[Opine] China’s Long Game

“I’m not so much interested now in fishing. I don’t think there’s enough fish really to quarrel about,” Duterte said Monday. 

“But when we start to mine, when we start to get whatever, it is in the bowels of the China sea, our oil, then by that time… I will send my grey ships there to state a claim,” he said, while also emphasising his desire “to remain friends” and “share whatever it is”.

President Rodrigo Duterte

My motivation to provide weekly links and news fell through over the weekend. I blame it on my reluctance to copy/paste (just for this past week) but also on thoughts that were deeply concerning regarding my nation of birth, the Philippines. This link provides a source of information on my frustrations: Duterte Prepared To Deploy Navy Over SCS Claim.

The quote above, from the linked article, is a quote from the sitting President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte. While he has made a global and notorious name for himself since the start of his helm in 2016, what has been most pressing to me has been his resistance to set the Philippines as priority over China. Instead, Duterte has embraced China and in turn China has asserted claims over disputed territorial areas such as Paracel Islands and Spratly Islands. China’s territorial claims are strategic and structured: since China has built structures on these islands, then these islands must belong to China. China repeats these territorial claims, and continues to build structures on the islands. The world will eventually nod in full agreement that China has not been lying after all but is simply asserting control of it’s territories. This is China’s Long Game. And it has been ongoing since before Duterte.

According to the Central Intelligence Agency ‘s (CIA) World Factbook, the Paracel Islands were annexed by the French to become part of Indochina (now Vietnam). After declaring independence from France in 1945, Paracel Islands was to remain under the jurisdiction of Vietnam. However, “China has occupied all the Paracel Islands since 1974, when its troops seized a South Vietnamese garrison occupying the western islands” (Source). At this time, disputes over Paracel Islands has continued since the Chinese occupation. But why has nothing changed? Why does China continue to hold Paracel Islands as part of its territorial reach? Is “occupation” defined differently for China? And why so?

How far can China claim it’s territorial reach? The “Chinese line of claim”, in red, skirts the island of Palawan, just to the right of Spratly Islands. Palawan is part of the Luzon region of the Philippines. (Image Source)

The Spratly Islands have too many cooks in the kitchen. Rather, too many unwanted cooks in the kitchen. The 100 or so islands have six nations staking territorial surface and sub-surface claims: Brunei, China, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam (Source). Spratly Islands sits south of the South China Sea (a name in contention to Vietnam’s East Vietnam Sea) which reportedly holds “80 percent of global trade by volume and 70 percent by value” (Source). Fishing and reefs are notable for the Spratly Islands. Although land mass is not substantial on Spratly Islands (prior to China’s dredging), the reason of the claims cannot be seen by aerial photos or presently substantiated: oil (Source).

Now this is not the first instance where territorial claims have shifted boundaries to generate the most for the lead in a long game. Take Iraq’s boundaries set by Great Britain after the First World War. Peter Frankopan, author and historian at Oxford University, provides an abridged account of the factors surrounding the importance of Iraq’s boundary to Great Britain. Geological surveys since the 1850s had produced substantial evidence of black gold beneath the sands of what was then called Persia. Acquiring strict access to these fields of promise was imperative for Great Britain. Enter Baron Paul Julius de Reuter (yes, that Reuter) and an “exclusive and definite privilege” to extract “the mines of coal, iron, copper, lead and petroleum” across all of Persia (Frankopan, p.314). Reuter was a British-born German but his ancestry did not matter to Great Britain even after the First World War. Great Britain’s military-complex knew that without oil, war ships and military vehicles would suffer against future battles. Coal, what currently fueled Great Britain’s war vessels, needed to be replaced by oil. Although setbacks were numerous, and local hostilities rife, the birth of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, now known as British Petroleum, was worth the persistence for control of oil in Persia.

“the Allied cause had floated to victory upon a wave of oil.”

A leading French senator agreed jubilantly. Germany had paid too much attention to iron and coal, he said, and not enough to oil. Oil was the blood of the earth, he said, and it was the blood of victory.

