South China Sea Dispute Spreads to San Francisco

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How could allegations of discriminatory practices against a bank in the U.S. have anything to do with the territorial dispute in the South China Sea? Never underestimate clever activists:

[Two Asian-American organizations have] accused ICBC of “not hiring, making loans or investing with Asian Americans, Latinos or Blacks,” as well as the bank’s “direct and indirect financing of China’s military actions in the South China Sea.”

The organizations said ICBC’s practice violates the Federal Reserve’s Community Reinvestment Act requirements and the anti-discrimination requirements in the Dodd-Frank Reform Bill.

According to the paper, they will be meeting with the Federal Reserve in September to request an immediate investigation and to bar, for five years, ICBC from acquiring any additional banks in the US. (Global Times)

Wow, interesting. Asian-Americans going after a Chinese bank for discriminating against racial minorities, including other Asians? Definitely a legal dispute worth my time, I’d say.

But wait, that’s not really what’s going on here. You might have noticed that these allegations include the financing of China military actions in the South China Sea. Huh? What does that have to do with racial discrimination?

The answer, of course, that it doesn’t. This entire kerfuffle, which I suspect is entirely bollocks, stems from the South China Sea dispute between China and the Philippines (and almost everyone else in Asia at this point).

No, really. I’m not making this stuff up. The two groups who ginned up this whole thing are the The US Pinoys for Good Governance (US4PGG) and the National Asian American Coalition (NAAC) and reported by the Asian Journal, which calls itself “The Filipino-American Community Newspaper.”

The Asian Journal‘s coverage of this “protest” is inflammatory, as you’d expect. It goes back at least a year, too. Here are a couple of representative bits:

Faith Bautista [President of the National Asian American Coalition] stated: “The Philippine government lacks the military force and the economic resources to defeat China. But, we can learn from past successful guerilla warfare, best demonstrated by the North Vietnamese who outlasted both the French and U.S. governments.

“We will be using a jiu-jitsu effort. Our organization will seek to delay, if not fully stop the Chinese government’s acquisition of all banking companies in the United States. (July 14, 2011)

Rodel Rodis, the California Chair of USP4GG and a leader of the California protest, said, “We have the resources to topple the Chinese Government’s largest bank and we will do so unless ICBC and the Chinese Government make clear that they want a peaceful resolution in the South China Sea.” (August 10, 2012)

These folks certainly are motivated, but in the end, I can’t say I’m a fan of what they’re doing. Going after ICBC is a clever move, seeing as how they (and the Philippines) don’t have a hell of a lot of leverage. Gotta love that asymmetric warfare, Ho Chi Minh kind of thing.

But mucking about with the U.S. banking regulatory process is a bit much. They’re going to meet with (and waste the time of) Ben Bernanke? Come on.

As to the charge that ICBC finances military action, give me a break. All the SOE banks here indirectly finance government activity, but that doesn’t persuade me that the U.S. should shut its doors to all Chinese banks. Moreover, who do these guys think finances U.S. weapons sales around the globe? The World Bank?

The South China Sea dispute sucks, I get that. And the Philippines has very limited options. But these Asian-American groups are not making me feel very sympathetic with this brand of activism. We’ve already got nationalist lunatics running around planting flags in soggy clumps of coral. This doesn’t help the dialogue.

One response on “South China Sea Dispute Spreads to San Francisco

  1. Hua Qiao

    This is turning into a pretty good comedy movie. Can Sasha Baron Cohen do Philippino? Ben Stiller falling down in the surf trying to plant a flag in the sand when all he can find is rocks?