During my visit to Hainan last December, the mood among Chinese officials was largely somber. Despite the triumphant launch of the country’s first indigenously-built aircraft carrier, attended by no less than President Xi Jinping, there was a profound sense of foreboding. The Chinese leader warned of the “grey rhinos” of domestic economic imbalances and “black […]
Only weeks ago, Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte’s shocking decision to unilaterally scrap the 1999 Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) dominated conversations among Asia hands. In fact, the topic repeatedly popped up during my talks in the United States in late-February. However, with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic tightening its grip on nations across the world, conventional wisdom […]
During a recent book talk in Washington, DC, a former U.S. ambassador asked me about the supposed dearth of resistance among Southeast Asian countries against Chinese revanchist ambitions. After all, China not only claims much of the South China Sea as its “blue national soil,” but has also deployed an ever-greater armada of paramilitary and […]
Ahead of its much-anticipated chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) next year, and amid a months-long naval showdown in the South China Sea, Vietnam has hinted at the possibility of legal warfare against China. Vietnamese deputy foreign minister Le Hoai Trung openly warned in early November that diplomacy isn’t the only tool […]
While Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s controversial China policy has understandably attracted considerable attention, few have taken his strategic pivot to Russia seriously enough. Instead, even some senior Filipino officials view burgeoning ties with Moscow as nothing but a reflection of Duterte’s personal fascination with Russia and his famed “bromance” with Vladimir Putin. But reaching out […]
Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte’s early-August announcement that he will finally invoke the Philippines’ arbitral tribunal victory against Beijing’s claims in the South China Sea took everyone by surprise. After all, it represented a marked shift from his earlier decision to “set aside” the landmark ruling, which has been vehemently rejected by China as “null and […]
This year’s annual Bilateral Strategic Dialogue to coordinate the Philippine-U.S. alliance could not have come at a more opportune moment. First, it comes months after Philippine defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana called for a comprehensive review of the alliance in light of radical changes in the Indo-Pacific geopolitical environment. The Philippine defense chief, who formerly served […]
One of the most underappreciated aspects of Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte’s foreign policy has been his facilitation of a golden age in bilateral relations with Japan. This strategic approach was on full display during the Filipino president’s latest visit to Tokyo, the third in less than three years, which revealed the deep strategic ties that […]
Three years into his quiescent China policy, Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte is experiencing a rude awakening in the South China Sea. The ongoing Chinese siege of the Philippines’ largest land feature in the Spratlys, Thitu Island, represents Duterte’s greatest foreign policy crisis and, ironically, the very country he has courted assiduously is at the heart […]
The blossoming Philippines-China relationship has opened a floodgate of Chinese investments, unnerving domestic players including the influential military establishment. In particular, China’s bid for a 300-hectares shipping yard in Subic Bay, the former site of one of the United States’ largest overseas naval bases, has unleashed a political firestorm, exposing the fragility of the ongoing rapprochement and the resilience of Beijing-skeptic sentiments in the Southeast Asian country.
On the surface, Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte is overseeing a new “golden age” in bilateral relations with China, often going the extra mile to please his new partner in Beijing. Never shy of expressing his “love” for the Chinese leadership, Duterte has repeatedly downplayed, and even threatened to sever, the Philippine-U.S. alliance in order to […]
Observers often attribute contradictory statements from the Duterte administration to the natural byproduct of having such a notoriously mercurial character as commander-in-chief. What this conventional strand of analysis misses is the fact that Duterte and his generals are in a constant low-intensity struggle over shaping the Philippines’ policies on sensitive territorial and strategic issues.
Breaking with tradition, the Philippines’ controversial leader Rodrigo Duterte chose China for the first major state visit of his presidency. Traditionally, Filipino leaders have visited “all-weather” friends such as Washington or Tokyo before Beijing. This time, however, the Filipino president decided to postpone a scheduled visit to Japan in favor of China, while signaling strategic […]
The Philippines’ newly minted president couldn’t have asked for a more high-profile diplomatic debut when he attended this week’s Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit, which saw the participation of the leaders from across the Asia Pacific, including the United States, Japan, China, Russia, and India, along with the secretary-general of the United Nations. […]
Consistent with his campaign promise, the Philippines’ new president Rodrigo Duterte has stepped up efforts to mend ties with China, despite the latter’s flagrant rejection of the Philippines’ recent law-fare victory at The Hague. Duterte has deputized no less than former president Fidel Ramos, who also dealt with Chinese maritime assertiveness in the mid-1990s, to […]