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A sustainable, whole-nation, “Kobayashi Maru” solution to China’s aggression

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Weak nations playing great powers off each other

This thesis in PDF format (92-pages): Thesis here

Thesis available on Reddit


This thesis attempts to answer the hotly debated question:

"What is happening to Philippine policy with China and the West Philippine Sea???"

While the defense of the Republic of the Philippines is the focal point for this thesis, there can be no effective discussion about defense if it is narrowly confined to weaponry and military / law enforcement considerations alone.

You can't talk about a birthday cake by focusing on the icing while paying no attention to the underlying cake.

Policies made outside the military sphere define what can be done within that sphere. For that reason, proper understanding of the Duterte administration's approach to the China problem in the West Philippine Sea -- regardless of whether the reader agrees with it or not -- is a precondition for meaningful discussions about Philippine sovereignty.

The best way to read this thesis is to proceed linearly, from start to finish, in the order it was written. However, being 30 pages long, this thread index was created to facilitate navigation. Each sub-topic is given it own summary, thus allowing the reader to jump directly to topics of greater interest.

At the end of the day, the goal of the thesis isn't to advocate any single political point of view. It is merely to understand what the current administration is attempting to do . . .

. . . without the noise of partisan politics.

Once that understanding is achieved, then -- and only then -- can the average Filipino come up with an INFORMED opinion of prevailing policies, and meaningfully argue for OR against these policies.

--- Quote ---"If you can't argue the other side, you aren't entitled to an opinion"

- Anonymous
--- End quote ---

Section   Sub-Section    DescriptionChinese timing                        By 2014, China knew that conditions were right to advance its interests at the expense of its rivals -- and it did.       United States       The US was in no shape to mount a conventional war. The two wars-without-end in Iraq and Afghanistan had left the US electorate with little appetite for yet another armed conflict.      Japan       China's shipbuilding spree has eclipsed the Japanese Coast Guard, both in terms of number and size of vessels.       Australia       . . . struggling to contain China within its own sphere of influence: from Vanuatu to Papua New Guinea.

     ASEAN       While much has been said about Duterte’s refusal to use ASEAN as a venue for protesting Chinese actions in the West Philippine Sea, ASEAN had already been defanged years earlier when Cambodia actively blocked any attempt association statements that would be unfavorable to China. First in 2012, then again in 2016.

The scramble for a PH response                   Open war with China and surrender are invalid options. Justice Antonio Carpio prefers a “third option” that hides behind the Mutual Defense Treaty with the US and diplomacy. But how viable is this option?Evaluating the 3rd option: UNCLOS

                   The UNCLOS ruling invalidated China’s 9-dashed line. But it did not actually affirm Philippine sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea
Evaluating the 3rd option: MDT
                   The US-PH MDT was deliberately crafted so that it would not commit the United States to support the Philippines if it did not agree with Philippine claims. Not all mutual defense treaties are created equal.
       Treaty that created NATO

       The US explicitly guarantees support in the event a member of the NATO alliance is attacked. The commonly held perception is that the  Philippines enjoys the same protection. Careful perusal of the MDT shows otherwise
       Treaty between the US and Japan

       While the US-JP treaty did not guarantee an automatic response, US policy has recognized JP sovreignty over the Senkakus. It is important to understand why the US felt compelled to support Japan
Vietnam’s losses                   Despite being 8th largest importer of weaponry in the world, whose inventory includes everything from Scud medium-range ballistic missiles, modern submarines, frigates,  multi-role fighters, and surface-to-surface missiles, Vietnam is at the very least in a stalemate with China it can’t hope to outlast.

