Trump trade war: May and China fire warning shots




I thought Trump just wants to make a deal, not make war!

So what gives?

Methinks, the merchants of death are making Trump do this.

But this is self-defeating and counter-productive!

Since the truckers of death are not necessarily independent of, or far removed from, the merchants of innocuous commodities!

Take McDonell Douglas Corporation, an American company, which later on gobbled by The Boeing Company.


McDonnell Douglas Corporation | American company |…/McDonnell-Douglas-Corporation


So McDonnell (as Douglas Aircraft) produced the famous DC series of commercial aviation planes, used its expertise to convert the DC-3, the world’s first commercial airliner, into military use as the C-47.

This should not come as a surprise since Donald W. Douglas (1892-1981), Douglas Aircraft’s founder, designed the Cloudster, the first aerodynamically streamlined plane, and founded his company to fill an order for three of the planes for the U.S. Navy.

During the war Douglas contributed 29,000 warplanes, one-sixth of the U.S. airborne fleet. After the war the company continued to dominate the commercial air routes with its new DC-6 and in 1953 brought out its most advanced piston-engined airliner, the DC-7, whose range made possible nonstop coast-to-coast service. With the development of commercial jets, however, Douglas began to lag behind Boeing. It was because of its deteriorating financial condition in the 1960s that it sought a merger with McDonnell.

Under its founder James S. McDonnell (1899–1980), that company grew up quickly during World War II and became a major defense supplier. It designed the world’s first carrier-based jet fighter and went on to produce such widely used jet fighters as the F-4 Phantom, the A-4 Skyhawk, the F-15 Eagle, and the F-18 Hornet. The company also manufactured launch vehicles and cruise missiles. In 1984 it purchased Hughes Helicopters Inc. from the estate of Howard Hughes. In the 1970s the company began diversifying with the acquisition of companies engaged in data processing, satellite communications, information services, and the manufacture of electronic devices.

The end of the Cold War in the early 1990s resulted in a major contraction of U.S. defense industries. In the wave of business consolidations and mergers that followed, McDonnell Douglas was acquired by The Boeing Company.

And what does The Boeing Company produce?

AeroWeb | Boeing (Rockwell) B-1B Lancer

AeroWeb | Boeing CH–47/MH-47 Chinook

AeroWeb | Boeing P–8A Poseidon

But not only those nasty things that help politicians and military leaders command their underlings to kill people especially from afar and with almost no warning.

What else does The Boeing Company produce and sell?



Boeing Company, American aerospace company—the world’s largest—that is the foremost manufacturer of commercial jet transports. It is also a leading producer of military aircraft, helicopters, space vehicles, and missiles, a standing significantly enhanced with the company’s acquisition of the aerospace and defense units of Rockwell International Corporation in 1996 and its merger with McDonnell Douglas Corporation in 1997. Formerly Boeing Airplane Company, the firm assumed its current name in 1961 to reflect its expansion into fields beyond aircraft manufacture. Headquarters were in Seattle until 2001, when Boeing relocated to Chicago.

Boeing Company’s constituent business units are organized around three main groups of products and services—commercial airplanes, military aircraft and missiles, and space and communications.

Boeing manufactures seven distinct families of commercial aircraft, which are assembled in two facilities—Renton and Everett—in Washington state and one facility in California. The Renton plant builds the narrow-body Boeing 737 and formerly built the 757 aircraft (discontinued in 2004), while the wide-body Boeing 767 and 777 aircraft and a limited number of the largely discontinued 747s are assembled at the Everett plant. The 787 aircraft are assembled at the Everett plant and at a facility in North Charleston, South Carolina.

Boeing Business Jets, a joint venture of Boeing and General Electric Co., makes and markets business jets based on the 737-700 airliner as well as VIP versions of the 747, 777, and 787 airliners.

The company’s military-related activities are centred on the design, manufacture, and support of fighter aircraft, bombers, transports, helicopters, and missiles. Its products include, among others, the F-15 Eagle, F/A-18 Hornet and Super Hornet, and AV-8 Harrier fighters; the C-17 Globemaster III airlifter; the AH-64 Apache series of attack helicopters; the CH-47 Chinook transport helicopter; and the AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System) aircraft, based on the 767. Boeing contributes to the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor air-superiority stealth fighter and the Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit stealth bomber.

In partnership with Bell Helicopter Textron, it builds the V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, and, with United Technologies’ Sikorsky division, it made the RAH-66 Comanche armed reconnaissance helicopter.

The company also builds the Harpoon antiship missile, the air-launched Standoff Land Attack Missile (SLAM), and the air-launched cruise missile (ALCM).

In the space and communications sector, Boeing produces the Delta family of launch vehicles; the Inertial Upper Stage (IUS), an in-space solid-rocket booster; and rocket engines for Delta launchers and other vehicles. It participates in processing, ground operation, and training activities for the U.S. space shuttle fleet through United Space Alliance, a joint venture with Lockheed Martin Corporation.

As the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA’s) prime contractor for the International Space Station, Boeing leads an industry team comprising most major U.S. aerospace companies and hundreds of smaller suppliers and integrates the work of ISS participants from non-U.S. countries. Its involvement in commercial space development includes partnerships in the multinational Sea Launch Company and in the Teledesic consortium formed to build a satellite-based, Internet-like telecommunications service.

