Filipino Huawei stance reflects a changing SE Asia

By Hu Weijia Source:Global Times Published: 2019/6/11 20:48:40

The Philippines' attitude toward Huawei is worth pondering. As one of the oldest US allies in Asia, the country is moving ahead with plans to use equipment from the Chinese telecom giant in upcoming trials of 5G wireless systems, the South China Morning Post reported Tuesday.

China's explosive rise has been an economic success story but a shock to Asian geopolitics. China and some of its neighboring countries including the Philippines have learned to live with one another when it comes to unresolved territorial disputes and historical issues, but it is precisely because of this that some local people in Southeast Asia fear the rise of China and its companies, which form a key part of the triangular relationship among China, Southeast Asian countries and the US.

Now the Philippines may want to break the status quo of the triangular relationship. Although the US is waging a campaign against the Chinese technology giant, the Philippines is reluctant to exclude Huawei from its 5G construction. Why? Southeast Asia is still eyeing Huawei's 5G technology because it is considered equal to or better than those of its Western rivals, while often being 20 percent or 30 percent cheaper. 

Huawei's presence in Southeast Asia is driven by economic benefits, not Beijing's strategy. The benefits prove to be too tempting to resist. 

This can be taken as the essence of China's economic rise. China contributed more than 30 percent to world economic growth and brought economic dividends to Southeast Asia. Those dividends underlie the development of the Asian supply chain. 

China is now a key part of the supply chain involving most Southeast Asian countries, and its role cannot be replaced by the US. 

If China's rise creates enough profit for Southeast Asia, the region tends to suppress its negative emotions toward China, which might provide time to create a virtuous circle for relations between the two sides.

If the US can't persuade Southeast Asia to exclude Huawei, then it  means Washington faces trouble in advancing its influence on Asia. 

This is not because the US strategy for Asia is problematic in itself, but because the US can't bring Southeast Asia dividends that are equal to or better than those brought by China's economic growth. The Philippines' attitude toward Huawei reflects a changing Southeast Asia.

The author is reporter with the Global Times.


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