The Philippine strategy under Duterte, in contrast, has its sights on a more favorable outcome.
Indonesian calculations                   In addition to a regionally strong military, Indonesia has a lock on certain critical Chinese exports which China needs, is on the outer edge of China’s claims and is not as important as the Philippines and Vietnam, China officially recognizes Vietnam’s claims.Defining the parameters of the problem                   A Philippines that defiantly stands up for itself, but lacks, the military strength of Vietnam, the economic resilience and geographical distance of Indonesia, and is dependent on allies that are either threatened by China or are embroiled in other domestic and geopolitical concerns, could very well become low-hanging fruit for a display of Chinese political power. Not so much for international consumption, but for the benefit of the enemy that the Chinese leadership fears most: internal Chinese politics.

The way forward                   War is clearly not an option, for reasons already detailed earlier and as outlined by the President in his speech above. Surrender would violate the constitution, and is therefore an equally invalid option. The ability to hide behind our allies is questionable as is the validity of the opposition’s 3rd option.

Duterte needed a 4th option

The 4th option                   If China were a bully, Option 1 (war) would have started a fight with the bully that could only end with us in either a wheelchair or the grave. Option 2, surrender, would leave us with nothing. Option 3 (Carpio, et. al.) would have us pick a fight with the bully while hiding behind a big, but distracted neighbor that retains the option to go to the movies whenever he wants . . . regardless of our fitness to resort to option 1 when we are left alone.

Option 4 would have the bully wonder why he had to act like a douche bag in the first place . . . and learn to play nice. It would not make the bully go away, but would essentially make him leave us alone. All the while . . . wondering who we would side with if he ever decided to picked a fight with our big neighbor.       What has been prevented       Fishermen are no longer being water-cannoned away from Panatag. Despite having been occupied since 2012, with island-building campaign gaining momentum, China hasn’t built on anything on Panatag.       What has already, or is currently, being done

       Photographic evidence points to improvements on garrisons in the KIG that weren’t done in the previous administrationImplementing the 4th option                          Step one: Rebooting PH-CN relations

       Implement a variation of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” adage, and flipped the strategy into: “to make a friend of my enemy, make him feel like we have a common enemy". This is why Duterte is openly bad mouthing our allies -- who now actually understand that this is all essentially geopolitical theater as part of a plan to jump-start PH-CN relations.

The administration is banking on the strength of US-PH relationships, as well as of those of its traditional allies, to "absorb" the optics of Duterte's over-selling of its Chinese charm offensive. After all, if it really were possible to undo years of good relations with mere words . . . then those relationships really weren't as strong advertised.

         Step two: Acclimatize China to submitting to Philippine law

     This is about training the dragon to obey commands . . . and setting up test cases to measure compliance.       Step three: Ongoing cooperation

       China’s greed, not Philippines weapons, will keep China under control.

This would require even greater commercial engagement with China. So much so that it would actually compel China to respect Philippine law and Philippine claims, to avoid jeopardizing these investments. This would flip the tables on China from one where the Philippines feared Chinese embargoes on Philippine goods to one where China will experience "economic pain" should it choose to violate Philippine interests.

Continued build up of Philippine economic defenses

                   A sustainable response to Chinese aggression isn't just about buying weaponry, it is actually about making the Philippines -- as a country -- globally competitive.

This is where the build-build-build initiative comes in: Using the dragon’s own resources to create the financial whip to keep him in line.

Learn from the experiences of Sri Lanka, et. al.

                   This topic outlines how countries fall into China’s debt trap, and how the Philippines actually differs from these in-progress economic disasters.

Pakistan’s gamble

                   85% of Pakistan’s debt is Chinese. But who REALLY has who under control, in light of Pakistan's geopolitical calculation . . . when Pakistan's economic corridor actually starts on their China's equivalent to Mindanao?

Israel & Indonesia: Dancing with a dragon

                   If loans with China are really recipes for disaster, why are Israel and Indonesia taking part in the Belt & Road Initiative?A winning endgame rather than a strategy for "how not to lose"                   Open war and surrender are unacceptable options. Justice Carpio's preferred "third option" -- which puts all its faith on the US-PH Mutual Defense treaty, without a proper assessment of how that treaty really works -- actually lacks a meaningful end-game, and is prescription for "how not to lose" rather than a proper strategy for winning.