It also makes satellites for the Navstar Global Positioning System (GPS).

In 2016 Boeing employed a workforce of about 150,500 people in 65 countries and 27 U.S. states.


It seems that many modern-day technologies started as death technologies.

But not so!

The spear, a weapon that kills, is also the javelin thrown by well-contured athletes of the ancient Olympic Games, the Panhellinic Games of Ancient Greece, originally a festival in honor of Zeus.

It appears that human beings have been producing dual purpose tools since then.

What is quite different now is that the weapons of death have been developing across the centuries to enable alleged combatants in the comfort of airconditioned ‘fortresses’ thousands of miles away to kill other people, designated as adversaries or enemies, without warning and without the normal declaration of war.

I admire the bravery and courage of these arm-chair warriors!

But wait, the merchants of death need to wrack up more sales to keep the economy going, to keep people employed, to get representatives of the people elected and re-elected because they keep on bringing home the bacon by way of more defense contracts for the home district.

So why limit warfare against pip-squeak non-state actors like al-Qaeda and IS?

Why not bring the war to the rogue states: Iran, Iraq, Taliban’s Afghanistan, Yemen, North Korea, and the like?

But that still be inadequate for the merchants’ purposes.

So bring the war to the doorsteps of the great powers like China…and the Russian Federation!

Meanwhile, the same merchants of death will continue to produce and improve and innovate on innocuous products like commercial ailiners and GPS.

What else is new then?

What would be new is if the TRUMP gets his way.

Everybody makes a deal to make money.

Nobody makes war.

I therefore nominate the Orange Clown in the North for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Further on, I propose that the Nobel Committee revoke the same award from former US President Barack Obama, for being a peace hypocrite and a murderous war-monger!


Barack Obama


During the first day of the 3rd Katipunan Conference sponsored by the Strategic Studies Program (with which I am a fellow) yesterday, I asserted that a new cold war is on in the Indo Asia Pacific Theater.  And in fact, I am just echoing the views of very young and very junior scholars I have read way back in 2015 like Hendricks (2015)


What was a Chinese military plane doing in South Korea’s special air defence zone for 4 hours?





What’s going on in our neck of the woods?

A new cold war, that is!

In the Indo Asia Pacific theater with China and the US as the main protagonists.


An appropriate (even if old) theory that could help better understand the new East Asian strategic environment exists.  The Power Transition theory is a theory about the cyclical nature of war, in relation to power (of states) in international relations.   Created by A.F.K. Organski, and originally published in his textbook, World Politics (1958), contemporary power transition theory describes international politics as a hierarchy, with different degrees of power between states. The objective of the theory is to investigate the cyclic condition of wars, and how transition of power in terms of machtpolitik affect the occurrence of these wars.


The principal predictive power of the theory is in the likelihood of war and the stability of alliances.  War is most likely, of longest duration and greatest magnitude, when a challenger (a revisionist power; one of the great powers) to the dominant power (the global hegemon) enters into approximate parity with the dominant state and is dissatisfied with the existing system. Similarly, alliances are most stable when the parties to the alliance are satisfied with the system structure. This leads to the view that when the balance of power is unstable (i.e. one or two nations have taken a dominant role in geopolitics), the likelihood of war is greater.


According to Organski:


An even distribution of political, economic, and military capabilities between contending groups of states is likely to increase the probability of war; peace is preserved best when there is an imbalance of national capabilities between disadvantaged and advantaged nations; the aggressor will come from a small group of dissatisfied strong countries; and it is the weaker, rather than the stronger; power that is most likely to be the aggressor.



Using Organski’s theory, China can be characterized as a ‘revisionist’ power dissatisfied with the existing balance of forces in the world as well as in Asia.  Meanwhile, the United States is a ‘status quo’ power (or a stand patter) working to preserve its hegemony.  It is joined by other status quo powers like Japan, South Korea, and Australia. Since it does not share US interests and preferences, the Russian Federation under President Vladimir Putin is China’s natural ally.[1]  The same is true with Pyongyang since Seoul is on the opposing side.  India is in a predicament since it shares a land border with China and fought a brief border war with the latter in the 1960s.  Geopolitical realities may force India to either align with China or opt for neutrality in the conflict.


Thus, a new cold war is afoot in East Asia (or the eastern Pacific rim) involving great powers (both status quo and revisionists) plus their allies.

Note that Russia had agreed to sell its most advanced S-400 missile systems to China.  Please see   <;.


A similar cold war is fought between the US and the Russian Federation in, as usual the European and MENA theater.

Of course, they have proxies.

But this new cold war is quite different, qualitatively different than the Cold War between the US and the USSR that ended in 1989-1991.

China and US are not starightfoward enemies.

The US and the Soviet Union were.

China and the US are, in millenial speak, “frenemies”.

They are enemies and rivals in the strategic realm.

But even in the strategic realm, they need to cooperate so as not to blow the world up in smoke and cinders.

They are friends in the economic realm sharing interest in keeping the world economy an open one.

However, as economic powers, they also compete and rival each other.

China was and is the biggest beneficiary of contemporary globalization, of the liberalization of the world’s financial markets and FDI rules.



Want to escape poverty? Replace pictures of Jesus with Xi Jinping, Christian villagers urged | South China Morning Post



In the process, the US steadily lost jobs and this gave (or gives) a fillip to protectionist sentiments exploited by Trump and his kind specially among blue collar workers and within the Rust Belt and the South.

