Every nation has its neighbors. Even an island country in the middle of the ocean has neighbors within easy reach of today’s rapid vehicles in the air or over the ocean. Large land-based countries tend to have more land neighbors simply because its long land borders. The largest six countries in the world are Russia, Canada, China, the United States, Brazil, and Australia. Russia and China each has 14 land neighboring countries with Afghanistan,Mongolia, and North Korea as their common neighbors. In addition, China has two Maritime neighbors, South Korea and Japan along its northeast coastline, and five in the South China Sea region, Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, and Vietnam. Canada and the United States share a long land border. Canada has two maritime borders, one with France’s St Pierre and Miquelon and the other with Denmark off Greenland, Canada. The U.S. borders Mexico in the South and four more maritime neighbors. Brazil is the largest country in South America bordering 10 other nations. Australia is a big continent by itself thus having only seven maritime neighbors.
Neighbors cannot help but have border issues from time to time, but in general, neighbors settle their disputes under the principle: Be Nice to Thye Neighbor. After all, people do desire peaceful living, going about their daily lives with no desire to have troubles. Among the above six largest nations, each is trying to maintain its peaceful neighbor policy. The United States as the strongest nation in the world has maintained a good relationship with its neighbor Canada and Mexico. China and Russia behave in similar manner. However, their neighbors even though smaller in size do not necessarily adhere to the Be Nice to Thye Neighbor Principle, often because of the interference of a third party, the Russia-Ukraine conflict evolved into war largely because of the expansion of the NATO military alliance (now 32 members) inviting Ukraine to join. This made Russia feel threatened. Now this border war has lasted nearly two years with devastating damage to Ukraine. Obviously, Ukraine has forgotten the principle: Be Nice to The Neighbor.
Another hot spot area is the South China Sea where neighboring disputes do exist. China being the largest nation is trying to get all neighbors to sign a China-ASEAN Code of Conduct in the South China Sea agreement so that all neighbors in the region can live peacefully together maintaining a safe region for maritime activities, ocean transport, and collaboration for economic development. This process is naturally tedious requiring patient negotiation. The agreement has progressed to the second read stage nearing the signing stage. However, recently, the Philippines has increased its provocation about an abandoned ship at the Huangyan island which China has a sovereignty claim. The Philippines has a newly elected President, Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., who is the son of the deported Marcos ( served as president from Dec. 30, 1965 - Feb. 25, 1986) because of corruption (largest theft from Government on Guinness Record), extravagance (wife Imelda owned 3000 pairs of shoes in her dressing room closet), and brutality (prosecution against political opponents, Muslins and communists). With President Ronald Reagan’s encouragement Marcos fled to Hawaii. Marcos Jr. was elected as president in 2022.
After Marcos Jr. got elected, he made his first presidential trip to China showing his desire to be a good neighbor. Then the U.S. increased its influence in the Philippines through the military alliance that existed before. The U.S. obtained new military sites in the Philippines. Marcos Jr. made an about-face change in his foreign policy towards China. Now the Philippines increased engagement with the U.S. military exercises in the South China Sea and started a new round of territory dispute with China. The cause is the U.S. - China competition which deteriorated their relationship. The sad thing is that the Philippines is not acting in its own best interest, that is peacefully settling disputes and engaging China’s assistance for economic development. From all aspects, it would be beneficial to the Philippines when China extends its Be Nice to The Neighbor policy to her and she should respond likewise. If Marcos Jr. continues his current behavior, it will lead the Philippines to war with no better result than the Ukraine mess.
Recently, the Chinese leader met with President Biden. The U.S. got what it wanted which is China’s frank statement on China’s redlines. On the Taiwan issue, Xi laid down three principles, one demanding the U.S. honestly supports the one-China principle and opposes Taiwan's Independence. Second is that China expects the U.S. to take positive action supporting China’s peaceful reunification effort. Third, China will pursue peaceful reunification but will not rule out military action if the hope of peaceful reunification is broken. Although there was no public announcement regarding the Philippines and South China Sea, one may logically extract the messages Xi passed on to Biden to be as follows: China is working diligently with ASEAN nations to develop a fair and workable code of conduct for the South China Sea. China expects all nations in the South China Sea to work together towards the common goal and they all hope the U.S. will support not oppose their effort. China is sincere in leading this effort and will not tolerate any sabotage or unreasonable destruction of this collective effort.
As said above, the U.S.-China competition has been going in the wrong direction. The U.S. is spending a lot of its resources and energy to curtail China’s growth instead of focusing on how to find win-win collaboration benefitting people of both countries. China’s reaction to the U.S. pressure is diverting resources from economic development beneficial to improving people’s standard of living towards national security defense, redundant supply chain insurance, and military competition. Hopefully, the Xi-Biden summit has awakened both to stop walking into a dark alley. The deterrent strategy is based on a false hypothetical threat. When two nations begin to work together on supply chain issues, space research, and advanced technologies development, one can see through the false threat mirage and discover the benefits of collaboration. As for the Philippines, it will realize that Being Nice to The Neighbor is a golden rule and it will be doubly beneficial when the world powers engage collaboration rather than detente.