China-Philippines relations

This file photo taken on 29 March 2014 shows a Philippine Navy vessel that has been grounded since 1999 to assert the nation's sovereignty over the Second Thomas Shoal, a remote South China Sea reef also claimed by China. (Jay Directo/AFP)

Second Thomas ShoaI: Is China bullying its smaller neighbours in the South China Sea?

ISEAS academic Ian Storey thinks that despite what China has said about wanting to uphold peace and stability in the South China Sea, in mid November, China Coast Guard vessels prevented two Philippine Navy ships from delivering supplies to a group of Marines on Second Thomas Shoal. This can be seen as another of China's attempts to assert its claims in the South China Sea, which an arbitral tribunal ruled in 2016 were incompatible with UNCLOS for which China is a signatory. Is China not abiding by its promise?
Activists stage a protest outside the Chinese Consulate, guarded by Philippine police, on the fifth anniversary of an international arbitral court ruling invalidating Beijing's historical claims over the waters of the South China Sea, in Makati City, Philippines, 12 July 2021. (Eloisa Lopez/Reuters)

While preserving good relations with China, the Philippines must exercise its maritime rights

Since taking office in 2016, Philippine President Duterte has downplayed the South China Sea Arbitration Award in the hope of gaining China’s infrastructure and financial offerings. This hope has so far remained largely unfulfilled. Despite Duterte's stance, various departments in the Philippine government have referenced the Award in defence of the Philippines' legal rights and jurisdiction in its maritime zones. Philippine academic Jay L. Batongbacal says that this and negative public opinion of Duterte’s China policy means that the Award continues to serve as a bedrock for the Philippines to exercise its rights and to delegitimise China’s claims and bullying actions in the South China Sea.
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.