The war is fought because of the steady undermining of the post-World War II world order.



The war is fought while the 4th Industrial Revolution is disrupting our lives, our economies, our ways of life, our politics, and our consciousness.

Fortunes are being made while misery and mayhem are widespread.

For this reasons, all gaps seem to be widening.

There is a great disconnect between competing truths. There is mass confusion, disaffection, and tumult.

The world is poised for a major shift.



Posted: January 8, 2018 in Uncategorized

Katuwaan lang!

The Professional Heckler

TRAIN, TAXES,a cursing senator, Mocha Girls, high profile suspects, and more. Are you updated? Take this week’s Current Events Quiz!

1WinPilstar1: WIN OR LOSE. Tweeting from Nevada, USA, Sherwin Gatchalian, a senator, had an outburst earlier this week. Tinawag nitong “ulol” at “gago” ang ilang netizens na nakasagutan niya sa Twitter. Ano ba ang sinabi ng netizens na  ikinagalit ni Gatchalian?
A: Trapo! Ingrato!
B: Intsik ka kasi kaya sipsip kay Duterte.
C: Kung gaano kaliit ang mata mo, ganun din kaliit ang utak mo! Malamang pati tit* mo!

Letter A: Tinawag siyang trapo at ingrato ng netizens matapos niyang batikusin ang administrasyon ni Noynoy Aquino na dati naman niyang sinusuportahan.

2: NO APOLOGIES. Tumangging humingi ng paumanhin si Sherwin Gatchalian matapos magmura sa Twitter. Katwiran ni Win, bayaran at robot daw ang mga nakasagutan niya…

View original post 1,031 more words

Part II: Comparing the four Southeast Asian states of interest

This paper focuses on the contemporary politics of four Southeast Asian states—Indonesia, Myanmar, the Philippines and Thailand.  Two of them—the Philippines and Thailand—are relatively established democracies (albeit with authoritarian interludes) while the other two—Indonesia and Myanmar—are democratizing or liberalizing polities transitioning from authoritarianism.  It is must be noted however that Indonesia has made more considerable progress compared to Myanmar, which have moved away from authoritarianism only a few years ago.

Suharto, former president of Indonesia

Suharto, former president of Indonesia

The forms of government of these democratic (democratizing or liberalizing) states are not similar.  Both Indonesia and the Philippines are unitary presidential constitutional republics with bicameral legislatures.  While Indonesia started democratizing in 1998 after the resignation (ouster) of authoritarian President Suharto, it was only in 2004 that the Indonesian president and vice president were elected by the electorate at large.  Prior to 2004, the leaders of the Indonesian republic were chosen by the legislators.  In contrast, the presidents and vice presidents of the Republic of the Philippines were directly elected since 1946 when the United States granted its independence save for an authoritarian period when the elected leader, President Ferdinand Marcos, launched an auto-golpe in September 1972 and ruled the country beyond the constitutionally-specified end of his term in 1973.  Marcos was ousted in a popular uprising in February 1986 and the new basic law imposed a single-term limit on presidential incumbents.

King Bhumibol of Thailand

King Bhumibol of Thailand

Thailand, meanwhile, is a constitutional monarchy but actual governmental power is wielded by a prime minister (and his cabinet) chosen by a majority of incumbent parliamentarians.  However, the Thai monarch (specially the incumbent King Bhumibol) has played a substantial political role in mediating conflicts between Thai political factions (civilian, military, or otherwise).  The absolute monarchy in Thailand was ended by a military coup in 1930 and a limited monarchy was established in its place.  However, military officers took the reigns of power in several occasions largely through bloodless coups with such authoritarian interludes often gaining royal approval or acquiescence.

General Aung San, considered the father of Burma's independence, was assassinated on July 19, 1947.

General Aung San, considered the father of Burma’s independence, was assassinated on July 19, 1947.

Myanmar is a federated union established in 1948 as a weakened United Kingdom retreated from its Asian colonies.  It was a democratic polity until a coup in 1962 installed a military dictatorship.  The military regime was seriously challenged by insurrections in the capital city of Yangon in 1988 and in 2007 but was able to crush these risings.   Elsewhere, armed secessionist movements of the various non-Bamese (or Burmese) minorities (e.g. Shan, Karen, and other ethnic minorities) fought the Yangon government (considered as controlled by Bamese interests) in one of the world’s longest running civil wars.  To mollify urban opposition, the military regime called for limited parliamentary elections in 1990 but set it aside when the results were not to its liking.  Since the opposition led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi (daughter of the acknowledged founder of the modern Burmese army, General Aung San) and her National League for Democracy (NLD) won almost 60% of the national vote and 80% of contested parliamentary seats, the military regime had been under considerable pressure from within and without to relinquish power to elected civilian leaders as well as release Suu Kyi from house arrest.  In 2011, the ruling military junta was officially dissolved following a 2010 general election and a nominally civilian government was installed.  While former military leaders like Thein Sein (nominally a civilian after retirement as military chief) still wield substantial power, the Burmese military have taken major steps in relinquishing governmental control.  Suu Kyi was released and allowed to stand for elections as a parliamentarian.  She assumed her seat in parliament in 2012 and has since served as NLD chair and leader of the opposition.

