The ongoing territorial claims spat between China and the Philippines is historically significant since for the first time in millennia, China gets a firm "no way" from what it has traditionally considered as vassal states.
This is what the social and "classical" media have missed out in their analysis is in the Scarborough shoal standoff. China has had threatening territorial problems from its eastern and northeastern neighbours but not from the south. Only Korea can be considered as a vassal state here. Japan has been the traditional nemesis and the Mongols have conquered China in the last 1000 years.
Beijing is the clear loser and has more to lose than what some op ed columnists opine. Why do I say this? And it was completely unprepared for dealing with a Tsinoy President, Noynoy Co Juang Co Aquino!
First of all it is economic. Traditionally Beijing has used its economic clout to "teach" ASEAN countries not to diss it out. But these ASEAN nations have large Chinese business interests. Beijing can impound bananas or make business harder for Filipinos but it has to take into serious consideration that it will be Chinese people who will be hardest hit. The Chinese Filipinos most especially. Beijing is not stupid enough not to note that the leading protesters of its "bullying" in the West Philippine Sea are none other than Chinese Filipinos. If China pursues this kind of strategy, expect opposition (which could turn nasty) from ASEAN countries which have long histories of being anti China. Indonesia is one.
Secondly it is about the military might of China which still is not that powerful. Any Chinese moves to "punish" the Philippines like what it did to Vietnam in the late 1970s will completely backfire and necessarily will involve the Americans and the Japanese into the fray. The Philippines whatever pundits say is tied with the United States in a mutual defense treaty and so too are the Japanese. The Japanese and the Americans are naval powers in the region with both having the power to project its air and land forces. The Japanese under the guise of North Korean security threats have developed "superpower" capability but while they are concerned about the Kims in Pyongyang, it is really a thinly disguised attempt to show China that it means business. The Japanese never have hesitated to interdict Chinese vessels in its territory disputed by the Chinese like in the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. Japanese nationalism has never been marginalized in Japanese society and China's perceived military rise is enough reason to continue rearmament. Even with American power waning, America through the Japanese will still remain as the military power in Asia.
Thirdly, if China takes the military option and loses (which it will if the Americans and the Japanese are involved) it can be the end of the Party in Zhonghannai. Military blunders sink dictatorships like what happened when the British crushed Argentina in the Falklands/Malvinas 30 years ago. Like in Argentina, this would lead to the eventual democratization of China. Can China handle a democratic transition without fragmenting? A disunited China is not to the interest of the Philippines. The End of the Party is what the Party fears most.
And lastly which has BEEN COMPLETELY MISSED OUT BY THE PINOY MEDIA since many are fossilized into the "serving American imperialist" line, the PHILIPPINES like China is becoming more assertive in its national interest. If its national interest involves strengthening military ties with the US then it will do so. But unlike in the past, PH is not asking the Americans to cover it for the long term but there is a stronger call to arm the Philippines. Will the Americans consider the Philippines as the second unsinkable aircraft carrier after Japan?