In a delicately tremulous voice, with barely a trace of a Chinese accent, she cooed “free world” and “totalitarian” many times during her interview with Mr. Steven Bannon, a national security adviser of President D. Trump. She is Simone Gao of “Zooming In.” I am sure most of you have seen her shows on YouTube. She is making a career out of dissecting current China-USA relations, more accurately, USA-China tensions by talking to eminent Americans like retired generals and commanders of the military and naval forces, diplomats, foreign policy advisers of past presidents who have written books about their days in the Oval Office. Every time I hear those politically primeval words and phrases, I get goosebumps as I slide through a time tunnel that brings me back to those frightful days of the Cold War.
In those days, the USSR was the ghoul, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, also known as Russia, but since Russia was only one of the “republics,” it was more politically correct to say Soviet Union. China was not the awesome power that it is today, it was being torn apart by hegemonic battles among decaying Western empires holding on to their enclaves, the Kuomintang of Chiang Kai-shek and the Communist Party led by Mao Zedong (then Mao Tse Tung). When the Red Army painted the East a dazzling red, the USA saved Chiang Kai-shek and installed the entire Kuomintang government in Taiwan. It was a dramatic maneuver hailed by the “free world.” For the allies of the USA, there was only one China then, the Republic of China in Taiwan, certainly not the totalitarian regime of the People’s Republic of China.
The Philippines immediately recognized the Republic of China after which the latter opened an elegant embassy on prime property along Dewey (now Roxas) Boulevard, a stone’s throw away from the Embassy of the USA, with a view of Manila Bay, a longing glance away from the South China Sea (now the West Philippine Sea). The ambassador and his elegant wife were a celebrity couple. We opened our doors to refugees from Mao’s evil regime, just like Hong Kong and other Asian neighbors. The new arrivals opened two handicraft stores on Isaac Peral (now United Nations). I remember one was called China Drawn Works where my grandma would buy embroidered linen for the house and for me, Chinese dolls she called amah chinas. A couple of her friends did have amah chinas in their employ and they spoke excellent Spanish.
So, while listening to Simone Gao and her impressive guest list, I suddenly remembered that I grew up in a palpably anti-communist environment where the ideology was considered more deadly than the bubonic plague and the Spanish flu combined because, as pundits used to say, you cannot kill an idea. To save us from the “yellow peril” my peers and I were quarantined in Catholic schools, punctiliously keeping physical distance from denizens of the University of the Philippines, then reputed to be the hotbed of that unmentionable godless ideology. We were given cultural medication, plays like “The Bamboo Cross” about how Catholics in China were tortured and killed; they were martyrs who died in defense of the Faith. We were recruited by the Student Catholic Action which my mother forbade me to join, without telling me why. The nuns must have thought I was living dangerously with communists and that was probably why they gave me the starring role in a school play about how the “reds” were infiltrating educational institutions.
President Trump is now called a wartime president because the USA is on “war footing” like before WW II. In an interview with Ms. Gao, Mr. Bannon was vehement. He said, “We have to defeat the virus. Drop the hammer!” Have we heard those words before?