Shan secessionist soldiers

Shan secessionist soldiers

Notwithstanding differences in forms of government, all four Southeast Asian states have a common history of political regime swings.  However, since all four are either liberalizing, democratizing or consolidating their democratic polities, it is indeed a valid exercise to evaluate how these polities handle two key relationships—between ‘ins’ and ‘outs’, and between majorities and minorities for one to have a well-rounded assessment of their political health.

Travails of democratization and political liberalization in the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand and Myanmar[1]

Amado M. Mendoza, Jr., Ph.D.

University of the Philippines

Part I: Introduction

Notwithstanding differences in the political and social development of Southeast Asian states, it is noteworthy that a ‘politics of hatred, revenge and political obstruction’ characterizes contemporary Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand, and the Philippines. In Indonesia, unrepentant vestiges of the Order Baru era seeks to derail the new presidency of the popular reformist Joko Widodo, who is further hobbled by his ‘allies’ in the ruling coalition. Thailand meanwhile is gripped by the seemingly intractable enmity between pro-Thaksin and anti-Thaksin forces. In the Philippines, the out-going Aquino administration is scrambling to field a friendly successor to avoid a fate it ruthlessly imposed on the preceding president. While liberalizing and on the road to democracy and internal reconciliation, the Buddhist-dominated regime in Myanmar is currently engaged in an apparent genocide against Muslim Rohingyas, now the new ‘boat people’ that even Muslim countries like Indonesia and Malaysia are unwilling to accommodate.

Pnoy Aquino

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III

It can be argued that democracy does not have room for a peculiar ‘politics of hatred, revenge and obstruction’ that has characterized the contemporary polities of four key Southeast Asian states: two relatively established democracies—Thailand and the Philippines; a new democracy, Indonesia; and a liberalizing polity—Myanmar—supposedly on a democratic road map. Democracy is a political order ideally based on civil dialogue and compromise and political differences are to be resolved mainly through the electoral process and other political institutions. The hallmark of democracy is thus to resolve conflicts and differences in a rule-based, peaceful or non-violent, and inclusive manner. In fact, democratic theorists argue that the quality of a democracy is largely determined by its capacity to respect the rights and legitimate interests of minorities even as it recognizes that majorities rule. While consensus is not required for a polity to qualify as a democracy, the legitimate interests of any minority as well as their human rights should be respected and must not be summarily dismissed simply because ‘they do not have numbers’. This desideratum is of great importance especially to a polity that is supposedly democratizing like Myanmar.

Myanmar opposition leader Daw Aung Suu Kyi

Myanmar opposition leader Daw Aung Suu Kyi

Incumbent governments in democracies gain their right to rule, or their legitimacy, through the electoral process that must be perceived by political actors and stakeholders to be fair and clean. Electoral legitimacy can be eroded through the life of a government if it fails to deliver a decent modicum of desired public goods to a critical majority of its constituents. If electoral legitimacy is buttressed by performance, a government that seeks re-election will most likely (ceteris paribus) succeed in obtaining a new electoral mandate.

Joko Widodo, President of Indonesia

Joko Widodo, President of Indonesia

Nonetheless, such mandates are not permanent since democracies, as rule, prescribe time-bound terms of incumbency. Alternation of incumbents is thus an institutional feature of democracies. Even if the same political party or coalition is returned to power through elections, the political leaders of government need not be same. For this reason, how the ‘outs’ are treated by those in power (or the ‘ins’) is another important indicator of a democratic polity’s quality. In the same manner, how ex-incumbents deal with a sitting government will also matter. In the main, ex-incumbents may either choose to cooperate with the incumbents even while maintaining an oppositionist stance. This stance of being the ‘loyal opposition’ is acceptable in a democracy which does not require unanimity and accepts and tolerates political differences. The qualifier ‘loyal’ is important as ex-incumbents are required to respect the electoral will of a state’s citizens. Ex-incumbents, even in if the opposition, are required to limit such opposition to legal means and avenues. They may ‘plot’, plan, organize and mobilize to regain incumbency but only within electoral and institutional parameters. Should they seek to regain incumbency through non-institutional and violent ways such as revolution, coups, and the like, they undermine and weaken their polities’ democracies and impede democratic consolidation.

Thailand's former premier Thaksin Shinawatra gestures as he speaks to journalists outside his home in Dubai, after Puea Thai Party's Yingluck Shinawatra announced her coalition in Bangkok July 4, 2011. Exiled former Thai prime minister Thaksin said on Monday he had no wish to become prime minister again in the wake of a landslide election victory for his sister's opposition party. Thaksin, a billionaire twice elected premier, was ousted in a 2006 coup. (REUTERS/Jumana El Heloueh)

Thailand’s former premier Thaksin Shinawatra

Cleavages other than electoral fortune such as religion, ethnicity, wealth and income, among others, may also create majorities and minorities. In the same manner, how these non-electoral majorities relate with or treat non-electoral minorities is another important index of a polity’s democratic bona fides. If these non-electoral minorities are discriminated against, oppressed, or persecuted systematically by the majority, the discontent can lead to political disorder and instability and could inspire armed secessionist movements.

Thus, the health of a democracy, the prospects of a democratizing polity can be measured through two variable relationships: between majorities and minorities and between the ‘ins’ and the ‘outs’.