Frankopan (p. 321)

So, why the persistent claims to Paracel Islands and Spratly Islands by China? It turns out that the world’s industrial and manufacturing epicentre is without a consistent supply of energy that can sustain its enormous appetite. An article by Yale’s Environment 360, found that 80 percent of China’s electricity is fueled by coal (Source). The article note’s that the greatest energy needs for China are found along it’s eastern seaboard where large metropolitan areas coupled with manufacturing complexes absorb much of the country’s energy. While western China holds a few cities, non compare to the vast energy needs that Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou require. China is known for having the greatest number of natural resources and is also depleting those same resources faster than the rest of the world (Source). For China to hold its position as the leading manufacturer of all things consumption, it must source and obtain a steady supply of energy. Yale’s article states that mining operations in western China have created dust bowls out of prime farming land in Mongolia. Water has also been depleted from western China as mining requires vast amounts of water to sustain operations. An article from the United Nation’s Environment Programme, states that a report “underlines the effects of China’s massive urbanization, and related infrastructure investments. As a proportion of total domestic consumption of materials, the proportion of biomass dropped from 63 per cent to 15 per cent between 1970 and 2008, while consumption of construction minerals increased from 8 per cent to 63 per cent and metal ores and industrial minerals doubled their share from 4 per cent to 8 per cent” (Source).

I want to return to Duterte’s quote at the beginning of my writing.

“I’m not so much interested now in fishing.” This is a betrayal to the people and tribes that call the Philippines home. We are a proud people of the sea. Fish, while regarded as a cheap option for food in other countries, is considered a staple of the Filipino diet. The poorest of the poor can make an effort to catch fish for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. My grandfather showed me how to catch fish on a beach in Boracay, for just in case I didn’t have a fishing line and hook. This was how he caught fish in a river where he grew up, so as to sustain himself and his family. While some might not regard this line in Duterte’s speech as of importance, I find it as hurtful as the entirety of his quote.

“I don’t think there’s enough fish really to quarrel about.” From what I now know of China’s cavernous appetite for natural resources, this might ring true for the Philippines should China gain control of the waters west of the Luzon region. I am also concerned for the region of Palawan as this is a UNESCO heritage site (Source), one of the earth’s greatest marine biodiversity locations (Source).

A view of Palawan (Source).

“But when we start to mine, when we start to get whatever, it is in the bowels of the China sea, our oil, then by that time…” I’m interested to know about the individuals representing “we” and “our”. How long has this agreement been in place? Since 2016? I am led to believe that an agreement has been made between China and Duterte as he refers to the region as “the China Sea”. The region Duterte refers to was named the West Philippine Sea by his predecessor Benigno Aquino III in 2012 (Source).

“I will send my grey ships there to state a claim.” File this under political theatre, Exhibit A.

As for the remainder of his quote, “to remain friends” and “share whatever it is”, I will resort to criticism as statements of friendship are a cover for under-the-table deals when in politics. I am not the only one to harbour this kind of criticism towards Duterte as politicians in the Philippines have vocally criticized his behaviour (Source 1, Source 2, and Source 3). I understand that China has more resources than the Philippines, however, I also understand the importance of a nation standing up for its sovereignty over its territories and resources. That Duterte has bent the knee in subservience to China, bodes fraught implications for the Philippines. National security is an utmost concern, as are resource, economic, and political securities. Duterte’s lackadaisical attitude towards China has been criticized for over five years yet his response has (disappointingly) been more hot air than fire. I am concerned with how Duterte’s actions, or lack thereof, displaces the certainty of the Philippine’s future and her people. Rather, does the Republic of the Philippines hold the future of the nation within the hands of her people or in the pockets of China?


The ASEAN Post. (2021 April 21). “Duterte Prepared To Deploy Navy Over SCS Claim.” https://theaseanpost.com/article/duterte-prepared-deploy-navy-over-scs-claim

China Power. (2021). “How Much Trade Transits the South China Sea?” Center for Strategic and International Studies. https://chinapower.csis.org/much-trade-transits-south-china-sea/

Flores, H. (2021 April 23). “Philippines files 2 more protests vs China over West Philippine Sea.” MSN News. https://www.msn.com/en-ph/news/national/philippines-files-2-more-protests-vs-china-over-wps/ar-BB1fYPOF

