Taipans — bulwark of democracy or China’s fifth column? Esquire Philippines

Taipans — bulwark of democracy or China’s fifth column? Featured

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SEN. Panfilo Lacson recently disclosed that close to 3,000 Chinese linked to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) are now in the country for an “immersion mission.” They came in through the Philippine offshore gaming operators program. He compared this to the Japanese Imperial Army’s fifth column that infiltrated the country many years before World War 2. Mingling with the Japanese abaca traders and agricultural workers, particularly in Davao, many intermarried with the locals. This strategy proved to be appropriate. When war erupted, the Japanese forces had an easy time taking over. These days could be a semblance of yesteryears.

China’s usurpation of our islands has transformed the West Philippine Sea into an exclusive Chinese lake. We are being drawn inexorably into China’s embrace — a potential Chinese province — in all but in name. Our pivot away from America and near-abrogation of our defense treaties leave us singularly vulnerable. And the Deegong’s preference for Xi Jinping could not be more articulated in his delusional declaration of “the Philippines, China and Russia against the world.” If Lacson’s assertions prove to be correct, things could fall in place to China’s benefit. And unlike the Japanese infiltration, we may already have in place a fifth column – the taipans!

Fifth column
This is by no means an indictment or denigration of the patriotism of the taipans and the Tsinoy community. But taken in context in the light of the Deegong’s biases, particularly his preferential treatment for blacklisted Chinese companies partnering with the taipans (“The Chinese taipans,” TMT, September 16), and their unmitigated acquiescence, this is a logical conjecture. From the very start of DU30’s regime, the Pinoy oligarchy — a phrase used simply to distinguish it from the Tsinoy oligarchy — was his bete noire, not the latter.

The Deegong never did confront the taipans the same way he did the Pinoy oligarchy. He was curiously taciturn, except for the intermittent threats to Lucio Tan to pay up on PAL’s debts. The taipan’s forking over P6 billion for his tax liabilities erased the tax cases against him going back to the Marcos regime amounting to many billions more. And the President declared another off-the-cuff doctrine in absolving Tan — “I will allow compromises even those with evasion of taxes cases.” The implication is toxic. Evade taxes for as long as you can; bribe the bureaucracy and compromise fora lesser amount.

Myths, falsehoods, factoids
This brings us to the tales propagated by both Tsinoys and Pinoys, particularly on the way business is conducted. Many of these are racially motivated, no doubt, spanning centuries since the Chinese came to these shores.

It is almost impossible in this day and age to differentiate between the original Pinoys and Chinese. With generations of intermarriages, one seldom finds authentic Pinoys and Chinese. But the disparities linger ingrained in historical distrust, linguistic disconnection, and ethos. But in fact, many of the Pinoys have Chinese blood running through their veins; similarly many Tsinoys have some Pinoy blood. But the contemporary use of the appellation Pinoy and Tsinoy persists reflecting the prejudices of both which must be confronted, the better to understand each other and lessen conflicts.

Current evaluation of this relationship must rely on both anecdotal acuities and empirical data. From the Forbes list of the wealthiest Filipinos, more than 60 percentof the wealth are in the hands of the Tsinoys. This could be extrapolated for the economy. But in terms of population density, this could easily translate dangerously to a growing gap between the rich and poor — the proverbial seething economic and social cauldron.

The anecdotal perception reinforcing this contention is that one seldom sees poor and homeless Tsinoys in the country – not even in Binondo. A controversial notion too is the proverbial lazy Pinoy depicted in the apocryphal tale of Juan Tamad as contrasted with the hardworking and penny-pinching Chinese “magbobote” and “magtataho.”And the polemical: Pinoys are ingrained with crab mentality, Tsinoys are not.

Assimilation vs integration
Another subjective observation is the refusal of a segment of the Tsinoys to assimilate over the centuries. Assimilation presupposes adopting cultural values and practices of the dominant ethnic group, eventually becoming part of that society. By contrast, many tended to take a different path, that of integration; not adopting but instead preserving the original culture, language and traditional practices erroneously perceived as superior traits.

The Tsinoys’ insistence on marrying off their sons and daughters with clansmen and fellow Tsinoys has persisted for a millennium. A common belief is that this is the Tsinoys’ way of preserving wealth within the clanship passing on the privileges of the rich to exclusive progeny. This drive for integration in lieu of assimilation suggests boundaries between races which from the very beginning perhaps reflect the need to pass on Confucian virtues of filial piety and ancestor worship to one’s own. Thus, the subtle divide that persists up to the present.

Tsinoys and governance
The Tsinoys are perceived to be outside or above the purview of governance. Business is their métier and must be pursued relentlessly. Government is almost anathema to the conduct of business. Taxes are an inconvenience and short of evasion, must be avoided. It was the Tsinoy businessmen who introduced the “two sets of books” system; one fraudulently as a basis for paying taxes, if they must, and the other reflecting real transactions. Tsinoys lose face if they go insolvent; better to burn down their businesses and collect insurance. No doubt, the Tsinoy successes in running businesses elicit jealousy among the competitors on both sides of the racial divide. All these sentiments are either myths or veracities driven by whatever collective inner demons both races possess to begin with.

But it is in politics and governance that their creative practices lay them vulnerable to government leeches. On the other hand, corruption was endemic in the ancient Middle Kingdom dynastic bureaucracy and the proficiency to convert systemic governmental rot to their advantage has been culturally honed to perfection. They invariably take the long view, while most governments have much shorter horizons. A case in point is that the taipans seldom run for any elective posts, preferring instead to finance candidates — betting on both sides, invariably playing the odds. In the end, they win. Thus, enforcing the almost universal belief that the Chinese are the most profligate gamblers on earth.

Be that as it may, the country today is faced with ambiguities impelled by the Deegong’s singular attraction towards China like the proverbial moth to the flame. But DU30’s recent address to the United Nations General Assembly maybe a game changer. It is not only welcome but gives the Filipino hope that he is beginning to find his footing. He has at last affirmed the 2016 arbitral award he once discarded. “The award is now part of international law, beyond compromise and beyond the reach of passing governments to dilute, diminish or abandon. We firmly reject attempts to undermine it.” Coming now to the twilight of his regime, he can reconstruct his legacy. And he could still be a great president.

And so, the questions arise: Are our taipans in the same page? Are their primordial interests aligned with that of their country – the Philippines? Or with the “motherland”?

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Read 158 times Last modified on Wednesday, 30 September 2020 11:55
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