Presented at the 9th APISA Annual Conference, Phnom Penh, Cambodia (September 11-12, 2015). Not for citation; comments are welcome and could be sent to or

“The changing triangular relations between the Philippines, the United States and the People’s Republic China: From Obama, Aquino, and Xi and beyond”


Amado M. Mendoza, Jr. and Richard Javad Heydarian

Part V

What now?

None illustrates the abject poverty of the Philippine government’s current position vis-à-vis China that the just concluded seventh bilateral strategic and economic dialogue between China and the United States last June.  A glaring contrast is offered by a more powerful U.S. talking with China while the  weakest state, the Philippines, spurns talking with a powerful neighbor.   It appears that the smallest power in this triangle has put all its eggs in two baskets: the ITLOS arbitration case and an expanding security relationship with its American ally (as well as Japan).  It remains to be seen how the Benigno Aquino III administration will respond to the latest entreaty from the Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines that the former drop its ITLOS case and resume the bilateral dialogue between the two states.

US-China strategic and economic dialogue

Even the bitterest adversaries can and should talk, and the measure of good leadership is to combine deterrence with smart engagement. After all, diplomacy is about avoiding conflict, resolving disputes, and outsmarting adversaries through means than raw brinkmanship.  We can learn from our neighbors.  The Philippines is not the only country which has territorial disputes with China.  If anything, Tokyo and Hanoi have been locked in a similar, if not fiercer, territorial show down with Beijing.  Since 2010, Japan has had to resist the ever-growing deployment of Chinese para-military patrols and jet fighters close to the shores of the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea. Armed hostilities loomed possible.  Hawks in Beijing have utilized the disputes to fan the flames of anti-Japanese sentiment, which led to violent protests in China against Japanese interests and products in 2012.


Pre-modern Vietnam had waged a millennium-old war of anti-colonial resistance against its powerful northern neighbor.  Vietnam’s very national identity has been shaped by what it sees as a struggle for independence against China.  Unlike Japan and the Philippines, Vietnam has had to contend with both continental as well as maritime disputes with China.  In 1974, China effectively evicted (South) Vietnam from the Paracels in the South China Sea and mounted a full-scale invasion of Vietnam in 1979.  In 1988, Vietnam faced another bloody skirmish with China over disputed islands in the Spratlys.  In mid-2014, Vietnam and China relations suffered a huge setback after Beijing deployed a giant oil rig into Vietnamese-claimed waters.

However, both Japan and Vietnam[1] have maintained robust diplomatic channels with China, while rapidly developing their deterrence capabilities.  Both Tokyo and Hanoi have tried (with considerable success) to maintain large-scale economic ties with China, defend their territorial integrity, and avoid outright conflict. They have accomplished this difficult balancing act by combining pro-active engagement with a determined push to enhance their deterrence capabilities.  Leaders in Japan and Vietnam have tried to ensure territorial disputes with China do not define their overall relationship with Asia’s new superpower.   In economic terms, China is a leading trading partner and source of investments for Vietnam . With respect to Japan, China is a critical investment and consumer market as well as a key source of rare earth elements.

Pursuing (and maintaining) engagement with China has always risked domestic political backlash for rivals, especially among more hawkish circles, which view China as a monolithic expansionist power. In 2014, as the dispute with China entered a dangerous stage, Japan’s nationalist leader, Shinzo Abe, took a huge gamble when he instructed his diplomats to open communication channels with China, culminating in a formal dialogue between Abe and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, on the sidelines of the APEC Summit in Beijing.  Abe’s meeting with Xi ended up in one of the world’s most awkward handshakes, but it did not take long before Japan and China resumed high-level talks among their foreign and defense ministries, and began exploring various confidence-building measures to avoid accidental clashes in the high seas.

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, left, and China's President Xi Jinping, right, shake hands during their meeting at the Great Hall of the People, on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings, in Beijing, Monday, Nov. 10, 2014. President Xi and Prime Minister Abe held an ice-breaking meeting Monday on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific conference in Beijing, following more than two years of deep tensions over an island dispute. (AP Photo/Kim Kyung-Hoon, Pool)

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, left, and China’s President Xi Jinping, right, shake hands during their meeting at the Great Hall of the People, on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings, in Beijing, Monday, Nov. 10, 2014. President Xi and Prime Minister Abe held an ice-breaking meeting Monday on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific conference in Beijing, following more than two years of deep tensions over an island dispute. (AP Photo/Kim Kyung-Hoon, Pool)

At the height of their disputes in the South China Sea last year, Vietnam hosted China’s leading foreign policy advisor, Yang Jiechi, and dispatched a top official, Le Hong Anh, to Beijing to de-escalate tensions. Soon, the two countries signed their third hotline, between their defense ministries, while the country’s party chief, Nguyen Phu Troung, made a high-profile visit to Beijing in mid-2015.  China not only withdrew the oil rig from Vietnamese waters; it also did not dispatch additional ones.  In exchange, Vietnam is said to have temporarily shelved the option of taking the dispute to an international court.  All the while, Vietnam as well as Japan have augmented their presence close to disputed features, fortified their position on the ground, and have embarked on a long-term initiative to enhance their defensive capabilities.

