Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte plays smart realist geo-politics–Pivot towards China

September 15, 2016

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte plays smart realist geo-politics–Pivot towards China

Even as the US pivots towards Asia, one of its most longstanding allies in the region appears to be turning away.

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 “China is now in power, and they have military superiority in the region,” Rodrigo Duterte, the Philippines’s new president, said this week as he announced the end of joint naval patrols with the US in the disputed South China Sea, and expelled US forces from Southern Mindanao.
Image result for rodrigo duterte and china

The developments come amid a broader fracturing of the geopolitical landscape in Southeast Asia in the face of deepening Chinese influence.

Relations between the US and Thailand — which Washington designates a “major non-Nato ally” — have cooled because of western criticism of the May 2014 coup launched by the ruling generals in Bangkok. Thailand said in July it would start a submarine fleet by buying three vessels from China at a cost of about $1bn.

Cambodia has received billions in civil and military aid from Beijing seemingly in exchange for its efforts to tone down ASEAN criticism of China’s territorial ambitions, while Myanmar has also drawn increased interest since the arrival this year of a new civilian-led government under Aung San Suu Kyi. On a visit to Beijing last month, she was told that China wanted closer links between the two countries’ militaries, state media reported.

Chinese encroachment on disputed islets in the South China Sea had for years pushed Manila and Washington into a tighter embrace, and in April this year resulted in the start of joint naval patrols — a development that Mr Duterte has now reversed.

Image result for rodrigo duterte and Xi

Yes, back off, the US and its poodle Australia. Stop meddling in our internal affairs. For making their position on this very clear, I respect HE Samdech Techo Hun Sen of Cambodia, and now HE President of The Philippines Rodrigo Duterte for their stance as embodied in The Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in South East Asia (SEATAC). BTW, before becoming an ASEAN dialogue partner. the US signed this treaty. It is time for the US to honour its commitment. And keep Australia out of ASEAN.–Din Merican 

“We are not cutting umbilical cords, but I also would not want to place my country in jeopardy,” said Mr Duterte, who has vowed to chart an independent foreign policy. The Philippine leader has also told US forces to leave the country’s Southern Mindanao island — claiming their presence is contributing to an Islamic insurgency — and has announced plans to seek military equipment from China and Russia.

It would not be the first time American troops were ordered off Philippine soil. In 1992, the US Navy was told to vacate the strategic Subic Bay, west of Manila, amid impassioned debate that the base was a remnant of colonialism and a symbol of foreign domination.

At the time, officials said the closure would not affect the “friendly and cordial relations between the United States and the Philippines”.

Nearly 25 years on, the rhetoric has decidedly changed. Speaking before last week’s ASEAN summit in Laos, Mr Duterte referred to US President Barack Obama has a “son of a whore” and threatened to further curse the American leader if he broached the topic of the Philippines’ “war on drugs”.

The comments prompted US officials to cancel a bilateral meeting between the two leaders in a spat that highlighted the challenges facing the US as it attempted to reorient towards Asia.

Image result for rodrigo duterte and Xi

Meanwhile, Chinese officials have quickly — and warmly — welcomed the new policies of the Philippine leader, who as recently as April had pledged to confront Beijing by riding a jet ski to disputed islands.

“At present, China-Philippine relations are at a new turning point,” Liu Zhenmin, Chinese vice-foreign minister, told a delegation from the Southeast Asian nation on Wednesday.

The White House played down the developments, attributing Mr Duterte’s statements to his erratic temperament rather than a fundamental re-evaluation of the 65-year-old alliance.

The Obama administration was not surprised “primarily because of the tendency of this individual to make some rather colourful comments”, said a spokesman.

Additional reporting by Grace Ramos in Manila and Geoff Dyer in Washington

9 thoughts on “Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte plays smart realist geo-politics–Pivot towards China

  1. It is natural for medium size country like PH to strike out for strategic independence from time to time but the reality is China, or anyone else is an unreliable long term strategic ally compared to the US and the West. Duterte want to get China money and asset but he risk trading long term strategic assets which China will never back down once they get a foothold unlike the US. If PH have mass protest, the US will back down, not China.. they should think about that

  2. Speaking before last week’s ASEAN summit in Laos, Mr Duterte referred to US President Barack Obama as a “xxxxxxxxx” and threatened to further curse the American leader if he broached the topic of the Philippines’ “war on drugs”.

    It is long overdue that the so-called developed countries leaders are told off due to their ‘higher than thou’ arrogant attitude. It should not be forgotten that the Englishmen who came to N.America and the other European countries who came to Central and South Americas not only enslaved the local natives but in some cases even almost wiped them out leaving a few as ‘tourist attractions’ including as in Australia.


    These countries should stop talking about the human rights when they were the main culprits of violations for centuries.

    Reminds of an Indian saying: GOING TO PILGRIMAGE TO HOLY PLACES AFTER HAVING KILLED HUNDREDS. In this case it is in millions and it continues to-day in the Mid-East via the daily air strikes.


