US media churlish on Duterte’s China visit

Source:Global Times Published: 2016/10/18 23:38:39

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's ongoing trip to China has been seen as a gamble by the American media. Their astonished reaction clearly shows the selfish considerations of the US and its Western allies on the South China Sea issue. They take Philippine willingness to be a loyal part of the US alliance system as granted.

While providing security to the Philippines, Washington treats Manila as a pawn. The alliance requires the Philippines to serve US interests. To Washington, the Philippines' value lies in providing military bases and legitimacy for the US containment of China in the South China Sea. As to the price Manila has to pay, it isn't a problem at all for Washington.

We don't foresee that the Philippines under the Duterte administration will break with the US. The majority of Chinese scholars on international strategy don't think it will ever happen. Duterte appears more to be striving for increased diplomatic autonomy. Instead of serving Washington's rebalance to the Asia-Pacific strategy, he is redesigning Philippine foreign policy based on Philippine interests.

Manila has shifted its China policy from one of confrontation during the Aquino era to being friendly and cooperative, as China's support is essential for its economic development. Washington needs Manila to stick to its geopolitical role, but 100 million Filipinos want a better life more.

The Philippines needs support to improve infrastructure, for which the US offers no help. Washington only sends soldiers and military equipment, but the security threat it paints is exaggerating to Filipinos.

Duterte's China visit burst the "China threat" bubble jointly blown by Aquino and the US. Arbitration and US aircraft carriers are useless in solving maritime disputes between Beijing and Manila. Friendly engagement and negotiations are more beneficial to the Philippines. Aquino was more like a gambler, betting that confronting China would win public support and that all ASEAN countries would follow the US. He lost the bet.

Development and cooperation are the major theme in Southeast Asia, but the US is pushing the region to the opposite pole for its selfish strategic gains. It is a costly strategy. Washington ties Manila and Hanoi to its chariot for its China-containment strategy in the South China Sea, but the latter could have more room to cooperate with China.

A BBC opinion piece expects Duterte to focus on the maritime disputes and re-evaluate the importance of the alliance with the US some day. Beijing does not expect the Philippines to swing fully to China, but we are also clear that the Sino-Philippine friendship is in line with the long-term interests of Duterte and the Philippines as a whole. That's enough. The US and Western mainstream media would be foolish to expect a Manila that is hostile to Beijing for Washington's South China Sea strategy. Such a scenario will probably not reappear during Duterte's term of office.



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