The Philippines can draw crucial lessons from its neighbors. First and foremost, it has to acknowledge the importance of maintaining high-level communication channels with Beijing. So far, Aquino and Xi are yet to hold a single formal summit.  For what is publicly known, Manila has not established a single hotline with China to prevent accidental clashes in the high seas and make sure they do not escalate into a full-scale conflict.

It is important to make sure Manila’s bilateral relations with China are not primarily defined by their conflicts but rather by their long-term shared interests.  Finally, the Philippines must also draw lessons from poorer neighbors such as Vietnam, which, instead of relying on external powers, are investing in their own air, naval, and coast guard capabilities in order to push back against Chinese assertiveness.

With Xi Jinping expected to visit Manila for the APEC summit later this year, there is a crucial opportunity to kick start a more proactive engagement with Beijing, keeping in mind the importance of diplomacy not only to mobilize friends but also outsmart or neutralize rivals.  Ultimately, however, as the more powerful party Beijing bears the greater responsibility for reaching out to its much-weaker and vulnerable neighbor.  This is apparently what the Chinese ambassador Zhao Jianhua has done recently, with the assurance that the Philippines is not in any way excluded from the Chinese-sponsored Maritime Silk Road (Remo 2015).  To encourage good will, China should offer greater economic incentives without any geopolitical preconditions. For starters, China can also boost confidence-building efforts by permanently postponing the imposition of any Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the South China Sea.  It could also raise hopes for greater cooperation by ending its unilateral, coercive occupation of the Scarborough Shoal, ending para-military patrols close to Philippine- controlled features in the area, agreeing to a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, and start negotiating mutually-satisfying joint development schemes with its neighbors.  More than anyone else, the ball is in China’s court, but it is also necessary for the Philippines to re-calibrate its diplomatic posturing, driven by more reason than emotions or ideological preferences.


  1. Books, book chapters, and journal articles

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Bello, W. 2010.  “From American Lake to People’s Pacific in the Twenty-First Century.” in Militarized Currents: Toward a Decolonized Future in Asia and the Pacific, eds. Shihematsu S. & Keith Camacho. University of Minnesota Press: Minneapolis.

Bello, Walden. 2006. Dilemmas of Domination: The Unmaking of the American Empire. Metropolitan Books: New York.

Blackwill, R. D. and Tellis, A. J. 2015. Revising U.S. Grand Strategy Toward China. New York: Council on Foreign Relations.

Blanchard, J. and Shen, S. 2015. Conflict and Cooperation in Sino-US Relations. London/New York: Routledge.

Chen, R. 2013. “A critical analysis of the U.S. ‘Pivot’ toward the Asia-Pacific: How realistic is neo-realism?” The Quarterly Journal (Summer): 39-66.

Chung, C.P. 2004. “Southeast Asia-China Relations: Dialectics of ‘Hedging’ and ‘Counter-Hedging’.” Southeast Asian Affairs 2004: 35-53.

Dollar, D. 2007. “Asian Century or Multi-polar Century.” World Bank Policy Research Working Paper No. 4174.

Dong, W. 2015. “Is China trying to push the U.S. out of East Asia?” China Quarterly of International Strategic Studies 1(1): 59–84.

Feria, D. 1993. The Barbed Wire Journal: Project Sea Hawk. Baguio: Paper Tigers and Circle Publications.

Garver, J. W. 1992. “China’s Push through the South China Sea: The Interaction of Bureaucratic and National Interests”. China Quarterly, No. 132: 999-1028.

Hamilton-Paterson, J. 1998. America’s Boy: The Marcoses and the Philippines. Mandaluyong City: Anvil Publishing.

Heydarian, R. J. 2015. “The Diplomatic Implications of Philippine-China Arbitration”, Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, Center for Strategic and International Studies. January 21, 2015.

Kissinger, H. 2012. “The Future of U.S.-Chinese Relations.” Foreign Affairs March/April 2012.

Kissinger, Henry. 2011. On China. New York: Penguin books.

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Kurlantzick, Joshua. 2007. Charm-offensive: How China’s soft power is transforming the world. New York: Yale University Press.

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[1] Li (2014) compares China-Vietnam and China-Philippine relations and concludes that from a conflict management perspective, China and Vietnam have sought to manage their border disputes through the establishment and development of a system of talks.  This approach has resulted in both formal settlement of land border and Gulf of Tonkin disputes and in better management of disputes in the South China Sea.  In contrast, between China and the Philippines, attempts were made to establish mechanisms for conflict management in the 1900s and 2000s but they have not been sustained, and in recent years the absence of such mechanisms have led to frosty relations.

“The changing triangular relations between the Philippines, the United States and the People’s Republic China: From Obama, Aquino, and Xi and beyond”


Amado M. Mendoza, Jr. and Richard Javad Heydarian

Part IV

Philippines flag

Chinese flag

The dragon and the carabao


Philippine-China bilateral ties have been far from monolithic, perhaps representing one of the most volatile inter-state relationships in recent memory. Today, the Philippines is seen as one of the most vociferous and outspoken critics of China’s maritime assertiveness in East Asia. And it has, much to the chagrin of its giant neighbor, taken the unprecedented decision to use third-party arbitration, under the aegis of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), to push back against China’s sweeping claims and ever-expanding para-military patrols across the South China Sea.

