China-Philippines relations

Philippine Coast Guard personnel are seen onboard rubber boats as they sail near Chinese vessels believed to be manned by Chinese maritime militia personnel at Whitsun Reef, South China Sea, in a handout photo distributed by the Philippine Coast guard 15 April 2021. (Philippine Coast Guard/Handout via Reuters)

Philippine-US cooperation on Whitsun Reef: A 'win' for the Biden team in Southeast Asia?

Southeast Asian views of the US declined during the Trump administration, and persisted into the Biden administration early on in the year. But Washington’s sustained support for Manila amid the latter’s recent confrontation with China in the South China Sea has helped to offset negative perceptions of Uncle Sam in the region.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping before their meeting at the Great Hall of People in Beijing, China on 25 April 2019. (Kenzaburo Fukuhara/Pool via Reuters)

China's CPC deepens ties with Philippine political parties

Under Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, party-to-party (P2P) relations have been forged and deepened between the Communist Party of China (CPC) and various Philippine political parties. Such P2P diplomacy offers China a new diplomatic channel to promote bilateral relations and complement confidence-building measures. It also enables Beijing to hedge at the sub-national level given the plurality of political bases in the Philippines. Philippine researcher Aaron Jed Rabena looks at the engagements thus far and examines how these may affect Philippine domestic politics.
A street vendor pushes her cart in the rain in Hanoi, 15 October 2020. (Nhac Nguyen/AFP)

How should Southeast Asian countries respond to an upsurge in Chinese investment

In this geostrategic climate, Southeast Asian countries should welcome rather than reject investments from China for their own developmental needs. Welcoming Chinese investment will also likely spur competing investments from the West and Japan.
Soldiers of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Marine Corps are seen in training in China, 21 January 2016. (Stringer/REUTERS)

Will China establish military bases in Southeast Asia?

The US Department of Defence has asserted that Beijing has “likely considered” logistics and basing infrastructure in five Southeast Asian countries. It is worth noting that such arrangements are predicated on a host nation’s inclination to support such a presence. At the moment, such willingness appears to be in short supply, except in the case of Cambodia.
This file photo taken on April 21, 2017 shows an aerial shot of a reef in the disputed Spratly islands. (Ted Aljibe/AFP)

SEA states have few options to mitigate escalating South China Sea tensions

Tensions in the South China Sea have surged since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. China has pressed its jurisdictional claims prompting the US to increase its criticism of Beijing’s actions and its military presence in the South China Sea. In response to China’s activities, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam have rejected Beijing’s nine-dash line claims and invoked international law and the 2016 Arbitral Tribunal ruling in support of their maritime sovereign rights. ISEAS academic Ian Storey takes stock of the situation and gives a broad sweep of what we can expect in the next 18 months.
A stretch of the 400-kilometre long China-Laos railway in Vientiane, 29 July 2020. (Xinhua)

China's Belt and Road Initiative faces huge challenges in Southeast Asia

Beijing has pledged financing, materials, technology and manpower to build railroads, hydropower stations and other infrastructure projects in Southeast Asian countries under the BRI. But China continues to face enormous challenges getting projects off the ground in countries that need the investment most. US academic Murray Hiebert examines why.
The skyline of Singapore's central business district, 27 May 2016. (Edgar Su/REUTERS)

Can small states continue to avoid choosing between China and the US?

With the jostling between China and the US, one country that seems to have found a balance between these two powers is Singapore. In fact, other ASEAN countries are also seeking not to take sides, which appears to be the most prudent strategy. However, ISEAS academic William Choong thinks that the choice of not making a choice may not be feasible in the near future.
This handout photo received on 9 June 2020 from the Department National Defense Philippines (DND), shows Defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana (centre) along with military officials cutting a ribbon during the inauguration ceremony of the newly constructed beach-ramp at Philippine-held Pag-asa Island also known as Thitu Island in the Spratly archipelagos. (Handout/Department National Defense Philippines (DND)/AFP)

[South China Sea] Should the Philippines avoid playing the lead role amid rising tensions in SCS?

Chinese academic Lin Qi says following the arbitral tribunal ruling in 2016, which, inter alia, said that “there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within the ‘nine-dash line’”, the Philippines has gone on to stake a firmer claim in the South China Sea such as by undertaking upgrading works on certain islands it inhabits and proposing draft amendments to the “national territory” article of its constitution. However, in many of its endeavours, it relies on the US and will continue to work closely with them amid rising tensions in the region.
With the USS-Wasp in the background, U.S. Marines ride an amphibious assault vehicle during the amphibious landing exercises of the U.S.-Philippines war games promoting bilateral ties at a military camp in Zambales province, Philippines, 11 April 2019. (Eloisa Lopez/REUTERS)

Visiting Forces Agreement: Uncle Sam still welcome for another year in the Philippines

The Philippines has suspended the planned termination of the 1998 Visiting Forces Agreement with the US. But the alliance is not out of the woods yet.