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Of pit bulls and puppy dogs

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Amelia H. C. Ylagan

Corporate Watch

Of pit bulls and puppy dogs

Now the derogatory label “Pit bull” is perhaps known and used more for humans who are perceived to have the manifest aggressive attack-temperament of the dog, than for the dog itself. And this perhaps because crude, crass belligerent persons have become accepted in the downgraded courtesies of today’s dog-eat-dog competitive world. Strong-man leaders have emerged, precisely capitalizing on the Pit Bull image as tacit assurance of their ability to deliver whatever it is they have convinced followers to be “political will”. Nothing altruistic in a Pit Bull. It would be all about power — winning for the sake of winning, as in the game pits of frontier America, when Civil War soldiers amused themselves in bivouac, raucously rooting for their Pit Bull in a to-the-death dog fight. Pit Bulls were chosen to represent America in WWI on posters used for recruitment and to sell war bonds (http://www.fight4them.org).

And who represents America today? Donald Trump, whom many call the Pit Bull — for he has such a penchant “for fighting everyone” starting with media (The Hollywood Reporter, April 4, 2013).

The New York Times counted at least 446 people, places and things Donald Trump has insulted on Twitter alone (as of April 13).

From the beginning of his campaign, he had maligned Mexico as “The most dangerous country in the world,” vowing to build a wall (to be paid by the Mexicans!) to keep more Mexicans out of the US (LA Times, Jan. 18, 2018). He referred to nations like El Salvador and Haiti as “s — hole countries (Variety Jan 11, 2018).” On the Charlottesville shooting incident Trump defended some of the white supremacy rally’s participants, made the case for Confederate statues, and equated neo-Nazis to leftist activist groups (vox.com, Aug. 15, 2017).

Trump dismissed his chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon as “a staffer” who had “very little to do with our historic victory” when it was Bannon who helped him plan his campaign (Washington Post, Jan. 3, 2018). When Trump is angry, he attacks like a Pit Bull. He and his businesses have been involved in at least 3,500 legal actions in federal and state courts during the past three decades. It has been said that he sometimes responds to even small disputes with overwhelming legal force (USA Today, June 1, 2016).

But Trump’s feistiness is most alarming in the declaration of a trade war with China. “When a country (USA) is losing many billions of dollars on trade with virtually every country it does business with, trade wars are good, and easy to win. Example, when we are down $100 billion with a certain country and they get cute, don’t trade anymore — we win big. It’s easy, he tweeted (March 2, 2018). “No one will emerge a winner from a trade war,” said China’s premier, Li Keqiang (March 20). “China would fight to the end to defend its own legitimate interests with all necessary measures” the Chinese government announced, as Trump escalated tariffs to China while flip-flopping regarding other traditional traders (Washington Post, April 6, 2018). Pit Bull meets Pit Bull in a dog fight, like the “dogfights” of fighter planes in the World Wars. But the US and China were allies in World War II — times and alliances have since changed (thediplomat.com, Aug. 21, 2015.)

And so have alliances been shifting, between the US and the Philippines on one hand, and China on the other. Only in the incumbency of the strongman-style President Rodrigo Duterte has there been gushy “praise for Beijing, even as (he) declared his love for Chinese President Xi Jinping (Bloomberg, April 13, 2018). It was at Duterte’s third visit to China in two years, to foster warmer ties strained by a territorial dispute in the South China Sea. (Ibid.)

But why is Duterte afraid to talk to Xi about the final award on July 12, 2016, of the UN arbitration tribunal in favor of the Philippines, that China has “no historical rights” on the disputed sea, based on China’s unilateral “nine-dash line” map (The New York Times, July 12, 2016)? Duterte claims Xi told him (in an unrecorded, supposed one-on-one meeting): “Do not touch it… we’re friends, we don’t want to quarrel with you, we want to maintain the presence of warm relationship, but if you force the issue, we’ll go to war (Reuters, May 19, 2017).” Duterte told the media: “I will not go into a battle which I cannot win and the consequence will be the massacre of my soldiers (GMA News, Feb 18, 2018).” Imagined loose talk between two “friends” — one a Pit Bull, the other a puppy dog?

“More than anybody else at this time of our national life, I need China,” Duterte said at a briefing on March 9, adding that China’s help is a “very important ingredient” in his $180-billion infrastructure push (Reuters op. cit.). China has pledged $7.34 billion in loans and grants for various infrastructure projects including two bridges in the capital, according to the Finance department (Bloomberg, April 13, 2018). China has been the Philippines’ top trading partner for the past two years, but that is because imports from China have increased more than exports to China, Bloomberg points out. China lags behind US and Japan as an export market for the Philippines (Ibid.).

Meanwhile, “Trump escalates trade war with $100 billion in proposed new Chinese tariffs,” the headlines say (USA Today, April 5, 2018). The Philippines and other captive Chinese export markets will simply have to take up China’s added costs. But then again, the US may reconsider its threat to effectively ban Chinese goods by higher tariffs. The US is hostage. For China is the controlling producer of 11 raw and semi-finished materials critical to US manufacturing, and in fact responsible for at least 60% of global production of eight of the nine materials for which a single country has the highest share of global production (www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports).

That is the overwhelming world issue today: China has so much money (in US dollars!) and is the top world lender, commanding its price. Indian analyst Brahma Chellaney described China’s “debt-trap diplomacy” through its $1-trillion “One Belt, One Road” initiative where China supports infrastructure projects in strategically located developing countries, often by extending huge loans to their governments (The Straits Times, Jan. 25, 2018).

These countries are caught in a cycle of interest capitalization or taking on new loans to pay off interest or principal repayments.

Meanwhile, China has entrenched itself in commercial/financial and political control of the country. Look at Laos and Cambodia, caught in the China debt trap, now fast becoming vassal states of China (Ibid.)

When US President Trump suspended over $1 billion of security assistance to Pakistan, China stepped in with loans. Why not? Pakistan is a key entry point in China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the new Silk Trade strategic route (The Straits Times, Jan. 19, 2018).

Is the Philippines next to be Puppy Dog to the Pit Bull?

 

Amelia H. C. Ylagan is a Doctor of Business Administration from the University of the Philippines.

ahcylagan@yahoo.com