Less than a decade earlier, however, the two countries enjoyed a highly cordial relationship, anchored by institutionalized security dialogue, large-scale trade and investments deal, and various confidence building measures (CBMs) aimed at managing their territorial disputes. A mono-causal explanation of the evolution of Philippine-China ties obfuscates the complex interplay of multiple factors in shaping their bilateral relationship.  The Philippines’ relations with China have been influenced by not only major developments in the South China Sea — namely, China’s coercive assertion of its claims at the expense of the Philippines — but also the strategic predisposition of each Philippine administration as well as the broader dynamics of U.S.-China relations.

A rollercoaster relationship

As America’s oldest ally, the Philippines stood with its former colonial master throughout much of the early-Cold War period, serving as a key logistical hub during the Korean War (1950-53) as well as the Vietnam War (1955-75). The Philippines proved itself as a crucial partner in containing the spread of Communism in the Asia-Pacific theater, hosting America’s largest overseas bases in Clark and Subic, which served as the bedrock of Washington’s forward deployment presence in the region (Anderson 1999; Bello 2006; 2010).


Manila’s strategic proximity — if not subservience — to Washington, however, did not prevent it from reaching out to Beijing. In the 1970s, the Ferdinand Marcos administration (1965-1986) pursued a rapprochement with Chairman Mao. The Filipino strongman recognized the importance of maintaining stable relations with a powerful neighbor, which could hurt the Philippines both from without and within. On one hand, the Philippines was embroiled in a domestic counter-insurgency campaign against an increasingly powerful indigenous Communist movement.  Externally, the Marcos administration was cognizant of China’s growing ambitions in the South China Sea, as Beijing sought to eliminate South Vietnam’s presence in the Paracel chain of islands, culminating in skirmishes in 1974, and push further into the Spratly chain of islands. The Philippines was intent on making sure its presence in the Thitu Island, where it established an airstrip and advanced facilities, was not threatened by China, although robust American military presence in the Philippines served as a key deterrence.. Overall, Manila sought a modus vivendi with its Communist neighbor. Crucially, the normalization of Philippine-China ties took place within the context of a brewing détente between Beijing and Washington, as China’s paramount leader reciprocated the Nixon administration’s charm offensive. Mao and Nixon laid down the foundations of a de facto US-China alliance against the Soviet Union, which ramped up its security ties with (a newly unified) Vietnam. Both Manila and Beijing were concerned with prospects of greater Vietnamese territorial assertiveness — with Soviet assistance and against the backdrop of America’s humiliating setback in South Vietnam — in the region.

Deng Xiaoping

The rise of pragmatist leader, Deng Xiaoping, coincided with (i) the normalization of China’s ties with (American-aligned) Southeast Asian neighbors and (ii) a determined pushback against Hanoi’s ambitions in Indo-China, particularly in Cambodia, and in the South China Sea, particularly in the Spratly chain of islands where Vietnam enjoyed the most expansive presence, controlling  some twenty one (21) features. The Moscow-Hanoi axis represented a common enemy to Beijing, Manila, and Washington, who were increasingly bound together by a cynical “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” strategic mindset. Philippine-China bilateral relations also benefited from the growing sophistication of Beijing’s diplomacy. Deng Xiaoping embarked on a charm-offensive across Southeast Asia shortly after assuming power, and chose to nix long financial-logistical support to Communist insurgencies across the region; meanwhile, his protégé Jiang Zemin (1992-2002) oversaw the transformation of the Chinese diplomatic corps into a modern, articulate, and competent force, which facilitated a careful cultivation of bilateral ties with neighboring countries such as the Philippines (Graver 1992; Kurlantzick 2007; Kissinger 2011; Shirk 2007).

The end of Cold War, however, presented new challenges to Philippine-China relations. The withdrawal of American bases from the Philippines in 1992, after a wave of nationalist outcry against foreign military presence in the country, created a huge power vacuum in the region. It didn’t take long before China stepped in, coercively occupying (1994) the Mischief Reef, a feature claimed (and intermittently occupied) by the Philippines in the Spratly chain of island. By 1995, the two countries confronted a diplomatic crisis, with the Ramos administration (1992-1998) considering various measures to restrain China’s territorial opportunism and wrest back the Mischief Reef. Aside from augmenting the capabilities of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), under the AFP Modernization Act of 1996, the Ramos administration assiduously mobilized a regional diplomatic offensive against China, which culminated in the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC). Forged under the aegis of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the DOC provided a foundational document for a long-term management of the South China Sea disputes, discouraging claimant states from engaging in provocative, unilateral and coercive measures in the area, among other things. Crucially, it provided a basis for the negotiation of a more legally-binding Code of Conduct (COC) in the long-run. The Philippines decision to welcome back American troops, under the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), was by no means sufficient to fully deter Chinese adventurism. The VFA neither provided for the establishment of permanent, large-scale American bases in the Philippines — a non-starter on constitutional grounds — nor did it translate into unequivocal American support for the Philippines amid the Southeast Asian country’s territorial disputes with China. The Ramos administration had to place at least some of its strategic eggs in the diplomatic basket. There was no military solution to the Chinese threat.

