The Terracotta Army from 246 B.C. is a collection of more than 8,000 soldiers, built to guard and protect the 1st emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang in the afterlife. Although the Qin dynasty was short-lived, it also counts the start of the construction of the Great Wall of China as one of its timeless achievements. More significantly, the terracotta army also provides one of the earliest insights on Chinese governance and military might: strategic, forceful and one that survives the test of time.
Fast-forward to more than 2,000 years today, China is governed by the Communist Party’s Politburo – a group of 25 of some of the smartest, most influential, and most experienced in a country of more than a billion people. Before being nominated to the Politburo, a civil servant usually serves for years in the Central Committee composed of more than 200 members, and before that, as a leader for a province with millions of people or as chief executive of a state-company with millions of revenues. It takes decades to reach the apex of government – continuity in strategy and governance is embedded in the culture.
The latest West Philippine Sea incursion by the Chinese is one they have been practicing for centuries: from the time of Qin Shi Huang starting the Great Wall to Xi Jinping expanding his country’s borders – the Chinese do not take into account the element of time. It may take them a hundred or a thousand years, but eventually they will accomplish the goal.
Slowly but surely, kilometer-by-kilometer, China will claim, assert, build and fortify its borders in the West Philippine Sea. This plan wasn’t developed yesterday, but rather conceived within the Politburo decades ago. New Chinese leaders will come and go, but its next leaders, with depth of experience gained in civil, military or corporate governance, will also have continuity of direction, supported by the Politburo and the Central Committee.
Continuity in governance is one thing the Philippines doesn’t have. Contrast the focus of Chinese leadership with the styles of Estrada, Arroyo, Aquino, the Lawless Leader, and who knows which actor or sports hero will run in 2022, the next Philippine president will surely be a popular figure, but will be outmatched when dealing with other nations.
In a hundred years, while the country’s leaders and citizens bicker amongst themselves, the West Philippine Sea could very well be part of the People’s Republic of China.
China is playing the 100-year game. The Philippines on the other hand will probably elect another PBA (a Politician, a Boxer / Basketball player or an Artista) adept with playing carnival politics, but someone clueless in the game of Geopolitics. Be very scared.