Same old agendas,
Subserviences guised as partnerships,
(And the struggle for real co-prosperity for the region)
Notes on the 31st summit of the Association of South East Asian Nations,
Of agreements full of promises retaining the status quo,
and how US, China, are using Southeast Asia for its rivalry
As the summit of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) continues in Manila, the baggage left by past agreements, including those of its earlier summit at Vietnam continues to be carried upon and still discussed throughout; and from it it is pretty much obvious that the agenda is as same as in the past, particularly the idea of intensifying neoliberalism and globalisation at the behest of countries especially China and the United States.
However, as they push through their idea to each and every southeast Asiatic, a growing collusion between two countries been overheard: each hath its proposal enough to please both the underdeveloped as well as the developing countries in every region, including those of the Philippines:
That in the United States, through its “protectionist” America First policy, the Trump regime seeks to further break down economic barriers in its vassals so as to favor US monopoly capitalists. Trying to assume itself as “protectionist”, it hath turned its back on the Trans-Pacific Partnership and similar multilateral agreements of its predecessors in favor of bilateral arrangements with individual countries.
But in spite of promising jobs to Americans and revive industry, that “protectionist” agenda is not really securing the welfare of the Americans but rather to consolidate the order, as Trump aims to push around its economic weight (buttressed by its military presence) to force countries to break down trade and investment barriers to favor US monopoly capitalist companies.
Meanwhile, China, while assuming to be “socialist”, continues to pursue its neoliberal agenda as it pursues for “economic integration” of both ASEAN and APEC member-countries under its “Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership” (RCEP). Like its western counterpart, and probably reminiscent of the defunct “Council for Mutual Economic Assistance“ of the former Soviet Union, China aims to push for an all-out liberalization under its “one belt, one road” project to tighten the integration of these countries into its Factory Asia “global value chain” as well as to take advantage of cheapest available labor.
Both economic agendas offered by the United States and China appeared to be beneficial to the developing regions like Southeast Asia, however, it hath nothing to do with development other than retaining its control in this modern-day cold war, for amidst the protracted crisis of the global capitalist system, rivalry and intense contradictions between the leading capitalist powers occured. For the cold war fanatic this again would still be a war between capitalism and communism, but the rivalry between the United States and China hath nothing to do with ideology, the way its policies hath nothing to do with defending freedom and democracy for the Americans nor achieving conditions for the revolution from the Chinese (since the ruling party still assumes itself to be “communist”); but instead, both countries showed a blatant pushing for all-out liberalization as concerned.
Also to think that these entities are plutocratic by nature (thanks to capitalism), these economic superpowers are obviously united in its desire to break down trade and investment barriers, be it tariffs, quotas, and regulations all in order to allow unrestricted plunder of every resource especially in its vassals; and with that course stunts rather than speeds the supposed developments and affects every sector who supposed to benefit from it. For Neoliberalism, Globalisation, and Deregulation, reduced the desire for domestic-based development into a mere pipe dream.
Besides economic issues, saber rattlings hath been part of the summit as Donald Trump discussed the issues on the disputed isles in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea), as well as in North Korea. He even wanted to be the arbiter on the discussion concerning the dispute although it is obvious that there is a saber rattling being made even on that event.
But in spite of seeing the United States remain as the biggest military power, China, on the other hand, continues to strengthen its armed capability and is fast developing its capability to project power overseas. The artificial isles in the disputed sea tends to bolster its defences using both naval and air defence forces.
And as for the Philippines, that instead of taking the summit as an opportunity for pushing for the demilitarization of the South China Sea and reducing the possibility of the country taking part in a possible conflict, the Duterte regime is further stoking the tensions by turning a blind eye on China’s occupation of Philippine claims in exchange for promises of Chinese loans and capital infusion in various projects (including the Northrail project), on the one hand; while on the other, allowing the US military to continue using Philippine territorial seas for its power projection operations, Philippine ports for docking, refuelling and provisioning of US warships, and cooperation with the local defence with its joint military excerises, all these through its existing agreements particularly the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).
All in all, the situation shows that the regime did not act seriously in pursuing an independent foreign policy or rather the desire of a country free from the dictates of its neighbours in all spheres; to think that Trump’s visit to the Philippines in line with the ASEAN Summit will further cement the master-puppet relationship with the Duterte regime like its predecessors. Xi et al. did too benefited, but again, the subservience of the regime to the superpowers, the reaffirmation of unequal agreements, removing economic barriers till laissez faire, and anything that is agreed upon made its earlier promises proven to be an empty brag.
Meanwhile, in Manila’s streets, protests prevailed and even increasing. With the burning of the effigy as its centrepiece and its calls to “dump Trump” and the agreements reminiscent of the unequal treaties, the wave of anger pointing against these neoliberals been intensified no matter how the policemen trying to control be it through the truncheon or through its newly-brought sound cannon; there were numerous casualties though, and critics assailed the action as subversion if not mere empty noise as they accepted the “benefits” of that summit with wide arms.
But in spite of these bullshits, the message is clear that neoliberalism, globalisation, and the militarism been babbled throughout that summit in Manila has to be opposed so is its ringleaders be it Trump, Xi, and others who scramble for the developing countries especially Southeast Asia and specifically the Philippines.
Or rather say this: that neither those from Beijing, Washington, Moscow, or Tokyo, should ever dictate assuming that they will save Southeast Asia and the entire developing countries; and to assert a just socioeconomic alternative that truly and mutually benefits each and every community.
For a real co-prosperity in southeast Asia and in the third world!