two countries’ armed
forces began holding joint mili-
tary exercises, initially to train
troops to fi ght terrorists.
At fi rst, such exercises were
staged in Russia, China, and
Central Asian members of the
Shanghai Cooperation Orga-
nization, but later their scope
was expanded by adding a na-
val component. The Russian
navy and the navy of Chinese
People’s Liberation Army (PLA)
held drills in the Yellow Sea and
South China Sea, as well as in
the Black Sea and the Mediter-
ranean. 2018 marked another
“fi rst,” with a Chinese brigade-
sized force taking part in Rus-
sia’s Vostok military exercise in
Siberia and the Far East.
In the near future, this inter-
action is set to become closer.
The just released white paper
on China’s national defense in
the new era has made many
more references to Russia than
its 2015 predecessor, all of them
positive.
Missile defense and air-
space defense could become
new areas for joint computer

exercises. Russia’s next strate-
gic exercise, The Tsentr-
exercise, which will be held
between the Arctic archipela-
gos of Novaya Zemlya and New
Siberian Islands, might again
include Chinese forces. Mili-
tary talks would become more
frequent, with the parties con-
sulting closely not only about
increasing interoperability of
their armed forces, but also
about possible contingencies
in places like the Korean Pen-
insula. Judging by the genuine
mutual warmth displayed by
Chinese President Xi Jinping
and Russian President Vladi-
mir Putin at their recent get-
together in St. Petersburg in
June, the Russia-China entente
is growing ever stronger.
The world is not returning
to the 1950s era of bloc con-
frontation. Serious as it is, the
China-US rivalry does not ap-
proach the intensity and an-
tagonism of the US-Soviet Cold
War. The US has no reason to
fear China the way Americans,
in the Joseph McCarthy era,
feared Communism and the
Soviet Union. China’s chal-
lenge is of a diff erent quality
and caliber. Close as they are,

China and Russia are not look-
ing to merge into a monolithic
bloc under a single leadership
and a joint military command.
Even a formal military alliance
is not on the cards. Yet, major
power rivalry, in which the US,
China and Russia are directly
involved, is intensifying.
In this context, East Asia and
the Western Pacifi c are becom-
ing the world’s top area of stra-
tegic competition, way ahead
of Europe and the Middle East.
US military deployments in the
area, which have been on the
rise for some time, are being
met with more coordination be-
tween China and Russia.
The China-Russian military
cooperation with its underly-
ing strategic calculus is clearly
aimed at countering US moves
and capabilities in the region.
As far as Russia is concerned,
US allies such as Japan and
South Korea may be implicated,
but only to the extent that they
play host to US forces and co-
operate with Washington’s poli-
cies. Moscow continues to be
keenly interested in improving
relations with Tokyo, being of
course aware of the limitations
because of the US-Japan Secu-

rity Treaty. Russia also contin-
ues to take a neutral stance in
maritime disputes in the West-
ern Pacifi c.
Moreover, it seeks to expand
relations with Southeast Asia.
From Russia’s standpoint, sta-
bility on the Asian continent
can be assured if Beijing, Delhi
and Moscow fi nd a way to coop-
erate more closely.
US dual containment of
Russia and China is produc-
ing a predictable result: the
China-Russian strategic coop-
eration. Weaning Moscow off
its alignment with Beijing – is
no longer an option: Russia is
not interested. As they continue
to compete, the major powers
owe one huge responsibility to
themselves and the rest of the
world: They must make sure
that their power games, heated
and nerve-wrecking as they
might become, do not lead to a
real collision.

