Tuesday, April 30, 2019

When Xi Jinping Rules the World

Photo from The Economist
By Chester B Cabalza

Blogger's Notes:
Commentary of an Academic 
(Copyright @ 2019 by Chester B Cabalza. All Rights Reserved).

Tales of the expedition of Venetian merchant spy Marco Polo to the Far East, as he marveled at Kublai Khan’s summer palace in Shangdu, illustriously enthralled curiosity of Caucasians about the wonders of Chinese 4500 kilometer silk route, the oldest trading network of caravan tracks, connecting present day city of Xi’an in China and ancient Rome of the western world.   

It is not surprising though, when Italy, the first of the elite G7 developed countries signed 2.5 billion euros investment deals with a potential value of 20 billion with China on March 23, 2019. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte flamboyantly pulled out the red carpet for Chinese President Xi Jinping and fanfare serenade by Andrea Bocelli, describing Xi by paparazzi as “the Godfather of Rome” complete with greetings from guards on horseback fit for a postmodern Chinese emperor, the same privilege usually given to monarchs and popes.  

President Xi Jinping’s signature foreign policy embedded through his fresh state visits to European big cities in Rome and Paris simultaneously led to Italy’s participation (aside from Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Portugal’s Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa) to the second three-day multilateral meetings during the Belt Road Forum for International Cooperation last April 27, 2019 which began two years ago to rebuild ancient routes across Eurasia aimed at paving a way for a Silk Road-styled global trade network.

Starting from 29 heads of state in May 2017 that increased to a gathering of 37 world leaders across the globe this year, a joint communiqué inscribes its importance to, “[The ancient Silk Road contributed to the] strengthening of the connectivity and the expansion of the world economy in the spirit of promoting peace and cooperation, openness, inclusiveness, equality, mutual learning and mutual benefit.”

The complete attendance of Southeast Asian leaders except for reelected Indonesian president Joko Widodo; the big support of Central Asia minus Turkmenistan; five African leaders from Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Mozambique were present in Beijing, in spite of Zimbabwe’s plan to adopt the Chinese yuan as legal tender in return for debt cancellation worth about $40 million. While Chile represented alone South America as these small-state attendees came out as Chinese vassal states to hail new global power with a powerful emperor clothed with military achievements, financial contributions and historical feats to the world.

Since the invention of the world’s first magnetic compass as early as the Han dynasty (placing China ahead as a superior culture) but was succinctly used during the Song dynasty by Chinese navy for navigational orienteering, it was emperor Ming Chengzu of the Ming dynasty who ordered his favorite eunuch Admiral Zheng He (Asia’s greatest explorer) to launch major voyages or exploration with a fleet consisting of 317 ships with almost 28,000 mariners, bigger than the Spanish armada and galleons, from South Pacific to the Indian Oceans as far as Arabia and the coast of Africa.

The Han and Tang dynasties impacted the territorial vision of Xi Jingping while the Song and Ming dynasties would have compressed the maritime prophecy of China’s strongest and current president since Mao Zedong to achieve a formidable continental nation, crossing the path to a superpower status. Mirroring Han emperors Qin Shi Huang, known for ending the long-running wars as he unified China under a centralized authority for the first time launching the start of more than two-millennium of imperial rule.

While Tang Taizong of Tang dynasty made China the largest and the strongest nation in the world. Song emperors like Sui Wendi began the construction of the first Grand Canal and Song Taizu reunified again warring China by strengthening the central administration and simultaneously weakening local warlords’ powers. It was during that period when China became global economic and technological power while Ming Taizu of the Ming dynasty stepped up the effort to fight against corruption by strengthening the rule of law.

The Chinese dream, a Sino-centric world order, was first mentioned by Xi during his tour of an exhibit at the National Museum of China in November 2012, shortly after he became the president of the Communist Party of China. That exhibit is called the ‘Road to National Rejuvenation’, and Xi Jinping reiterated the Chinese dream is the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. The Chinese dream includes having a powerful country, a good education, a happy family, or a bountiful harvest. The China dream also aims at modernizing the People’s Liberation Army Navy since it has yet to achieve national reunification (including all of the islands in the Southeast China Sea and renegade province Taiwan). These are all factors which have placed Chinese armed forces under heavy pressure in securing the country and its border areas.

