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Philippine politics and Sinophobia

June 10, 2024

MANILA – Speaking to the country’s soldiers last Thursday during a visit to the Army’s 10th Infantry Division in Davao de Oro, President Marcos made a pitch for strengthening the military’s capabilities as it shifts from internal operations to external defense. He said emphatically: “We are not going to war against anybody … We are just being defensive, and we are only defending our country.”

One can be certain that the President meant what he said. No sane head of state of a small country would intentionally provoke a war against a neighbor like China, the second most powerful country in the world. By the same token, it would be foolish for China to deliberately start a war against the Philippines, a treaty ally of the United States, the world’s most powerful country.

But in the globalized world we live in, governments no longer have substantial control of their citizens’ thinking and behavior. Not in the Philippines, and not even in a country like China with its centralized command structures.

The digitalization of mass media has not only increased the speed of information dissemination; it has also broken through the traditional boundaries of communication. The relative ease with which global travel can be undertaken, along with the routinization of international migration, has broadened the horizon of individual lives in nearly every country, except the most isolated. Perhaps most significantly, the globalization of finance, manufacturing, and trade has made it difficult for governments to enforce restrictive policies aimed at stemming the free flow of capital, goods, and investments.

Each of the domains mentioned here operates independently from each other, even as their effects may often spill into