On Tuesday, Taipei reiterated demands for the Philippines to apologize for having extradited 14 Taiwanese gangsters to mainland China earlier this month, rather than repatriating them to Taiwan to face justice. The move is the latest in a series of calculated steps Manila is taking toward Beijing and away from the United States and its allies.
Back in late December, Philippine police arrested the 14 Taiwanese citizens along with 10 Chinese nationals who were part of the same well-entrenched fraud gang operating on Philippine soil. The criminals had amassed around $20.6 million by targeting citizens of mainland China.
While Beijing and Manila have an extradition treaty between them, none exists between Manila and Taipei. In the 38 days between the arrests and the deportation, Taipei went to great lengths to establish such a treaty and to persuade Manila not to send its citizens to China. But the Philippines seized on the opportunity to instead please Beijing.
In the aftermath, a wrathful Taipei awaited an apology from Manila, but received a statement from Manila that only poured kerosene on the flames: “The actions were taken considering that all the victims are Chinese, all the accomplices are Chinese, and the results can be best settled in China.”
So far this year, no issue has enraged Taiwan more than this incident. Whether the Philippines charted its course voluntarily or under pressure from China, Taipei worries that other nations may follow Manila’s example. Taiwan has responded by issuing a formal protest over the extradition, recalling its envoy to Manila, and tightening the screening process for Philippine nationals seeking employment in Taiwan.
The implications of Manila’s action are momentous because it suggests that the Philippines recognizes Chinese jurisdiction over Taiwan. Manila’s decision means that, from its perspective, mainland China and Taiwan are already unified.
Since China has given the Philippines several billions of dollars in aid and loans, it’s no surprise that Manila is the first country to ignore Taiwan’s sovereignty. In recent months, Beijing and Manila have signed the first Sino-Philippine military agreement, collaborated on a code of conduct regarding the disputed Spratly Islands, and both participated in a China-led boycott against the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony that honored an imprisoned Chinese dissident.
It is clear that, under the administration of President Benigno Aquino, who is partially of Chinese descent, the Philippines is reorienting.
Historically, Manila has depended on the United States for assistance in defense and other areas, but the U.S.-Philippines military relationship is cooling as Washington becomes distracted by pressures in the Middle East and elsewhere. Beijing sees the void as a chance to gain a foothold in the Philippines and expand its sphere of influence in Southeast Asia, while simultaneously elbowing the U.S. out.
Manila is beginning to read the writing on the wall, and is positioning the Philippines for the inevitable demise of U.S. preponderance in Asia.
As America’s influence in the Philippines and all of Asia wanes, China’s twin forces of soft-power diplomacy and hard-power buildup will fill the void and steadily congeal the Asian nations into a colossal global power. In the longer term, Asia’s unification points to the approach of the most hope-filled event in history! To understand more about this sure hope, read Russia and China in Prophecy. ▪