Commentaries by Richard Javad Heydarian
- May 23 , 2017During his second official visit to Beijing in less than a year, Duterte held formal talks with both Chinese President Xi Jinping as well as Premiere Li Keqiang, where the two neighbors reaffirmed their commitment to look beyond their difference in the South China Sea and, instead, focus on areas of common concern. In exchange for these diplomatic and strategic concessions, Duterte expects China to serve as a key partner for his country’s national development. China’s new Silk Road initiative, in particular, has caught the Philippines’ attention.
- Apr 27 , 2017The Philippines is often portrayed as an American ally on the verge of defecting to Eastern powers, with Duterte firmly overseeing this strategic shift. Yet, a closer look reveals that the tough-talking Filipino leader doesn’t have the requisite power to unilaterally reshape his country’s foreign policy, nor is he interested in fully severing ties with the Philippines’ century-old ally, America.
- Apr 11 , 2017As the supposed engine of regional integration, and bedrock of East Asian security architecture, the ASEAN has sought, with limited success, to mediate maritime disputes and avoid conflict in the region. But beyond concerns over the gradual loss of so-called ‘ASEAN centrality,’ Southeast Asian countries are also worried about sudden and destructive escalation in Sino-American tensions in the area, especially if the Trump administration makes a step too far in order to project toughness.
- Feb 06 , 2017Duterte, whom some have dubbed as the “Trump of the East”, made it clear that he feels a sense of personal affinity with the new American leader, whom he has described as a kindred spirit, a fellow strongman and anti-establishment populist. There are, of course, legitimate concerns about the possibility of things spiraling out of control if and when mercurial and larger-than-life figures like Duterte and Trump collide. For now, however, Manila is optimistic about a diplomatic reset with its oldest friend, America.
- Jan 24 , 2017Since his election in mid-2016, the Philippines’ tough-talking mayor-turned-president, Rodrigo Duterte, has lavished Russia with praise. Moscow’s rapprochement with Manila is part of a broader effort by the Eurasian powerhouse to assert its long-diminished strategic presence in the Far East and the Western Pacific, including in the South China Sea.
- Dec 05 , 2016Without a question, it is still too early to predict the exact trajectory of Trump’s actual policy in office, given his penchant for policy equivocation and tendency for self-contradiction. Deals like the TTP now hang up in the air. There are also opportunities for China in the new administration. Doubts over Trump’s temperament, judgment, experience, and commitment to the global order could encourage a growing number of Asian nations to reconsider their relations with Washington in favor of Beijing. The Trump administration faces an uphill battle to reassure allies in the region that America will continue to preserve and provide public international goods in the region, stand strong with its allies, and deepen its economic engagement with Asia.
- What we are witnessing isn’t necessarily a ‘Duterte wave’ of defections to China at the expense of America. More likely, it is a temporary recalibration on the part certain Southeast Asian states that are unsure of American commitment to the region and eager to avoid direct confrontation with China, which in turn is offering large-scale investment and trade deals in exchange for strategic acquiescence. China is offering lucrative packages of technical skills and soft loans for turbo-charged infrastructure projects. But, it remains to be seen how far this rebalancing will go, as other nations in the region shift away from China.
- Oct 26 , 2016Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s emerging foreign policy is a cocktail of reckless rhetoric and shrewd strategic calculus. The Duterte administration has made it clear that bilateral relations with America are no longer as special as before; it is simply interested in having beneficial relations with all superpowers without any preferential treatment.