ince Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte took office, he seems to have made it his personal mission to steer the country away from the United States and towards China. And while generations of Filipinos have seen their country as one of America’s staunchest allies in the region, many have followed the president and now look to China as the Philippines’ new “best friend.”
The concern for many Pinoys however is whether China can be trusted at all. Despite China’s many significant achievements, the country still remains a totalitarian Communist state without the many freedoms and individual rights that Western democracies provide to its citizens. Corruption and a lack of transparency highlight just two of the many shortcomings the Chinese government is accused of.
Chinese President Xi Jin Ping has, of late, embarked on an anti-corruption campaign prosecuting many high-level government officials. His critics however point out that many of the officials Xi is going after are aligned with former President Jiang Zemin. They see Xi’s crackdown as nothing but a brazen move to weaken Jiang’s still significant powerbase in order to consolidate power for himself.
At this stage, there is no doubt that China is now a world leading economy—especially in Southeast Asia. Given its current trajectory, it may soon surpass the United States to become the world’s top nation. The questions for Filipinos are: do we choose China over America? Do we try to remain neutral? Or do we move back to the American (and European Union) side once Duterte is out of office?
Those choices may be difficult to answer now, but the coming years will make it clearer which one will be best for the Philippines. Published 4/9/2017