Xi Jinping’s success (with undefined term limit as president) is closely viewed from the frames of western historical successes and lessons learned from Chinese fallen and risen empires. He once asked, “Why did the Soviet Union disintegrate? Why did the Soviet Communist Party collapse? And replied to own self-examinations by saying, “it happened because their ideals and beliefs had been shaken.” Mad leader he can become when provoked, “prepare for war,” he commanded his troops in October 2018 when he made a visit to the Southern Theatre Command, and calmly uttered with confidence, “China must take all complex situations into consideration and make emergency plans accordingly.” Known for his calculated and erudite execution of strategic thinking, timing plays a big chunk to Xi Jinping’s eloquent words and firm actions.

Crazy Rich, Educated Terrorists

Photo from Very Funny Pics
By Chester B Cabalza

Blogger's Notes:
Commentary of an Academic 
(Copyright @ 2019 by Chester B Cabalza. All Rights Reserved).

The Easter bombing in Colombo at churches and hotels in Sri Lanka, presumed to be an Islamic retaliation to Christians, after the bloody Christchurch mosque shootings in New Zealand by a white supremacist, confusedly created a breed of terrorists.

That terrorism is often a bourgeois endeavor now. 

Gone were the days when a pack of suicide bombers and violent extremists, believed to be poor and ignorant, or thousands of insurgent foot soldiers lured by drug cartels were paid for monthly wages to spread havoc among civilians to unseat governments.

Global intelligence report shows that two of the suicide bombers in Sri Lanka were heirs of millionaires from the spice trade. The poignant death of infamous millionaire terrorist Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan, mastermind of the 9/11 terror attacks in the U.S., revealed by CIA that Osama has obligated his whimsical yearning to donate his wealth worth $29 million for jihad. The same socioeconomic construct was used in carving the images of Abdullah and Omar Maute, famed wealthy brothers who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and defied Philippine armed forces with their flawed gutsy urban warfare in the Marawi siege.

So, why terrorists have become so rich and educated?

Econometrician Alberto Abidie’s 2004 paper on ‘In Poverty, Political Freedom and Roots of Terrorism,’ uses country-level ratings on terrorist risk from the Global Terrorism Index of the World Market Research Center, an international risk-rating agency to assess terrorism risk in 186 countries and territories. He measures poverty by capitalizing on World Bank data on per capita gross domestic product as well as the United Nations Human Development Index and or the Gini coefficient (a measure of country-level income inequality).

By using Freedom House's political rights index as a measure of country-level political freedom, Abidie employs measures of linguistic, ethnic, and religious fractionalization. Finally, he includes data on climate and geography, since it is well known that certain geographic characteristics -- such as being land-locked or in an area that is difficult to access -- may offer safe haven to terrorist groups and facilitate training. He concludes that after controlling for the level of political rights, fractionalization, and geography, the per capita national income is not significantly associated with terrorism. He finds, though, that lower levels of political rights are linked to higher levels of terrorism countries with the highest levels of political rights are also the countries that suffer the lowest levels of terrorism.

Former CIA case officer Marc Sageman’s 2004 study on ‘Understanding Terror Network’ counters U.S. government strategies to combat the jihad that are based on the traditional reasons that rakes major issues on poverty, trauma, madness, and ignorance. He refutes, combining his skills as a political scientist and a psychiatrist that all these notions, showing that, for the vast majority of the mujahedin, social bonds predated ideological commitment, and it was these social networks that inspired alienated young Muslims to join the jihad. These men, isolated from the rest of society, were transformed into fanatics longing for martyrdom and eager to kill.

On same league, former foreign service officer and forensic psychiatrist Alexander Lee’s 2011 book on ‘Who becomes a terrorist?’ probes that while social backgrounds of terrorists have found that they are wealthier and better educated than the population from which they are drawn, political behavior have shown that all forms of political involvement are correlated with socioeconomic status.

