The Philippines’ decision not to end its Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the US hints at Duterte’s uncertainty over relations with the US and China.
South China Sea
The pandemic is expanding strategic competition between China and Vietnam from the South China Sea into the economy. Vietnam could see a boost to its economy as the COVID-19 crisis wears off and companies look to shift their operations out of China.
China is facing international backlash for stepping up its illegal claims in the South China Sea amid the coronavirus pandemic. Recent incidents and hostile rhetoric show that Beijing is using the situation to increase its aggression against Southeast Asian nations in the area.
The recent US statement criticising China’s actions in the South China Sea is inaccurate and hypocritical. It misrepresents China’s claims and blames Beijing for ‘offenses’ that Vietnam has also committed, all while the US itself has continued its aggression in the area amid the pandemic.
China’s actions in the South China Sea show what the next stage of geopolitics in Southeast Asia will look like. As China projects its power amid the pandemic, ASEAN governments will see their economies and development further defined by how they embrace or contest Beijing’s agenda.
A look at how the region’s media covered the fallout following last week’s South China Sea incident that saw a Chinese and Vietnamese vessel collide.
The recent flare-up of tensions between Indonesia and China over fishing in the south-central South China Sea will not be the turning point in ASEAN-China relations many predict.
Set against the backdrop of the US-China trade war and increasing tensions in the South China Sea, the 35th ASEAN Summit saw regional leaders push for increased unity to meet regional challenges.
Since taking office, President Duterte has eschewed traditional allies in favour of a pivot towards Beijing. Three years into his term, there are few tangible signs that it was a worthwhile endeavour.
China is trying to manipulate international dispute resolution mechanisms to sew confusion and further its economic interests in the South China Sea. Its diplomatic and military activities are pushing the region closer to the brink of conflict.