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How Deeply Has China Infiltrated the Philippines?

President Rodrigo Duterte at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing Photo: Reuters/Wu Hong

n late May of 2005, Chen Yonglin, a young, up-and-coming, junior diplomat assigned to the Chinese consulate in Sidney, Australia defected. Chen asked Australian authorities for political asylum for himself, his wife, and their young daughter. After defecting, Chen made a stunning revelation. He told the Australians that China had more than a thousand undercover agents and informants operating in their country.

At first, Australian authorities found that number hard to believe. After all even during the height of the Cold War, the Soviet Union never had more than a few dozen spies operating in Australia at any given time. Chen’s revelations however, have since been corroborated by various sources. Australian Clive Hamilton, in his book “Silent Invasion” explains why Communist China places an unusually large number of spies in a particular country: “Chinese intelligence gathering operates on a different model. In addition to traditional kinds of spying, China recruits large numbers of people of Chinese heritage to collect and pass on useful information, including commercial and military secrets and information on the activities of ‘unpatriotic’ groups … The [Chinese] embassy collates the information and sends it to Beijing or uses it in its own operations in-country.”

The question then for Filipinos is this: if in 2005, China had over a thousand spies in Australia, how many spies might they have in the Philippines in 2018? The Philippines is a lot closer to China than Australia. And because of the 2016 ruling by the Hague’s Arbitral Tribunal, the Philippines is now the recognized and rightful owner of Panganiban Reef (Mischief Reef), Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal), and several of the other “islands” illegally occupied by China in the South China Sea. One would thus expect China to have a significantly greater number spies in the Philippines today than it had in Australia over a decade ago.

Foreign spies in our midst should be no surprise to Filipinos. At the outbreak of the Second World War, many were shocked to find out that their Japanese gardeners, drivers, and house boys were actually officers in the Japanese Imperial Army who had been spying on the Philippines.

With Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte seemingly under the spell of his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, it would be difficult to ascertain the true extent of China’s clandestine operations in the country. Suffice it to say that it is likely very significant and encompassing. This is because it is extremely important for China to control the narrative regarding the South China Sea. Since the UN ruling delegitimized China’s preposterous claims, Xi must make sure that the Philippines does not “rock the boat” by demanding that China honor the tribunal’s ruling.

Aside from human intelligence (spies) in the country, China now also has significant electronic and cyber espionage capabilities. It can listen in on electronic communications and hack into public and private data systems. And with legions of well-trained cyber-hackers in Beijing, it can control social media discourse to give it a pro-China stance. There may come a point in time when the true sentiment of the Filipino people will no longer be discernible because of China’s manipulation of the truth.

A Chinese Province

On July 12, 2018—the 2nd anniversary of the Hague Tribunal’s unanimous decision, bright red banners appeared on roadway overpasses with the words “WELCOME TO THE PHILIPPINES, PROVINCE OF CHINA.” Presidential spokesman Harry Roque quickly surmised that it was the handiwork of anti-Duterte groups. However, Duterte himself once stated—half jokingly—that the Philippines could become a province of China. But that will likely never happen.

Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua also reassured Filipinos that their country will never become a province of China … “not now, not ever.” To experienced China hands in the West, Ambassador Zhao spoke the truth. Beijing will never accept the Philippines as anything more than a minor vassal state in the periphery of its grand Middle Kingdom.</span>

China’s communist leaders see themselves and their countrymen as descendants of the Yellow Emperor, the primal ancestor of all Han Chinese alive today. Chinese historians point out that their civilization goes back more than five thousand years. Therefore all other countries are not on an equal footing with China. As far as they are concerned, Americans, Europeans, Africans, and other Asians are all barbarians.

Thus the best that Asian countries like the Philippines, Vietnam, Korea, Cambodia, and Japan can aspire to, is to be a tributary or vassal state of mighty China. As far as the Chinese are concerned, their country will soon eclipse the United States in wealth and military power to become the undisputed global hegemon for a very long time. And one thing we can be sure of is that the Philippines will never be one of its provinces. </span>Published 7/21/2018

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