Opinion writer Itai Zehorai deems in his 2018 article that it is no coincidence that the deadliest terror organizations in the world are also the wealthiest. Financial means are an essential necessity for terrorist organizations. But means of fundraising are inherently limited and are conducted primarily through underground channels, outside of and above the law in the global shadow economy.

Education plays a double-edge sword. It can halt terrorism from escalating conflicts but it can also propagate terrorism from playing. For instance, extremists from Boko Haram stormed into a school in Dapchi, Nigeria, and captured approximately a hundred young girls. The same group captured hundreds of other girls in a raid on the village of Chibok in 2014. Or, could it be religion? Wahhabism, a hard-line strain of Islam blamed for breeding militancy, proposed a direct path to God, albeit one that aimed to return the religion to the time of the Prophet Muhammad. Simply, there are no correlations and formulas. Terrorism exists because humans create it themselves.

Hence, the search for purpose and snap for martyrdom elevate terrorism in a visceral level of existential plinth, and irrespective of the socioeconomic status, it brings together wealthy and educated terrorists as one. Vladimir Putin deems that “terrorism has no nationality and religion”. But Adolf Hitler, in his fluke proverbial words had to utter, “demoralize the enemy from within by surprise, terror, sabotage, assassination. This is the war of the future.”  

At the end, terrorism can still be linked to political and social exclusion dynamics, poor governance structures as well as religious and ethnic discrimination. But the more wealthy, privileged, educated and influential they may be, we have to understand these new breed of terrorists have so much to lose (wealth, class privilege and opportunities), as constantly they inspire others to the cause disrobing them of worldly possessions which conceals a heavy sacrifice on their part to achieve a mission to become more worthy of a higher calling to strengthen their legitimacy.  

Monday, April 29, 2019

Paris France

                                                                      Would like
                                                                          Felt like
                                                                        Home and
                                                                  Brought me much
                                                               Great happiness that I
                                                         Don't think I will find anywhere
                                            Else in this                                   world because
                                          Being in this                                  place taught me
                                       More than just                                  a language it taught

Monday, April 22, 2019

It’s the Food Security, Stupid!

Photo from PDI
By Chester B Cabalza

Blogger's Notes:
Commentary of an Academic 
(Copyright @ 2019 by Chester B Cabalza. All Rights Reserved).

Paris – the aristocratic tweet of Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. as an insensitive clam defender and obviously being a brute gen on food security whose foul mouth (f****** food) aberrantly echoes French guillotined queen Marie Antoinette when she ostentatiously (allegedly saying that became herstory trademark) to the masses, ‘qu'ils mangent de la brioche,’ or ‘let them eat cake, (but actually a brioche) in pompous Versailles palace.

Luckily Locsin may not suffer the 189-year tradition of guillotine, the harshest punishment for a Parisian in that tumultuous period. However, the secretary’s poor foreign policy understanding writhes from bashers in social media with a slamming high note from Asia’s songbird Regine Velasquez.     

And who says that no one goes to war for food…at least for clams? Teddy Boy Locsin ends his micro note twitting, ‘but they just happen to be OUR food’.

The changeur de jeu French Revolution kindled the aphorisms of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity which bore from the food insecurity, a watershed event in modern European history, as French proletariat razed and redesigned their sovereign nation’s political landscape against selfish elites. While these political elites whose ill remarks (translated today as tweets in social media) were doomed to protect common peoples’ national interests and commonwealth. The upheaval rooted from widespread discontent and poor economic policies of the French monarchs, and the same situation, we see today from our own Filipino leaders.  

It’s not just about the harvested giant clams!

The continuous plunder of our natural resources in the West Philippine Sea, estimated by Filipino national scientist and UP professor emeritus for marine science Edgardo Gomez, reveals that since 2015 reefs buried by China in sand and rocks as it created artificial islands have expanded to nearly 1,200 hectares and more, raising to $500 million and more the annual losses in marine resources to the Philippines, China and other nations claiming territories in the Spratlys. The estimate of losses is based on natural capital ecosystem service valued at $352,000 per hectare per year.   

