China Centrum Tübingen (CCT)

Workshop: Duterte's Pivot to China: Towards a New Regional Order?

Rodrigo R. Duterte’s so-called “pivot to China” represents a dramatic reversal of his predecessor’s anti-China and pro-American foreign policy. Duterte has opted for a transactional, return-maximising policy towards China. It appears to be a case of illiberal realignment as he scores nationalist points by refusing to relent to criticism from the West, and the US in particular, due to human rights concerns related to the Philippine president’s violent drug crackdown, although his anti-US nationalism has deeper roots in the legacies of US colonialism and a personal run-in with US authorities when he was a mayor. Despite continuing tensions over territorial disputes in the South China, Duterte has been careful not to offer similar verbal jabs against China, which he portrays as a good Asian neighbor that has also suffered under the depredations of Western colonialism and helps poorer countries with development assistance. Duterte is the first Filipino leader since independence to be openly nationalist, rhetorically anti-Western leader. But ties to the US military remain strong given the Philippine dependence on U.S. hardware and training while relations with the US have proved easier under Donald Trump, who seems to have little interest in criticising Duterte or any other US ally for human rights violations. Duterte may have calculated that the US also needed the Philippines as a base for power projection and therefore had leeway if he turned diplomatically and economically towards China, making him appear a clever strategist. The Philippine example of hedging may serve as an example to other Southeast Asian countries. But China-US balancing will become increasingly tricky and will further undermine unity in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) with some countries increasingly unwilling to join any initiatives to curb China’s territorial ambitions in the region.

Mark R. Thompson ist Leiter des Departments für asiatische und internationale Studien (AIS) und Direktor des Südostasiatischen Forschungszentrums (SEARC), beide an der City University von Hong Kong. Er hat zuvor Positionen in Deutschland (Erlangen-Nürnberg und Dresden) und Großbritannien (Glasgow) innegehabt. Er war Lee Kong Chian distinguished fellow der Südostasiatischen Studien an der National University von Singapur und der Stanford University sowie ein Gastprofessor an der Universität Kyoto und der Universität Passau. Er war ein Rotary Foundation exchange student an der Universität der Philippinen in den Jahren 1984-1985, war er als visiting fellow am Institut für philippinische Kultur, an der Ateneo de Manila University 1986-1987 und promovierte 1991 in der Politikwissenschaft an der Yale University mit Juan J. Linz und James C. Scott als Betreuer seiner Dissertation, später veröffentlicht als The Anti-Marcos Struggle (Yale 1995). Er ist auch Autor von Democratic Revolutions (Routledge, 2004), Mitherausgeber von Dynasties and Female Political Leaders in Asia (2013), und der Autor einer Reihe von Zeitschriftenartikeln über die asiatische Politik, zuletzt "Democracy with Asian Characteristics," Journal of Asian Studies, 74, Nr. 4 (November 2015) und zusammen mit Stephan Ortmann, "Chinas „Singapore Model‘ and its Limits," Journal of Democracy, 27, Nr. 1 (Januar 2016). Er arbeitet derzeit an einem Buch Manuskript über die philippinische Präsidentschaft.