Friday, October 21, 2016

Philippines Re-Aligns With China

In a major blow to the US, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte announced at a high-profile event in Beijing that he was cutting military ties with the US and was switching over to China, saying the US had "lost":

Needless to say, the Americans are dumbfounded by Duterte's brash style, and don't know how to respond. The Chinese have played their cards well, and are reaping the benefits. A primarily Atlanticist foreign policy establishment is showing its limits in grappling with the rise of China. Naturally, their efforts will now mainly revolve around spinning public relations damage control, reassuring the American people and allies that the situation is still under control.

It remains to be seen what Philippines' largest trading partner Japan will say about this latest move (China is 2nd-largest, US is 3rd)

My take on this is that India's leverage will only increase from these developments. The US is losing its smaller dominoes in the region, and can now only rely on larger friends to help it. Japan will certainly feel more vulnerable - I'm betting that recent Japan-Philippines military exercises made possible by changes in Japan's constitution will also soon be shelved. Thailand will be increasingly drawn into China's orbit now that the King is dead, just as Nepal was. It was only due to India's strong catch-up efforts after suffering debacles in Nepal and Sri Lanka, that we were able to salvage those situations. But the US may not easily be able to regain influence it's losing in Philippines, and soon Thailand - especially when the Democrat-led Whitehouse refuses to push aside the ascendant Atlanticsts who always only treat Asia policy as an afterthought.

Even worse for the US - will Duterte now become the Chavez of East Asia, acting as a thorn in America's side?

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