What is even alarming among Chinese marine scientists and strategists when they presented China’s status of reef-building corals in inshore Mainland China during the 2016 Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific (CSCAP) in the First Meeting of the CSCAP Study Group on Marine Environment Protection held at Marco Polo Ortigas, they revealed that there is an asymmetry of scholarship and lack of research publications caused by human-induced activities from island-building to giant clam harvests to the environment. It only means that China does not have strong environmental laws unlike the Philippines in which enforcement of such laws in the West Philippine Sea remains our weakest. Recently concerned Filipino citizens are praying for the legal use of the writ of kalikasan. 

Considering the strategic location of the West Philippine Sea in the coral triangle covering as well the entire South China Sea, scientists and conservationists worldwide baptized it as a meta-center of the earth’s marine biodiversity using the main criteria as to its high species biodiversity, habitat diversity, and oceanographic currents.

Dr. Edgardo Gomez deems that a coral triangle consists of 76 percent of the world’s coral species having endowed with 605 out of 798 coral species; 15 of which are regionally endemic species and shares 41 regional endemic species. It has 37 percent of the world’s reef fish species or 2,228 out of 6,000 of its kind are found in the area.

The coral triangle also houses 51 of the world’s 70 mangrove species; six of the world’s seven marine turtle species; seven of the world’s 12 giant clam species; 23 of the world’s 50 seagrass species; and various cetaceans including whales, dolphins, porpoises that are frequently observed in the region including our native dugong (not Digong).

Beginning with the Scarborough Shoal standoff between China and the Philippines on April 2012 and the March 2014 when Chinese boats heavily harvested giant clams and corals in Bajo de Masinloc - nothing has changed until now. Chinese fisherfolks are even allowed to befriend Filipino fishermen to gather information from them accrued in their espionage game plans. We won an arbitral case in the Peace Palace at The Hague in July 2016 but our government’s enforcement of it remains elusive, flip flopping until China becomes the supreme owner above and beneath the South China Sea.

And war is not even the immediate solution! The current superpower and other regional powers won’t and can’t do it this time! But the figment of imagination of armed conflict may be plausible. The Chinese art of war is arguably and solidly taking a good place at the moment but its integrity falters.  

Certainly, food played an even larger role in the French Revolution. If the French love their bread and salt, Filipinos put premium to rice and fish, representing our agricultural and maritime tenacity to survival. Losing one of the staple foods on our table is a mortal sin that any Filipino leader deprives of from his own people and that is called treachery. We abhor traitorous leaders and we have seen them a lot from our history!

This is not just a f****** food but it’s about our food security that goes beyond protecting our territorial integrity and national sovereignty!  

Monday, April 8, 2019

China Upends Own Rule of Law amidst Threat of Suicide Mission

Photo from Inquirer
By Chester B Cabalza

Blogger's Notes:
Commentary of an Academic 
(Copyright @ 2019 by Chester B Cabalza. All Rights Reserved).

China’s offensive maritime militia surrounding the Philippines’ Thitu Island presents ‘a winner takes all’ strategic maneuvering that upends the rules of naval warfare and creates a force multiplier amidst tension in the West Philippine Sea. Mere presence of dozens of movable Chinese vessels calls for direct confrontation and advancement helmed by Xi Jinping as he orders a consolidation of all the onshore and offshore territories, natural or artificial islands, big or small sources of resources, as long as everything redounds to the six national interests accounting to state sovereignty; national security; territorial integrity; national reunification; China’s political system established by the Constitution and overall social stability; and, basic safeguards for ensuring sustainable economic and social development. The first three national interests push forward China’s core objectives to arbitrarily cement its own rule of law in the South China Sea against any territorial dispute and maritime claim among the belligerent claimant-countries.  