The author is director of the
Carnegie Moscow Center.
opinion@globaltimes.com.cn

I


ntramuros is the historic center and
oldest district of Manila, the capital
of the Philippines. Fort Santiago,
an iconic building located in Intramu-
ros, was built between 1589 and 1592.
History has left four deep imprints on
the fort, symbolizing the four most
important periods in the history of the
Philippine archipelago.
The fi rst imprint was left by Spanish
colonists. They began their colonial rule
from here. The second imprint was left
by José Rizal, national hero and found-
ing father of the Philippines, who was
imprisoned at Fort Santiago for leading
a rebellion against Spanish colonists.
His lifework is exhibited at the Rizal
Shrine, a museum inside the fort.
Fort Santiago is also a witness to the
massacre of Japanese invaders during
World War II. Thousands of Filipinos
detained there were slaughtered by
Japanese troops in 1945. The atrocity is
a part of the Manila massacre, during
which approximately 100,000 civilians
were indiscriminately killed,
according to incomplete
statistics.
Americans left Fort San-
tiago with a fourth imprint.
When US soldiers took
over Manila from Japanese
aggressors, they found over
400 bodies of Filipinos in
the castle. The Battle of
Manila is a turning point
in the Pacifi c War. Till now,
when Americans talk about
the period, they quote what
MacArthur said after he


landed in the Philippines: “People of
the Philippines, I have returned!”
While standing on the ramparts of
the fortress and looking along the river,
I saw a bridge under construction not
far away. That’s the Binondo–Intramu-
ros bridge, a China-aided project. The
bridge is yet to be offi cially named.
But it is certain that China will leave
its imprint on this core area of Manila.
Two years later, when the new bridge
opens, traffi c between the old city and
main business districts will become
smoother.
Before the Spanish arrived in the
Philippines, many Chinese had crossed
the ocean and reached the archipelago.
A famous example is the fl eet of Zheng
He, a Chinese explorer from the Ming
Dynasty (1368-1644). But at that time,
the Chinese didn’t leave too many foot-
prints. After the WWII, there came the
Cold War, in which China’s connection
with most countries surrounding the
South China Sea was cut off. As allies

of the US, Southeast Asian countries
like the Philippines became part of US
strategy to lay siege to China.
The old days are gone. During the 40
years of China’s reform and opening-
up, China and ASEAN members have
been getting closer. One reason is that
China’s rapid development has had a
strong spillover eff ect. The other is that
Southeast Asian countries have entered
a new development cycle, which sees
the increase in the demand for regional
trade and economic exchanges as well
as less dependence on outside forces.
This has made it possible for some
heated regional issues to be resolved or
eased through negotiations. And this
is a key reason why China assists the
Philippines.
The Estrella-Pantaleon Bridge is
another project rebuilt by China Road
and Bridge Corporation. The
total amount of assistance
for the two bridges, dubbed
bridges of friendship, is 580
million yuan ($84.2 mil-
lion). Besides, the project of
China-aided drug rehab cen-
ter has started its operations
in April. All these projects
aim at improving living stan-
dards in the country. Project
director Virgilio C. Castillo,
from the Department of
Public Works and Highways,
said the two bridges are the

bridges of friendship.
China leads the world in bridge
construction technology. Although the
two bridges mentioned above are just
a cakewalk for Chinese companies,
they have adopted the most advanced
disassembly technique to quickly and
integrally move away the old bridge
structure.
Not far from the Binondo-Intramu-
ros Bridge there is an ancient building
under renovation – a prison dated back
to the Spanish colonial period destroyed
by Japanese bombings in the WWII.
The Chinese company is taking special
care of the building while construct-
ing the bridge. Technicians regularly
examine the old building to make sure
its outer walls are not aff ected by the
construction.
Combined, all these elements – the
prison built by Spanish colonists,
bombings of Japanese force, and
bridges of friendship constructed by
Chinese – will tell a story. The two
China-fi nanced bridges are not very out-
standing among the tens of thousands
of bridges in the Philippines, but they
will certainly leave an impression on
the country’s modern history of bridge
construction.
This is just where Chinese footprints
start.

The author is a senior editor with People’s
Daily, and a senior fellow with the
Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies
at Renmin University of China. dinggang@
globaltimes.com.cn. Follow him on Twitter
@dinggangchina

DING GANG


Illustration: Liu Rui/GT
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