China’s nostalgia for the bad old days when its Communist proxy-empire stretched from Indochina to Albania to Angola is burbling lately with these bizarre fake islands dredged up in the South China Sea — most often with military airstrips paved right on top. As Communist aggression goes, that’s pretty puny if you compare it with those Soviet tanks rolling into Hungary and Czechoslovakia to stomp out uprisings behind the Iron Curtain.
But if this "conquest" of a half-dozen fake islands gets Chinese Communists feeling their oats again, how about 7,641 more islands? Just a short J-20 stealth fighter hop south of the Spratlys is the largest archipelago of islands on the planet, the Philippines. Imagine how many more island airstrips China can build with its new alliance with Rodrigo "Dirty Harry" Duterte. A couple weeks ago, Duterte gave China his personal permission to "conduct research" on the Benham Rise — Philippines territory — simply ignoring traditional military protocol. Sounds like mi casa es su casa to me.
Military bases can’t be too far off in the future.
And it’s a marriage made in …er, Hell, between two blood-lusting death factories. Duterte is shooting potheads and dime-bag sellers in the streets, and issuing license to kill to gangster cronies settling personal scores unrelated to drugs; so far, 6,000 have been murdered. But Duterte has a long way to go before he even comes close to China — with its longstanding "strike hard" policy — which executed 6,500 people in 2007, 12,000 in 2002, and thousands more every year.
China executes more drug offenders than any other country in the world.
Less than 15 percent of death sentences are reversed in China’s rubber-stamp appeals system, so due process is not a whole lot better than in the Philippines today, where it’s non-existent. And if you are repulsed by those signs hung round the necks of Duterte’s murder victims in the back alleys of Manila, don’t forget those reports of China’s malevolently cruel "bullet fee" charged to execution victims’ next of kin.
Maybe this is not just about China refusing to join the international chorus denouncing Duterte’s extrajudicial murder spree. A more rational motive could be the more than $24 billion worth of investment and loan commitments Xi promised him during his October visit to Beijing. However, none of this money has shown up yet.
So, Duterte has sold the Philippines down the river for nothing, and, as the largest South China Sea nation, has in effect given the greenlight to China’s preposterous Nine-Dash Line claim that it owns most of those strategically significant waters.
Henry Seggerman managed Korea International Investment Fund, the oldest South Korean hedge fund, from 2001 until 2014. He is a regular columnist for the Korea Times, and has also been a guest speaker, written for, or been interviewed by The Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek, Bloomberg Television, Reuters, and FinanceAsia — covering not only North and South Korea, but also Asia, as well as U.S. politics. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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