Academician and former journalist Martin Jacques said in a lecture at the Hotel Intercon last Monday that the world will be less and less westernized and, instead, will be more influenced by China in the coming years.

Jacques is actually pursuing his main thesis in his best-selling book When China Rules the World that Chinese global hegemony is likely to grow over the next half-century.

Very few will contest Jacques’ prediction. It’s very evident that China’s economic growth has accelerated with the deepening of the West’s financial crisis, which is expected to last at least 10 more years. However, most Filipinos are admittedly among the very few that would not fall under Chinese influence. In this part of the globe, it’s the United States that continues to hold sway politically and culturally, the increasing aid from and bilateral trade with China notwithstanding.

Sen. Edgardo J. Angara, the longest-serving senator today, once said the Philippines should study China’s policies which have contributed to its economy’s resilience and growth during the current global financial crisis.

”We should look to China as our model and partner in energizing the countryside and empowering the rural areas. Developing the countryside and opening it up to foreign investments is an important step in boosting our national economy,” he said.

He noted that the transformation of China’s countryside into highly productive areas has freed 300 million people from poverty.

SEJA’s words of wisdom may have fallen on deaf ears for most Filipinos prefer to look at things American for models. A study by the Pew Global Attitudes Project indicated that more than 60 percent of Filipino respondents perceive the United States as their closest economic partner in five to ten years. In contrast, respondents from Malaysia, Thailand, Australia, Indonesia and South Korea believe China will be their closest economic partner for the same period. Again, in another study by the same think tank, the Philippines is the only country where majority of the respondents perceive the United States as Asia’s future power center. Majority of respondents from Malaysia, Australia, South Korea and Japan believe China is Asia’s future power center.

It’s no wonder that business executive Rey David, a participant at the Jacques lecture, told me with a wry smile: “When most of our neighbors are already congregating towards China, the Philippines will remain all alone in standing by the United States.”

Well, the Aquino government has many officials who are believed to be Amboys, including Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and Ambassador the United States Jose Cuisia. And with his dependence on US support in the Philippine row with China over the West Philippine Sea, may we consider President Benigno S. Aquino 3rd as an Amboy too?

China is now the Philippines’ third largest partner in investments, development assistance and technical cooperation. Total trade between the two countries reached a record high of $32.43 billion last year, surpassing the previous record of $30 billion in 2007. China had extended $588.2 million in economic stimulus package to the Philippines to counter the effects of the current economic crunch. Yet, Filipino perception of China is not as high as theirs for the US even if US presence and economic aid to the country has decreased.

No, the perceived Chinese aggression in the West Philippine Sea is not the reason why Philippine regard for China has not improved much. I really don’t believe China would go to war over this contested area. Neither would the execution of Filipino drug mules in China despite our official appeals for clemency be blamed. Despite the hype given by some broadcast outfits for the grant of clemency to the drug mules, I still believe that foreign government must deal with those merchants of death and misery in accordance with their laws, not ours.

I believe that China as a whole will be better appreciated in the Philippines if only their financial aid would not be tainted by graft and corruption and it can stop exporting its criminals here. The $2.1-billion five-year project assistance from China got stalled following allegations of corruption over the aborted $329-million national broadband network project. Then, there’s the $503-million NorthRail project that was eventually scrapped on suspicion of being overpriced. Of course, some will say that even projects without any Chinese participation are overpriced and that the Chinese government has been merciless against its officials and businessmen convicted of corruption. However, it does not help the Chinese image any that it is increasingly becoming involved in Philippine corruption.

Then, there’s the question: When China rules the world, will the Philippines see more criminal activities by the Chinese mafia? Ah, but that’s a question that even Jacques would not be competent to answer.

– Efren L. Danao