  3. Duterte still thinks he s the chief of a regional centre instead of a nation. His diplomacy skills is very shallow. In as much he and the Phillipines may have grievances against the US and Australia he should be mindful of both countries past contributions to the Phillipines and SEA. China is flexing their muscles and ‘buying’ allies and loyality . But the Phillipines may soon find as one reader here has suggested, China does not play fair and rarely have the interests of other countries. A look at the damage China have done in the Africian continent politically and environmentally should convince commentators. No matter how badly the US has behaved in the wider world, you can always rely on US civil society to keep tabs on the government. And Duterte should realise that he is really a very small frog in a very big pond. Some humility will actually help if he wants to complete his term in office.

  4. Duterte has not pivoted towards any country.

    He meant what he says and had acted faithfully and swiftly on it.
    Not a grain of hypocrisy can be detected.
    He can be trusted for what he is- the choice of the people of Philippine.

    He has shown plain honesty and courage-pragmatically seeking peaceful resolution in benefiting, mutually, his country and China, eventually, the SCS region.

    China has guaranteed free air and sea passage. Demonstrations of such commitment is absolutely necessary for sustaining a peaceful and stable resolution that prospers and grows the disputing countries in the region and others using the sea-lane. Disputing countries and UN must ensure the promise is kept in writings and in actions

  5. With reference to Gursharan Singhs comment. I would ask is it arrogant or wrong, no matter who asks, to question a Government who sanctions the killing of, anyone who is “suspected” of dealing drugs, without recourse to the law or due process. Yesterdays newspapers reported 3,526 deaths since July 1st, that is 3,526 mothers without sons/daughters, wives/husbands without their partners and how many children without parents. The same newspapers report the vast majority of those in the Philippines are happy with Duterte and so one assumes his policies. As the killings continue and more families are affected by these killings it remains to be seen if this will continue.
    Off on a tangent, with regard to his comments on slavery, I’m not at all sure the English were the leading Slave traders. If the Arab countries are excluded, the European slave traders were led by the Portuguese, then the Spanish/Portuguese and then the British entered this vile trade.
    Slavery was abolished throughout Europe in the early 1800’s, the British Empire by 1843 and the USA by 1865 not only “a few decades ago”, except of course if Mr Singh is referring to Oman who only abolished slavery in 1970.
    Without a doubt, many European countries and America have much to be sorry for but then which country doesn’t, Japan, China? Today India has by far the most “slaves” in the world, running to millions… and so it continues

    • My comments on my comments:

      ‘without recourse to the law or due process’ and ‘killing of, anyone who is “suspected” of dealing drugs, without recourse to the law or due process’

      In most countries the law appears to be favoring the rich and those in power as laws may either exempt them from laws or the offences can be ‘plea bargained’ for monitory or other considerations. Your sympathies for the ‘3,526 mothers without sons/daughters, wives/husbands without their partners and how many children without parents’ is accepted. But what about the relatives of millions of victims of the drug lords and drug peddlers? Vigilantes come in to balance the justice system when the system is controlled by the very persons who are supposed to protect the ordinary victims.

      ‘China does not play fair and rarely have the interests of other countries.’

      Recorded History provides unlimited examples where those in power be it countries or individuals, play fair in their dealings with those in weaker position. It is a common perception that no one can be rich or powerful be it individual or country, unless they may have been unfair in their actions.

      Slavery may have been abolished but it may still be rampant now except the format has changed as now it is ‘economic’ slavery’ by official economic policies. A visit to factories and rural areas will show how the rich exploit the workers.
      What is TPPA and other biased agreements which favor the rich and the connected and result in the poor being pushed to ‘slave’ like living conditions. USA is reported to have over 16% of its own people living cardboard boxes which may be equated to slaves living quarters when USA practiced slavery.
      Only format of slavery changes but not the content.

      I stand corrected on ‘I’m not at all sure the English were the leading Slave traders’ but only supports my views..

  6. What views does it support? Your argument, in your first comment seemed to be because the USA and the English were slave traders, they were arrogant and so should not be allowed to comment on the killings in the Philippines. I don’t think anyone could argue there is still slavery but not in the sense slaves were being forcibly removed from Africa by evil boatload after evil boatload and transported to the New World as they were in the 1800’s and before.
    I see you also argue invading other countries makes a country arrogant and so ineligible to comment, in which case pretty much all countries in Europe had better stop commenting on the affairs of the world, the USA obviously, Turkey, Greece, Japan and China, Iran and Iraq, the former Soviet Union, India and Pakistan the list is endless if you go back far enough.
    “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”
    I believe there is a huge difference between Government sanctioned murder and an individual taking vigilante action because they see no other recourse.

  7. Small countries must learn very quickly that your survival is dependent on you playing by the rules and not with them. All these pivots are only labels to be put on and taken off as when necessary. These countries have had a 60 year head start since World War II. If you are still trying to pivot what have you been doing in the past 60 years?

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