The Duterte benefit to the US is momentary and may soon be outweighed by serious damage to the alliance. Still, at this bend in the river, Duterte has given Washington one big gift—the SCS crisis that didn’t happen. The new Philippines president changed the immediate tone of the SCS argument at an otherwise dangerous moment. Sometimes the mad and bad throw up unusual chances.
As China and America ponder the shifts and shouting coming from the new president, they have a common dilemma, well encapsulated by The Economist’s judgement: “Mr Duterte is not just crass and brutal; he is alarmingly volatile.” But volatility has its uses as well as dangers in international relations. And the mercurial Duterte has certainly shaken up the SCS issue.
The fresh opening he offers China creates an important pause in a dangerous chain of events. The volatile president met a volatile moment in the SCS and actually brought the temperature down. Many feared China’s reaction after its humiliation by The Hague Tribunal. Beaten by Manila on nearly every argument, the worry was that China might lash out by beating up the Philippines—perhaps building a new base on Scarborough Shoal, seized by China in 2012 after a standoff with the Philippines Navy.
As Bonnie Glaser observed at the time of the Arbitral Tribunal ruling: “Xi Jinping has lost face here, and it will be difficult for China to do nothing. I expect a very tough reaction from China, since it has lost on almost every point.” The South China Morning Post speculated that Scarborough reclamation work could begin after China’s G20 summit concluded on 5 September, but before the US presidential election in November.
In March, President Obama reportedly drew a red line around Scarborough, warning President Xi of serious consequences if China started to build another base. Perhaps Obama’s red line worked. Or perhaps Beijing decided not to test a lame duck president during an extraordinary US election campaign. Or maybe Beijing opted to turn the other cheek to the humiliation and loss of face delivered by the Tribunal. Or Duterte’s arrival is possibly the game-changer Beijing’s after. Why not give the maverick a try?
The immediate benefit for Obama is that no red line was crossed. The president who tends to blanch and go pink when other red lines are broken can, instead, head calmly to the finish line. No need for Obama to confront China in the SCS in the last moments of his watch. Indeed, if China had started a new great-wall-of-sand island creation project, would the US have stood with Duterte in either word or deed? Imagine Washington risking war with China on behalf of a Philippines leader who promises to “break up with America” and tells Obama to “go to hell.”
Obama can accept the fleeting Duterte benefit—that confrontation with China hasn’t (yet) happened—and head for the door. President Hillary can have the task of wrangling with the maverick who could wreck the alliance. If it’s President Donald, he’ll happily say ‘go to hell too’ and declare the alliance a bankrupt business. Such a business-like response from Trump would be apt, because Duterte has a lot of business he wants to do with China.
An excellent interpretation has been offered by an Oz Asia hand, Mack Williams, who was Ambassador to Manila from 1989 to 1994 during the last alliance bust up, when the Philippines was booting the US Navy from Subic Bay.
Williams explains the Duterte plan in language far more reasonable than the president seems to manage. He lists the key factors that’ll influence the way Duterte handles the SCS dispute and, especially, China:
- the Philippines is all too aware that any military confrontation would be catastrophic for them—especially if the US were to use it as a base
- it wasn’t Duterte who launched the international arbitration case and he’s keen to handle its outcome with extreme caution
- the Philippines is more concerned about fishing rights and oil and gas potential in the disputed area than it is about international navigation
5 hours ago
"Ends to soon"
In response to your reply that my history ends to soon. Well it indicates that if I am going to write the entire history books it will surely not fit in this website.
You are absolutely correct. I am telling the truth. As opposed to what you are saying "tell the whole truth" or tell the entire truth - I can easily do that to any timeline but you need to be specific what timeline in history you would want me to say. But mind you, history is a vague era of human struggles, failures of kingdoms or rise and fall of empires - humans as a whole.
Our Topic is about Duterte. Now, since you have mention that the US colonize the Philippines did you forget that the Spanish colonization was the previous timeline before american colonization? or have you forgot to mention that?
From what I understand Colonization is the process of sharing the culture of others from a dominant power.
Not aggressively which is what China is doing - which is a coercion.
"Colonization vs Coercion"
It was the during the Spanish revolution that made the people in the Philippines join the Americans for the first time to battle the Spaniards. And with their help we were able to free the Philippine from Spain's colonization that has transformed to coercion. During those times we needed help to set up our own government. A government of our own like what the Americans did with their own country when they gain their independence from the British empire
With all due respect of Spain's present regime, the Spanish colonization of the Philippines was a 300 years of slavery just to name a few.
Yes, the US did colonize the Philippines - To give us the freedom and free speech against the Spanish colonization. It was part of the Spanish war with the help of the Americans.
Now when you check history during the the era of Spanish revolution, It goes way back before the Philippines has started to create their own government with the help of the Americans.
For every empire in history their is always an opposition just like what we are doing now, sharing different comments in this website.
Again, going back to the topic - I am going to ask you a question - I hope you will answer this. My question goes something like this;
"Your forefathers fought and died to give you a home. A land and a house where you can live, eat, have a freedom., have a family. Although this land has its own ups and downs you are still able to live with it because your forefathers built it for you."
Now basing on that scenario, China is aggressively stealing our ocean waters and land, are you going to ask for help to china?