China's success of building the sea wall contributed to the massive terraforming accomplishments that buoys up in the expansive Chinese Lake conjoined with militarized acumen and economic perspicacity. It certainly cultivated a complex security environment that weak nation-states were caught in surprise and shock beyond China’s calculated salami-slicing attack. The attack by stratagem boils down to Chinese strategist Sun Tzu’s wisdom, to wit, that “the best thing of all is to take the enemy's country whole and intact; to shatter and destroy it is not so good. So, too, it is better to recapture an army entire than to destroy it, to capture a regiment, a detachment or a company entire than to destroy them.” This psychological warfare it pertains plainly tries to intensify the conflict in and around the contested islands that takes shape as naked military aggression in perplexed form.    

The Philippines’ policy of silence on asserting the arbitral award of the Arbitral Tribunal hounds the rapprochement of President Rodrigo Duterte on China’s encroachment in the West Philippines Sea. The recalibration of foreign policy in pursuit of defining the Philippines’ national interests strengthens more the giant neighbor’s gray zone strategy. This geostrategic ambiguity falls between the wartime-peacetime spectrums. As China, a neo-imperialist power, sophisticatedly applies a non-military, non-kinetic and unconventional means to achieve long term political goals by exploiting available means of national power to attain political objectives employing ambiguous expanse of the peace and war continuum.

The same political fumbling and fearfulness has put to trap Rodrigo Duterte’s unsophisticated strategy in dealing with Xi Jinping’s erudite scheme that offered a mixture of both danger and opportunity. It sums up Southeast Asia’s populist leader eavesdropping to his own defeatist and proverbial rhetoric that the Philippines has become China’s province and that the giant neighbor “is already in possession” of the contested waterway. China recently downplayed its civilian activities plunked with the deployment of weather stations and permanent rescue ship including military aggressiveness despite the reported deployment of missile launchers and radar-jamming equipment on its artificial islands. For the time being, Beijing’s naval diplomacy can be summed up as a glossy promotion emanating from its international economic footprint on “Maritime Silk Road Initiative’ aimed at enhancing China’s good neighborliness policy by creating a peaceful and harmonious environment within the region. On a strategic level, it may also extend the speck of mining opinions through forum shopping from small-state neighbors to discuss uncertain maritime zone delimitation set by the ocean’s constitution through the UNCLOS. In the end, China plays the game genuinely on its advantage that even bigger and lesser powers in the region react to its military actions and strategic policies.  

Duterte's futile proposal of sending troops on a suicide mission against the well-prepared Chinese army navy would only wolfhound the bloody 1968 Jabidah massacre that killed Moro recruits by Filipino soldiers aimed at training a special commando unit to spread havoc in Sabah, the Philippines’ claimed territory from Malaysia, thus igniting more serious security threat that strengthened Moro insurgency creating a major flashpoint on national security. A clandestine mission should not even be announced before it can be done. It may even become a mockery of sermon among observers. Clearly, the Jabidah massacre may be different in context as to the use of soldiers for suicide mission in Pag-asa island that debunks a clever message on the use of naval warfare. However, the prognosis of Chinese aggressiveness and unforgiving ‘a winner takes all’ strategy addresses a realist foresight that President Duterte simply ignored and naturally mismanaged in his oblivious thinking that by befriending China, the Philippines’ claimed islands would remain untouchable.   

The Filipino diplomatic protests against Chinese illegal activities and bullying can strengthen the country’s stand to protect its national sovereignty and territorial integrity in the international community. The recent grievance by two former Philippine top officials against Xi Jinping through an enclosed communication addressed to the International Criminal Court sends a solid reminder echoing the Philippines’ unfinished business at how China treats the Philippines despite a landmark 501-page decided case award it won in the Permanent Court of Arbitration in July 2016 at The Hague. This groundbreaking maritime ruling also proceeds to a conclusion that China had violated the Philippines’ sovereign rights in its exclusive economic zone and held that the big neighbor interfered with Filipino fishermen at Scarborough Shoal as the Chinese reconfigured the status of the features of islands and islets in the contested South China Sea by inflicting irreparable harm to the marine environment that aggravated the dispute.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

China Exerts on Hard Power as the Philippines Exhausts on Soft Power Anew in the South China Sea

Photo from ABS-CBN
By Chester B Cabalza

Blogger's Notes:
Commentary of an Academic 
(Copyright @ 2019 by Chester B Cabalza. All Rights Reserved).