With the entry of China into the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the emergence of the Communist power into a regional economic pivot, neighboring countries further shifted their attention to trade and investment-related issues. Now, China was primarily seen as an indispensable economic partner for many East Asian countries. And the Philippines came to saw China as a vital trading partner, too. Meanwhile, the Bush administration’s (2000-2008) pugnacious and unilateralist foreign policy began to alienate many countries in the region. Soon, many countries began to see China as a peaceful, cooperative rising power standing in stark contrast to the unilateral assertiveness of the U.S. By 2004, the Arroyo administration (2001-2010) decided to withdraw its troops from the “Coalition of the Willing” contingent in Iraq, a move that incensed Washington but bought the unpopular Filipino president desperately needed political capital at home. The move came on the heels of growing popular demand for saving a Filipino hostage (Angelo De La Cruz) held by al-Qaeda-affiliated groups in Iraq, which demanded the withdrawal of Philippine military presence in the Middle Eastern country in exchange for the hostage’s life. To pre-empt any potential reprisal from Washington, which dangled the option of reducing military and financial assistance to its Southeast Asian ally, the Arroyo administration astutely employed the ‘China card’, embarking on a high-profile state visit to Beijing, which culminated in a series of trade, security, and investment agreements. What followed was arguably the “golden age” of Philippine-China relations, as the Arroyo administration inked major Chinese investments in the country, particularly in the infrastructure sector, and explored CBMs such as the 2005 Joint Maritime Seismic Undertaking (JMSU) to manage disputes and explore joint development schemes in the South China Sea (Morada 2006; Mendoza and Heydarian 2012).

joint seismic survey

Astonishingly, even the U.S. was seemingly impressed by China’s efforts to develop cordial ties with the Philippines. For instance, in a cable entitled “More on Hu Jintao’s Visit to the Philippines”, the American Embassy in Manila was largely sanguine with Chinese president’s 2005 visit to Manila by stating: “President Hu’s charm offensive in Manila does not appear significantly different from that in other ASEAN capitals.  Better and broader bilateral ties advance regional interests, as other ASEAN members have also discovered”.[1]  In another cable, entitled “Joint Seismic Survey in South China Sea makes progress”, Washington also welcomed the JMSU agreement: “The joint seismic survey offers a good model for potential subsequent cooperation on exploration and exploitation, and fits neatly with Philippine goals of increased interaction between ASEAN and China and the promotion of confidence building measures. The true test of the cooperative spirit, however, will come when the parties may contemplate Extraction.”[2] Astonishingly, the U.S. was cautiously optimistic with respect to growing Philippine-China relations.

Bilateral ties, however, began to sour towards the twilight years of the Arroyo administration, as the Philippine Supreme Court declared the JMSU unconstitutional and a series of corruption scandals rocked Philippine-China joint ventures, particularly the NBN-ZTE project. The election of a new Filipino leader paved the way for a qualitative shift in bilateral relations. Presenting his agenda as a moral crusade against corruption (and his successor), Benigno Aquino III was bound to be more circumspect vis-à-vis large-scale Chinese investments in the country. The 2008-09 Global Financial Crisis also took a toll on bilateral trade, which reached as high as $30 billion in 2007 but significantly shrank (and shifted in China’s favor) in succeeding years (Mendoza & Heydarian 2012). Bilateral ties were further embittered by growing Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea, particularly in 2010 and 2011. The Philippines had to suspend its oil exploration activities in the Reed Bank due to Chinese harassments. No wonder then, the Philippines began to openly embrace the Obama administration’s Pivot to Asia (P2A) policy, with a primary focus on augmenting America military footprint in the region. Philippine Foreign Secretary Alberto del Rosario (a former ambassador to Washington) stood as among the most enthusiastic supporters of P2A in Asia, pushing for an upgraded Philippine-U.S. security alliance (against China).

SFA Albert del Rosario

Nonetheless, there were several attempts by the Aquino administration to prevent a breakdown in bilateral relations, particularly his highly-controversial refusal to attend the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in 2010 for Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo as well as his high-profile visit to Beijing in 2011. But the Scarborough Shoal crisis in mid-2012 — pitting a Filipino frigate against an armada of Chinese coast guard vessels, and subsequently unleashing Chinese economic sanctions against the Philippines — led to an effective breakdown in bilateral relations. Attempts at backdoor channel diplomacy heavily backfired, leading to acrimonious blame games between Filipino officials and legislators, China refusing to disengage from the contested feature and proceeding with cordoning of the whole area. The Philippines’ decision to initiate compulsory arbitration against China in early-2013 heavily undermined prospects for better bilateral relations under the Xi Jinping administration (2012-2022), which has shown even greater determination to consolidate Chinese claims in the South China Sea. The Aquino administration’s often incendiary rhetoric against China and its decision to welcome greater American rotational military presence in the Philippines, under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), also discouraged Chinese leaders, from President Xi to Premiere Li Keqiang and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, from holding even a single high-level dialogue with their Filipino counterparts.

With Filipino officials accusing China of acting like a “bully” and Beijing returning the favor by accusing the Philippines of acting like a “troublemaker”, bilateral relations entered their darkest period in recent memory. As far as the South China Sea disputes are concerned, China holds the upper hand. It is highly unlikely that there will be any significant respite in the ongoing bilateral diplomatic deadlock until a new Filipino leadership, with a more pragmatic streak and subtle diplomatic language, takes over in 2016.



[1] Cable retrieved from the Wikileaks site, see

[2] Cable retrieved from the Wikileaks site, see