Philippines

A nuclear-powered Type 094A Jin-class ballistic missile submarine of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy is seen during a military display in the South China Sea, 12 April 2018. (Stringer/File Photo/Reuters)

China’s ‘hegemony with Chinese characteristics’ in the South China Sea

Though in word it professes to never seek hegemony or bully smaller countries, in deed, China behaves unilaterally and flexes its economic and political muscles for dominance in the South China Sea, says Indian academic Amrita Jash.
US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin (left) and Philippine Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana (right) shake hands after a bilateral meeting at Camp Aguinaldo military camp in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines, 30 July 2021. (Rolex Dela Pena/Pool via Reuters)

Mind the gaps, fill the needs: A strategic outlook for the Philippine-US alliance

The Philippines begrudgingly notes the disparity of treatment across US alliances in Asia, as well as Washington’s shift to enhancing engagements with non-treaty partners, such as visits by top US leaders to Singapore, Hanoi, Seoul, and Tokyo, while leaving out Manila. Washington has also shifted to enhancing engagements with alliances such as AUKUS, even as Philippines-US cooperation seems to be deficient in several areas and in security, greatly focused on counter-terrorism operations in Mindanao. Academic Julio S. Amador III says the Philippines must step up to play its part and articulate its key interests better.
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.
Russian President Vladimir Putin takes part in a video conference call with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, 28 June 2021. (Alexei Nikolsky/Kremlin via Reuters)

Russia and China in Southeast Asia: Pragmatic cooperation against US primacy

Russia-China relations are at a historic high due to mutual concerns over US primacy, economic synergies and strong interpersonal ties between their national leaders. However, despite deepening military cooperation and closer diplomatic coordination, a formal alliance between Russia and China is not likely as this would constrain their strategic autonomy and undercut key foreign policy narratives. The South China Sea dispute is the most complex issue and a potential fault line in Russia-China relations in Southeast Asia. While Moscow has been broadly supportive of China’s position, Beijing’s jurisdictional claims threaten Russia’s lucrative energy interests in Southeast Asia.
A woman receives the Sinovac Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine in Denpasar, Indonesia's Bali island on 2 September 2021. (Sonny Tumbelaka/AFP)

Has China done well in its vaccine diplomacy in Southeast Asia?

China has supplied 190 million doses of its homegrown vaccines to Southeast Asia. However, although there has been sporadic support, perceptions of Chinese vaccines among the public in the region largely trend negatively, suggesting a non-linear relationship between China’s vaccine diplomacy and its soft power in the region. ISEAS researchers Khairulanwar Zaini and Hoang Thi Ha discuss the complex factors affecting vaccine hesitancy in six Southeast Asian countries — Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
This picture taken and released by the Vietnam News Agency on 29 July 2021 shows US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin (centre) inspecting a guard of honour along with Vietnam's Defence Minister Phan Van Giang (left) during a welcoming ceremony in Hanoi. (STR/Vietnam News Agency/AFP)

US defence chief Lloyd Austin in Southeast Asia: Did the US strike the right notes?

Lloyd Austin’s visit to three Southeast Asian countries in July 2021 was aimed at reaffirming America’s commitment to regional alliances and partnerships amid concerns of US neglect of the region in the first six months of the Biden administration. The messages delivered during his trip, particularly in his Fullerton Lecture in Singapore, outlined the broad contours of the Biden administration’s Southeast Asia policy that goes beyond the dynamics of US-China strategic rivalry and seeks to provide a more holistic and positive agenda of US engagement with the region.
Workers pull a rope as a cargo ship carrying containers docks at the Lianyungang Port Container Terminal in Lianyungang, Jiangsu province, China on 24 March 2021. (Hector Retamal/AFP)

Demand swells for Chinese shipping crews amid global shortage

Amid worsening Covid-19 outbreaks in India and many Southeast Asia countries, ship operators are turning to China's massive workforce of 1.65 million crew members to fill the global shortage of crew members. Why are Chinese crew members in such high demand? Caixin journalists Jia Tianqiong and Yang Ge find out.
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.