President Duterte, the South China Sea and ASEAN

President Duterte, the South China Sea and ASEAN

President Duterte, the South China Sea and ASEAN

By Kelly Bailey from Perth USAsia Centre | 10 Mar 2017

President Duterte, the South China Sea and ASEAN teaser

Philippines Geopolitics Specialist, Richard Heydarian, gave a public lecture on how the assertive policies of Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte are shaping the escalating South China Sea dispute and wider East Asian geopolitics.

Key takeaways

  • Heydarian highlighted that despite Duterte's strong approval ratings, his dismissal of the United States (U.S.) and gravitation towards China has met with notable domestic criticism.

  • Heydarian argues that Duterte's seemingly pro-China stance is simply strategic pragmatism, with Duterte aware that in an increasingly post-U.S. world, the Philippines must be more pragmatic and transactional with the 'Great Powers'

  • Heydarian contends that if the Trump administration maintains a soft policy on Filipino human rights issues, a strategic reset in their bilateral tensions could be achieved

  • If China refuses to make concessions in the South China Sea, Heydarian predicts that Duterte could rapidly develop a hostile stance towards China. Such a swing would heighten tensions in the region, amidst what Heydarian describes as a very fluid situation


Kelly Bailey is an intern at the Perth USAsia Centre

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