Trade vs Territory: Southeast Asia’s rocky boundaries

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taiwan-protestThe shooting of a Taiwanese fisherman by the Philippine coast guard has instigated yet another needless flashpoint in the rocky waters of Southeast Asia.

Apologise with haste, Taiwan has now demanded of the Philippines, or prepare to be awed by the might of our navy’s dexterity at sea, a taunting tactic usually reserved for boltholed dictatorships such as North Korea.

The some 50 bullet holes found in the hull of the Taiwanese fishing vessel, which was sailing in the open waters between the two countries when the incident occurred, can rightfully be considered as evidence that the Philippines reacted a tad overboard (no pun intended). However, the sharp rhetoric now being employed is equally tactless and caustic, and patience should be demonstrated to let the Philippine government accurately assess the event through a detailed investigation, which in the end could turn out in Taiwan’s favour.

Yet pressured by a population in the throes of overt nationalism, democratically elected Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou has been compelled to take blindly swift action. Some Taiwanese will be quick to exhume past incidences where conflict as arisen on the open sea, but a more levelheaded government will know not to give in to the public storm in turn for something much more valuable.

Governments that bow down to nationalism show an incapability to adjust or understand the predominating ruling order of the global economy. Put precisely, trade trumps territory in today’s hyperglobalised world. To forego the potential of a vast market of growing consumers and investment opportunities is purely a myopic tendency. At risk in the Taiwan-Philippine debacle is $10.9 billion worth of bilateral trade in 2012, $2 billion in aggregate investment into the Philippines and cross-border employment, which helps both countries meet supply-demand imbalances in the job market.

Currently, there are over 93,000 Filipino workers and migrants in Taiwan, the third largest workforce in the country, making Taiwan the seventh top destination for overseas Filipino workers.

But at least Taiwan has the pluralistic rigours of democracy to defend its decision.

China, on the other hand, takes temerity to a new level. Under the assumed role of the belligerent big brother of Asia, China has staffed over a large chunk of the South China Sea that comes confrontationally close to Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia.

Instead of valuing the trade relationships of this region, part of the 600 million ASEAN bloc, China has effectively raised an anachronistic specter that chooses to prioritises imaginary lines on a map instead. The ASEAN nations’ total economic output is due to more than double from $2 trillion in 2012 to $4.7 trillion in 2020, but to China seizing deep-water reserves of oil and gas that cannot be efficiently exploited yet seems to conjure up the truer image of a global ruler.

Intra-trade relations, new and growing export markets, and diplomatic ties are all grandiosely overlooked when territory is given the mantel. Partnerships between Asian nations could transform the economic landscape of the planet, giving rise to an interconnected market made of the largest consumer class.

If China were clued in more to the realities of how hegemony plays out in the 21st century, leaders in Beijing would be smart to call back their navy. Taiwan, likewise, should reconsider its rhetoric.

 

 

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

The shooting of a Taiwanese fisherman by the Philippine coast guard has instigated yet another needless flashpoint in the rocky waters of Southeast Asia.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

taiwan-protestThe shooting of a Taiwanese fisherman by the Philippine coast guard has instigated yet another needless flashpoint in the rocky waters of Southeast Asia.

Apologise with haste, Taiwan has now demanded of the Philippines, or prepare to be awed by the might of our navy’s dexterity at sea, a taunting tactic usually reserved for boltholed dictatorships such as North Korea.

The some 50 bullet holes found in the hull of the Taiwanese fishing vessel, which was sailing in the open waters between the two countries when the incident occurred, can rightfully be considered as evidence that the Philippines reacted a tad overboard (no pun intended). However, the sharp rhetoric now being employed is equally tactless and caustic, and patience should be demonstrated to let the Philippine government accurately assess the event through a detailed investigation, which in the end could turn out in Taiwan’s favour.

Yet pressured by a population in the throes of overt nationalism, democratically elected Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou has been compelled to take blindly swift action. Some Taiwanese will be quick to exhume past incidences where conflict as arisen on the open sea, but a more levelheaded government will know not to give in to the public storm in turn for something much more valuable.

Governments that bow down to nationalism show an incapability to adjust or understand the predominating ruling order of the global economy. Put precisely, trade trumps territory in today’s hyperglobalised world. To forego the potential of a vast market of growing consumers and investment opportunities is purely a myopic tendency. At risk in the Taiwan-Philippine debacle is $10.9 billion worth of bilateral trade in 2012, $2 billion in aggregate investment into the Philippines and cross-border employment, which helps both countries meet supply-demand imbalances in the job market.

Currently, there are over 93,000 Filipino workers and migrants in Taiwan, the third largest workforce in the country, making Taiwan the seventh top destination for overseas Filipino workers.

But at least Taiwan has the pluralistic rigours of democracy to defend its decision.

China, on the other hand, takes temerity to a new level. Under the assumed role of the belligerent big brother of Asia, China has staffed over a large chunk of the South China Sea that comes confrontationally close to Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia.

Instead of valuing the trade relationships of this region, part of the 600 million ASEAN bloc, China has effectively raised an anachronistic specter that chooses to prioritises imaginary lines on a map instead. The ASEAN nations’ total economic output is due to more than double from $2 trillion in 2012 to $4.7 trillion in 2020, but to China seizing deep-water reserves of oil and gas that cannot be efficiently exploited yet seems to conjure up the truer image of a global ruler.

Intra-trade relations, new and growing export markets, and diplomatic ties are all grandiosely overlooked when territory is given the mantel. Partnerships between Asian nations could transform the economic landscape of the planet, giving rise to an interconnected market made of the largest consumer class.

If China were clued in more to the realities of how hegemony plays out in the 21st century, leaders in Beijing would be smart to call back their navy. Taiwan, likewise, should reconsider its rhetoric.

 

 

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