Commentaries

The views expressed are the author's alone and do not constitute official positions of APPFI.

Converging Joint Development and Philippine National Interests

Photo from Gazette Review by Lindsey Burrows

Joint development of maritime resources is hailed as a feasible approach between countries that are locked into overlapping boundaries or maritime claims. The term “joint development” is loosely used as simply referring to developing and exploiting resources together. As an international practice, joint development is in line with the United Nations Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) wherein states, pending agreement of delimitation of boundaries or continental shelf, shall make an effort to enter into provisional arrangements of a practical nature which shall be without prejudice to the final delimitation.

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Power Shift and the South China Sea: Questions for the Philippines

Fareed Zakaria, writing on the “post-American world” in 2008, began by saying “this is not a book about the decline of America, but rather about the rise of everyone else”. He argued that while America would still be the most powerful nation on earth, its relative power will be diminished. US liberal policies themselves had encouraged growth in other parts of the world, allowing China and India in particular to become powers in their own right, he said.

In October 2017, the same author Zakaria wrote a short opinion piece about the historic significance of China’s 19th Communist Party Congress. With a fresh 5-year mandate and having emerged as the strongest Chinese leader since Deng Xiaoping, President Xi Jinping announced to the world that not only would China continue to strive to be a power, but that its own model offered “a new choice” for other countries. Zakaria then cited surveys by Pew Research Center that showed how countries like Australia, Netherlands and Canada now have a more favorable view of China than of the U.S., and that Germans, Chileans and Indonesians were among the people who had greater confidence in the leadership of Xi Jinping than that of Donald Trump. He observed, this time, that "The shift in reputation that we are witnessing around the world is not so much about the rise of China but rather the decline of the United States."

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Will the real China please stand up? A Southeast Asian perspective on China’s growing power and influence

(This article originally appeared in Japanese translation in Gaiko (Diplomacy), Vol 46, Nov./Dec. 2017, pp. 43-49)

The first five years of Xi Jinping’s rule saw major changes in Chinese policy that have affected its relations with Southeast Asia. With a slowing economy in need of difficult restructuring, a global financial crisis threatening China’s markets and sources of investments, the Communist Party facing issues of legitimacy amidst rampant corruption, and serious environmental problems threatening growth and people’s welfare, Xi set out on a direction that was rather unexpected. He began to assert strong central authority domestically; waged a sustained anti-corruption campaign (that also masked a purge of political rivals); took steps to raise China’s economic, political and military profile abroad; and began to contest some rules of the international order which China had been dissatisfied with. Xi abandoned Deng Xiaoping’s exhortation - obeyed by his predecessors Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao - that China keep to strategic patience, remain low-key, and “bide its time and hide its capacities” (taoguang yanghui韬光养晦 ). Xi Jinping was instead happy for China to show off its achievements (including in the area of defense technology), and seemed in a greater hurry for China to take its place – after a “century of humiliation” -- at the rule-making table alongside other big powers. In particular, the Chinese leadership set as one of its goals that China, already the world’s largest trading nation and a top trading partner of over 120 countries in the world, shall become a global maritime power. In the process, China under Xi became more assertive in defending territorial interests in surrounding seas, including the East China Sea facing Japan and the Koreas, and the South China Sea where several Southeast Asian countries also had claims to territory and maritime entitlements.

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Philippine and ASEAN perspectives on the Korean nuclear and missile crisis*

A succession of nuclear and missile tests and vocal response from its neighbors and the US put the spotlight back again on one of the world’s most enduring flashpoints, the Korean Peninsula. The heated US-DPRK verbal exchanges of threats and Pyongyang’s resolve to push through with its nuclear and missile program despite tightening international sanctions raise serious concern about potential conflict with catastrophic consequences. The conduct of annual US-ROK military exercises in spite of the tense atmosphere, US pronouncements that all options (including military) are on the table, and dispatch of military assets in the area are matched by DPRK’s defiance demonstrated by accelerating the pace and intensity of its nuclear and missile program. All these feed into a deadly spiral that needs to be de-escalated soonest. Recognizing the high stakes involved, the international community began to express deep concern on the issue. Countries bordering DPRK and which have long been engaged in efforts to denuclearize the peninsula, notably ROK, China, Japan, and Russia, along with US, began to undertake measures to tackle the issue, although divergence on how best to proceed with the same is apparent.

ASEAN2017 50FMM

Photo from ASEAN 2017

Although not as proximate, Southeast Asia, which includes US security allies that houses American troops and assets, is within the range of DPRK missiles, which according to Pyongyang are now even able to hit targets as far away as Guam and even mainland US. Thus, Southeast Asia made the developments in the Korean Peninsula one of the key regional and international issues discussed in the 50th ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting held in Manila last August 5, 2017. In fact, the recent round of missile tests conducted by DPRK came in third after the South China Sea and violent extremism, terrorism and radicalization indicating the high importance attached by the regional bloc on the matter. Philippines, one of the original members of ASEAN and this year’s ASEAN Summit host, presided over such meetings and, as such, have a hand in shepherding the Association to come up with a common stand on the issue. With a firebrand and unorthodox leader at the helm known for breaking longstanding traditions (e.g. downgrading US security ties, expanding economic ties with China, considering security ties with China and Russia) in his quest for an independent foreign policy, how does Philippines see the issue and what are its interests on the same? What role can it play, if any, in keeping stability in a region known as the engine of global growth and development, but which is long haunted by unresolved disputes such as this one?

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