Sure, it’s possible to boycott Chinese products. But you’d first need to invent a time machine. You’d have to bring the Philippines back to a time when it had no more than a third of its current population. You’d need to find the sweet spot in its history over which it mined, grew, and made stuff for itself.
The first one is easy. There was actually a time back in the early 1970s when there were only about 35 million Filipinos living in the islands. This was a time when it was still possible to feed all of them off cultivable lands within the archipelago. The second one is a bit harder. There really was no one period in Philippine history where all three — mining, agriculture, and manufacturing — were done domestically at a scale that could meet local Filipinos’ needs and demands.
When George Barcelon, president of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said that while effecting a boycott of Chinese products in the Philippines is technically possible, it will require a “huge sacrifice”, he essentially cites a sacrifice no sane modern consumer is willing to make.
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Our relationship with China has many aspects. When it comes to trade, we need China’s supply because it makes a huge part of our supply chain, not only in domestic consumption but also our exports. Our raw materials are from China.
Not only are our goods from China, but also a lot of our food.
The Philippines does not suffer from a China problem per se. It’s problem lies in its chronic dependence. A vast global supply chain operates at a scale that enables mass extraction, processing, and shipping of raw materials to vast production facilities that turn these into finished goods at such enormous quantities that make their per-unit costs so small as to enable distributors and retailers to make them available to even impoverished consumers at affordable prices. Without global trade, the Philippines will have to rely on its traditional tingi economy — an economy of cottage industries and small cooperative distribution networks trading in small quantities.
Even if that time machine was built, and Filipinos given a second chance to industrialise in a more self-sufficient manner — without developing a pathetic addiction to imports — from such a subsistence domestic economy, it would have remained to be seen whether or not Filipino society and culture ever had what it takes to achieve the industrial scale that created the surpluses and capital that make First World countries such amazing places to live in today.
The foundation of national wealth is capital and capital is created from innovation that improves labour productivity. Filipinos lack the essential scientific and technological traditions that creates that capital which is why it has come to rely entirely on foreign input to sustain its enormous population. Without that foreign input — whether it be trinkets from China or Japanese engines to power its Jeepneys — Filipinos will have to make a huge sacrifice and opt for stone-age lifestyles in order to satisfy their daft jingoism and boycott Chinese products — or, for that matter, any non-Filipino product.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.