In Asia’s slow-motion power shift, the Philippines has just lurched towards China’s orbit. Now to work out a sense of the import and meaning of the shift.
President Rodrigo Duterte goes to Beijing to declare his ‘separation’ from the US, and that he’s ‘realigned myself in your [China’s] ideological flow.’ The zero sum call is that China wins and the US loses. What, though, does this sum add up to? The scale of win and loss is in flux with a hint of farce. Duterte serves up serious stuff with scatologic sauce.
Duterte heads home from Beijing where the finessing starts: he’s not breaking off relations with the US, merely seeking a more independent foreign policy. And then the President hops on the plane and heads to Japan, announcing: ‘The alliances are alive. There should be no worry about changes of alliances.’ Initial commentary on Duterte’s separation and realigned language predicted disaster for the US, putting the pivot into a death spiral. Far too big a call, I suggest, and far too fast. Rather than the US, the big potential loser in prospect is ASEAN.