My wife and I are about to make my third trip to the Philippines. When I was living in my fiancé’s family compound in Mindanao (the big, southern-most island), I had no car. I was on leave from my CNA job for five months and had a lot of time to think and ride my bicycle. This was Tagum city, a bustling economic “boom town” with 10% Muslim residents.
One thing I noticed when riding my bike in Tagum was a new highway sign on a wide tree-lined road between Tagum and Davao, where the international airport is. It is a sign thanking China for a big, low-interest loan to build infrastructure. It was a Chinese foreign aid "Belt and Roads" project.
Guess what? The U.S. isn’t the only country that has, or rather “had,” foreign aid projects. China (with its significant internal needs for a population of over a billion) had the foresight to prioritize the needs of another poor, struggling nation. No wonder the Philippines is now tilting toward China. Diplomacy is not fluff. People remember who their friends are.
The power of friendship trumps the power of walls, fighter jets and Apache helicopters. Have we learned nothing from the Vietnamese who, by the way, are now our friends?