Within minutes of the Hague pronouncing its ruling over the (formerly) South China Sea arbitration, netizens in the Philippines’ trending #Chexit posts voiced out speculation whether the developments would lead to further crisis or a settlement in the region.
Now that the Philippines has its exclusive economic zone back where it belongs in “theory” – thanks to a formal recognition from the international community. How the country intends to regain the West Philippine Sea in “practice” is another matter altogether.
It has been a week since then and besides elated responses over social media from the Philippines, neighbors and allies expressed support while China struggled to find friends who would show a sliver of sympathy. The question on everyone’s mind is what’s next?
Here’s what’s been happening. Can these provide a clue as to what lies in store not just for the Philippines but the entire Southeast Asian region?
1. China tells the world that they don’t care.
If you haven’t seen it yet, you could peek at the South China Sea Arbitration – Who Cares? video that China’s propaganda machinery has released. It features a bunch of Chinese effectively saying that they don’t care what the international courts – or anyone else says – with images of Chinese torpedos and missiles hitting targets on sea and air. And a few subtle hints of who or what those targets could be. I can’t vouch for its annoyance factor but as entertainment – I give it a ten.
2. Chinese netizens call for Filipinos to starve to death.
Not surprisingly, this undiplomatic sentiment is commonly seen over the Chinese social media site Weibo. How do the Chinese intend to do that? Boycotting Philippine mangoes and bananas for a start.
3. Insecurity over the plight of Filipino teachers in and outside China.
Filipino teachers teaching English to the Chinese is one of the most extensive industries that is sustaining a cordial balance between Chinese and Filipino parties. Will the call for #Chexit hurt Filipino employment or will the Chinese settle with good business sense and continue to get Filipino maestros for cheaper but effective tuition?
4. A rise of patriotic sentiment over mainlanders.
One Chinese restaurateur sets up a sign outside his establishment saying that “China’s territorial right needs no arbitration.” There’s no law against patriotism, but Filipino tourists or migrant workers and expats should now be wary about their relations with fellow Chinese or entering areas where patriotic sentiment is high.