A throng of Filipino backing has pushed the unconquerable Statement of Support for the Philippines’ onetime Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario and erstwhile Ombudswoman Chonchita Morales when a political action posed to challenge Asia’s strongest leader Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China through an enclosed communication addressed to the International Criminal Court.

The two respected leaders lodged a 17-page complaint for environmental damage in the South China Sea and persecution of Filipino fishermen by Chinese officials before the ICC on March 13, two days before the first Asian country officially departs from the independent judicial body, founded under the mantle of the Rome Statute, giving jurisdiction to prosecute global leaders for crimes against humanity and crimes of aggression. 

However Beijing continuously debunks the accusations of the two former top Philippine officials for their (mis)representation and intent that has gained fervor support from Presidential Spokesperson and Chief Presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo as he considered it a “futile exercise” for the right of assertion, notwithstanding the fact that the two state parties are ICC non-members. Undeniably China and the Philippines are archrival maritime competitors in the South China Sea.

The grievance itself becomes a strong reminder echoing the Philippines’ unfinished business at how China treats the Philippines despite a landmark 501-page decided case award it won in the Permanent Court of Arbitration in July 2016 at The Hague. This groundbreaking maritime ruling also proceeds to a conclusion that China had violated the Philippines’ sovereign rights in its exclusive economic zone and held that the big neighbor interfered with Filipino fishermen at Scarborough Shoal as the Chinese reconfigured the status of the features of islands and islets in the contested South China Sea by inflicting irreparable harm to the marine environment that aggravated the dispute.

That episode saw China’s overriding use of muscle flexing of hard power by completing a large-scale land reclamation and construction of artificial islands outwitting the Philippines’ soft power or the use of lawfare overshadowed by evolving events as the Philippines under President Rodrigo Duterte befriended China to tame the dragon’s potent puffing fires. At the same time, the Chinese aggressive campaign flamboyantly spelled out through economic diplomacy in the form of loans and calculated expansion of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) stylishly packaged to bandwagon with the centrifugal force of Asian century mentality, paving a way for global launching bonhomie of the Belt Road Initiative and Maritime Silk Road. It emerged as a result of the boom and bust of public-private partnerships that felt short in between with a string of fiascoes on debt trap miscalculated by small and middle markets.

But as the Philippines tries again to rock the boat against the Chinese paramount leader Xi Jinping, allegedly accused of committing international crimes against Filipino fishermen and Mother Nature, the Chinese politburo initially ignored the complaint and will either refuse to participate in the proceeding or derecognize the jurisdiction, if and when the petition will be elevated as a case, and consequently as a practice, China will not abide by any decision of the international court.

The only recourse that China is good at comes on by exerting a hard power or militarizing the disputed islands to showcase a use of force and constructive occupation over the presence of its hundreds of Chinese vessels near the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea. The satellite image showing its pronounced presence near the Thitu or Pag-asa Island, the largest island claimed by the Philippines, could indicate routine reconnaissance of China’s Navy and Coast Guard forces in our backyard, choreographed as seasonal fishing activities of myriad Chinese maritime militia to guard their interests as the Philippines upgrades its decaying facilities in our maritime territory off Pag-asa island.

Monday, April 1, 2019


Poetry by Chester Cabalza
(Copyright @ 2019 by Chester B Cabalza. All Rights Reserved).
Composed in March 1997 from 'Sketches of a Mortal Life and Other Poems' by Chester Cabalza

You were created in God's image and likeness,
     But out of your pride, you heed to serpent's weakness.
You subdue the richness of the world,
     And being a hungry-tyrant, you raise a sword.
You want your race to be superhuman,
     Until you defy the Creator of humans.
You explore the outer space,
     But the abyss admonished your pace.
You launch compacted and exploding powder,
     So you may become a superpower.
You annoy nature's course,
     And nature's vengeance took the force.
You know greed desires satisfy worldly possibilities,
     But the Creator razes wicked men with no impossibilities.
You are made of dust,
     And you'll be returning unto dust.