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"Shut up", they reasoned

China's diplomats and propagandists want Filipinos to blame Americans for "disrupting peace and tranquility in the South China Sea," but the price of the peace they offer is surrender.
Ray Powell | AUGUST 15, 2023
"Shut up", they reasoned

Ray Powell

Director

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Yesterday your humble correspondent was repeatedly accused of stoking tensions between the U.S. and the Philippines, first by China's Deputy Chief of Mission in Manila Zhou Zhiyong

"Some 'trigger-happy' American forces stir up the situation in the South China Sea and relevant waters with the aim of arousing contradiction and even confrontation between China and the Philippines and disrupting peace and tranquility in the South China Sea."

Mr. Zhou did not mention me by name, but my photo was literally over his right shoulder was he was speaking.

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There's nothing wrong with "peace and tranquility", of course. The problem is that Beijing's version of it requires Manila to capitulate. By meekly accepting China's blockade of its outpost at Second Thomas (Ayungin) Shoal--or better yet, towing the BRP Sierra Madre off the shoal--the Philippines can enjoy this peaceful, non-confrontational relationship (until Beijing makes its next demand, that is).

In other words, surrender is the price of Mr. Zhou's "peace and tranquility". So yes, count me in favor of "disrupting" that.

It was left to the man sitting to Mr. Zhou's right, the propagandist Herman Tiu Laurel, to name names in an interview on China's state-run CGTN network:

"In fact, I think there are not enough questions being asked by the ordinary Filipino who are emotionally reacting to this. Because if they did, they would find out that it's the Americans engineering this from the very beginning, because the report that was flushed in all the newspapers came from Raymond Powell, an ex-U.S. Air Force colonel from the Gordian Knot [Center]."

Aside from essentially accusing the Filipino people of being emotional idiots and the Philippine government as being American puppets with no agency, Mr. Laurel's greatest accomplishment here is to utterly ignore the actual perpetrator of the blockade of the Sierra Madre and the water-cannoning of resupply ship.

No, Beijing's approach is to attack the messenger as the problem. They do this because a gray zone actor wants the zone to remain as gray as possible, so that its malign actions can remain opaque and deniable. So yes, from China's perspective the messenger is absolutely the problem.

Two final notes:

1. I had been expecting this line of attack since I saw this event advertised late last week. Subtle, no?

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2. This is not the first time Mr. Laurel has held me up as the evil purveyor of disruptive lies. 

Ray Powell

Ray is the Director of SeaLight and Project Lead for Project Myoushu at Stanford University's Gordian Knot Center for National Security Innovation. He's a 35-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force and was a 2021 Fellow at Stanford's Distinguished Careers Institute.

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