To achieve what Carpio wants to do, Duterte's "4th option" needs to be given the leeway to work. The goal of the 4th option is to give China a incentive to respect Philippine law and obey Philippine instructions. That incentive is based on the threat of financial retaliation -- not military force.

Responding to Chinese aggression                   A thought exercise about how to respond to China in a future conflict       Trade War (TW)       Punishing China economically       Military Action (MA)       Understanding what it REALLY takes to have our allies commit to the Philippine cause. Duterte’s “4th option” needs to happen before Carpio’s “3rd option”


Related discussion on the forum's FB extension:

The need for a whole-nation response:

Understanding the PH-US MDT:

Indonesian calculations:

Chinese timing

In September 1991, the Philippine Senate rejected a treaty that would have extended the lease of US military facilities in Subic Bay and Clark Air Force base beyond its original expiration date in 1991. As a result, the bases closed sans a proper Philippine plan for how to fill the power vaccuum that the closure created. That set the stage for the contest of national wills between the Philippines and China which began with an aggressive, but ultimately modest, incursion in Mischief Reef in 1995, and has since escalated to a regional land-grab in the form of Beijing’s unprecedented island building campaign.

By 2014, China knew that conditions were right to advance its interests at the expense of its rivals -- and it did.

United States

China knew that our most powerful allies were distracted by all the other concerns listed above, and would lack the political will to halt the construction of their artificial islands. As in all things, timing is everything. China timed their territorial power-play well.

When Chinese dredgers started sacrificing precious coral reefs for their island-building project that reclaimed 1,294 hectares of land from the South China Sea, all that an incredulous world could do was watch in awestruck silence. Rival claimants were left with little to do but fume and protest.

United States

The US was in no shape to mount a conventional war. The two wars-without-end in Iraq and Afghanistan had left the US electorate with little appetite for yet another armed conflict. While the Global War on Terror continues even today, and has even expanded to Africa, these focus on counter-insurgency campaigns -- mounted by special operations forces -- designed to bolster the effectiveness of the armed forces of partner countries. These were not high-profile operations on the scale of either Gulf Wars I or II. In contrast, any direct conflict with China would be.

Domestic challenges associated with sequestration and the 2008 financial crisis arguably gave additional reason to pause and reconsider the wisdom of committing resources for war. Manifestations of the effect of these constraints on US military spending range from the USAF crisis with its fighter readiness, to the cancellation or reduction of big-ticket acquisitions.

Arguably both resulted in an anemic “Pivot to Asia” that left China emboldened.

The timidity of the US -- and NATO -- response to Russian annexation of the Crimea in 2014, as well as successful nullification of the UN Security Council in the matter of the Syrian Civil War in 2012 -- by way of a joint Russia-China veto, proved to Beijing that it would be able to challenge international order with little consequence to itself.

While the Mutual Defense Treaty between the Philippines and the United States remains relevant, proper acknowledgement of the fact that the MDT does not give the Philippines license to do whatever it wants -- and then expect the US defend it blindly -- is essential to any rational geopolitical calculation.


Japan remains the US’ strongest ally in the region, and remains the Philippines’ top lender. While it has consistently flexed its muscles in response to Chinese aggression in the Senkaku islands, its engagements in the South China Sea remain focused on beefing up regional coast guards.

But even on the matter of Coast Guard strength, China's shipbuilding spree has eclipsed the Japanese Coast Guard, both in terms of number and size of vessels. Therefore a favorable repeat of a Japanese salvage operation in waters that China claimed to be its own, in 2002, is no longer a certainty. By 2015, China had wrestled the title "largest coast guard cutter" from Japan, when it commissioned the 12,000-ton cutter designated CGC 2901.


Another regional partner, Australia, is itself struggling to contain China within its own sphere of influence: from Vanuatu to Papua New Guinea. All this while grappling with the fact that China remains one of its most important trading partners.


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