Frankopan, P. (2015). “The Silk Roads: A new history of the world.” Vintage Books: New York. Paperback ISBN: 978-1-101-91237-9. eBook ISBN: 978-1-101-94633-6. Link: https://www.academia.edu/25733912/The_Silk_Roads_A_New_History_of_the_World_by_Peter_Frankopan

Global Security. (2016 November 25). South China Sea Oil and Natural Gas. https://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/war/spratly-oil.htm

Larson, C. (2012 April 30). “China’s Looming Conflict Between Energy and Water.” Yale Environment360. https://e360.yale.edu/features/chinas_looming_conflict_between_energy_and_water

Lewis, J. (2014 August 01). Palawan Photos: The Philippines Biodiversity Frontier. https://www.livescience.com/47011-palawan-philippines-biodiversity-photos.html

Lopez, V. (2021 April 09). “Colmenares says Duterte should end ‘subservience’ to China.” GMA News Online. https://www.gmanetwork.com/news/news/nation/783092/duterte-told-to-end-subservience-to-china/story/

Official Gazette of the Philippines. (2012 September 05). Administrative Order No. 29, s. 2012. https://www.officialgazette.gov.ph/2012/09/05/administrative-order-no-29-s-2012/

United Nations Environment Programme. (2013 August 02). “China Outpacing Rest of World in Natural Resource Use.” https://www.unep.org/news-and-stories/press-release/china-outpacing-rest-world-natural-resource-use

UNESCO. (2019). Palawan Biosphere Reserve, Philippines. https://en.unesco.org/biosphere/aspac/palawan

The World Factbook. (2021 April 13). Paracel Islands. Central Intelligence Agency. https://www.cia.gov/the-world-factbook/countries/paracel-islands/

The World Factbook. (2021 April 13). Spratly Islands. Central Intelligence Agency. https://www.cia.gov/the-world-factbook/countries/spratly-islands/#transnational-issues

Yap, D.J., & Santos, T.G. (2021 April 26). “Time to rally Philippine allies against China – Drilon.” Inquirer.net. https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1423726/time-to-rally-ph-allies-vs-china-drilon

links, news, video

[News/Links] 2021 April 11th – April 17th

April 12th

The Atlantic: Return the National Parks to the Tribes

April 12th

aeon/psyche: Nightmares becalmed

April 13th

The New York Times: Johnson & Johnson Vaccinations Halt Across Country After Rare Clotting Cases Emerge

April 15th

Biofuels International: BHP sets sail with sustainable shipping in Singapore

April 15th

Biofuels International: Tidewater choses Topsoe technology for new renewable diesel plant


aeon: Hannah Arrendt: What remains?

Four Hundred Presents: A bit about Bitcoin



[Poetry] The More Loving One

Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.

How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.

Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.

Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime,
Thought this might take me a little time.

Wystan Hugh Auden


21 February 1907 – 29 September 1973


[Poetry] O liepa, o draga, o slatka slobodo…

O liepa, o draga, o slatka slobodo,

dar u kom sva blaga višnji nam Bog je dô,

uzroče istini od naše sve slave,

uresu jedini od ove Dubrave,

sva srebra, sva zlata, svi ljudcki životi

ne mogu bit plata tvôj čistoj lipoti.
Fair liberty, beloved liberty, liberty sweetly avowed,

thou are the treasured gift that God to us endowed,

all our glory is thy true creation,

to our Home thou are all the decoration,

no silver nor gold, not life itself could replace

the reward of thy pure and sublime grace.

Ivan Gundulić


8 January 1589 – 8 December 1638

Republic of Ragusa (Modern-day Croatia)



U2 & Luciano Pavarotti – Miss Sarajevo

Dici che il fiume

Trova la via al mare

E come il fume

Giungerai a me

Oltre i confini

E le terre assetate

Didi che come il fiume

Come il fiume…

L’amore giungerà


E non so più pregare

E nell’amore non so più sperare

E quell’amore non so più aspettare

You say that the river

Finds its way to the sea

And like the river

You will come to me

Beyond the borders

And the dry lands

You say that like the river

Like the river…

Love will come


And I no longer pray

And I no longer hope for love

And love no longer waits

From u2songs.com:

“Miss Sarajevo” was the first and only commercially released single from the Passengers album Original Soundtracks 1. A second single, “Your Blue Room” was readied, and promotional copies were released, but a commercial single never materialized—possibly due to the low performance of the album and the first single. Passengers was a group made up of all four members of U2, along with Brian Eno and a variety of guest artists (listed on promotional materials as “extra passengers”). Eno took on a much bigger role for Original Soundtracks 1 than he had on previous U2 albums, actively participating in writing and performing in addition to production work. Because the group was dubbed Passengers, the album received considerably less notice than a typical U2 release might have. “Miss Sarajevo” featured a guest vocalist, Luciano Pavarotti. The Italian tenor had been asking Bono for a song for a while, and when “Miss Sarajevo” was being developed the band felt that it would be a perfect opportunity to bring Pavarotti in to sing. The title and lyrics of the song refer to a beauty pageant held in war-torn Sarajevo.

links, news

[News/Links] 2021 April 4th – April 10th



Man is the one who desires, woman the one who is desired. This is woman’s entire but decisive advantage. Through man’s passions, nature has given man into woman’s hands, and the woman who does not know how to make him her subject, her slave, her toy, and how to betray him with a smile in the end is not wise.

from Venus in Furs by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch
links, news

[News/Links] 2021 March 28th – April 3rd

March 29th

Biofuels International: Biofuel feedstock to aid Thailand’s biochemical industry growth

March 31st

Forbes: Bitcoin Payments Are Great, But Stablecoins Are The Future Of Crypto – Visa Is Just The Beginning

March 31st

Reuters: OPEC oil output rises in March, led by Iran: Reuters survey

March 31st

Harvard Business Review: How to Overcome Red Flags on Your Resume

April 02nd

Politico: Vulnerable Dems fret after getting a shock: AOC’s campaign cash


TruckingInfo.com: Fleet Sustainability: Using Biodiesel to Drive Success


analysis, data

[Data/Study] Cashless society in Europe: a winding road

“Money, money, money”, ABBA sang in 1976 about all the things you could do with a little money. Industry experts believe that today, ABBA’s home country of Sweden is set to become the world’s first “cashless society”, a place where digital financial transactions, either through cards or mobile devices, completely replace cash money. This model is expected to take shape by March 2023, but consumers are already increasingly paying less with cash, and banks and retailers are handling less banknotes and coins.

Executive Summary

I have tried the cashless “revolution”. I placed my banking information into my mobile phone “wallet” and proceeded to live a life of bliss with no receipts to review or change to handle. I did not like it. My cashless moment lasted a mere two months. After my brief encounter, I deleted my banking information from my mobile and happily skipped to the ATM to dispense some green.

The idea of going without physical cash is one that concerns me. I understand that the cool factor as well as security concerns are easy to share as propaganda. But I am quick to remind myself of the phrase, Ignorance is bliss. For a genuine look into the cashless revolution should dispel the myth and comfort of security. How quickly can one’s mobile device be pilfered and scavenged for information? How quickly can a banking institution refuse and withhold money from an account holder? What of the population that does not use or own mobile devices? What happens to them? How will they continue to purchase goods, food, and materials to maintain their survival? How quickly will they experience segregation from the affluent members of society who can not only purchase the advantageous mobile devices but also swipe left or right to determine which goods they purchase?

Europe is on the verge of crossing the thresh-hold. Or nearly so, as the document from Statista implies. Countries in Asia are likely to follow, or are mere steps behind. Japan has been at the forefront of this electronic marvel for decades now.

Europe’s digital payment options (p. 44)

A DossierPlus document from Statista: Cashless society in Europe: a winding road. The PDF is available to download for free.

“Contactless”, however, is a vast term, encompassing different types of payments through different means. A debit card with an NFC chip is one way. Other examples include smartphones or wristbands with an NFC token built in, or apps that decipher a QR code. These types of contactless payments are fairly new in their development and typically
require a mobile device (a smartphone, tablet, or a wearable device or token) in their use. To avoid overlap, this latter type of contactless payment has been classified “mobile payment” and will come back in chapter five.

Contactless in Europe: round one (p. 34)