Manila on the Chinese bandwagon

The Philippines becomes the first Indo-Pacific country to declare itself for Beijing

On the geopolitics of the Indo-Pacific, I have long argued that “the small- and medium-sized countries of the region will prefer a balance where no single power dominates over them. If they do not see this forthcoming, they are likely to join the stronger side.”

Rodrigo Duterte, the president of the Philippines, appears to have decided that that stronger side is China.

“America has lost now. I’ve realigned myself in your ideological flow,” he said at a business forum in Beijing on Thursday. “And maybe I will also go to Russia to talk to Putin and tell him that there are three of us against the world: China, Philippines and Russia. It’s the only way.” [CNN]

There were indications of this for the last few months, but the manner in which he announced a “separation” from the United States, the Philippines’ treaty ally since 1951, could not have been more designed to ingratiate Beijing, his newfound benefactor. Mr Duterte calculates — correctly, in all likelihood — that China will now shower the Philippines with exemplary largesse. It is in Beijing’s interests to demonstrate that those who decide to join the Chinese side will be rewarded, as long as they are willing to ignore some trifling territorial disputes and international arbitration verdicts.

I have also argued that there is a Chinese wedge between ASEAN states that have a dispute with Beijing and those that don’t. That wedge has just gotten deeper and wider. The ASEAN agenda on maritime cooperation is now in question, as Philippines joins other pro-China ASEAN members in being uninterested in confronting China. Vietnam, in particular, will be under a lot more pressure.

The Philippines remains a pro-American country. It is also likely that parts of the country’s security establishment have deep links with the US armed forces. How Mr Duterte’s policy will go down with the people and the security establishment remains to be seen.

These Americans are crazy

Sometimes not doing the honour is the more astute thing to do

The US government—long used to ignoring public opinion in Pakistan—may have completely lost the plot. It became wildly unpopular in the Pakistani media a few days ago, when senior state department officials visited Islamabad before the government was formed, and were seen to be interfering with the political process.

And now, they’ve gone and inducted General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani into the United States Army Command and General Staff College’s International Hall of Fame. This “honors those officers of United States allies’ militaries who have attained the highest command positions in their national service component or within their nation’s armed forces”.

That’s just what General Kayani needs to strengthen his own position among his colleagues in the Pakistani army establishment. It is also exactly the thing that he needs to be painted as being beholden to the United States—a fat lot of good that will do to him: in the eyes of the newly elected dispensation, with the increasingly influential media and with the people.

And the US government thinks that such an outcome is good for them?