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Siding With China: A Wrong-headed Decision, or Duterte’s Stroke of Genius

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte shakes hands with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang at the 19th ASEAN-China Summit on September 7, 2016
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte shakes hands with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang at the 19th ASEAN-China Summit on September 7, 2016. Noel Celis / AFP

or whatever reason, it is now obvious that Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is not a “fan” of the United States of America. In recent statements, Duterte has pledged closer ties with the People’s Republic of China, and admitted to admiring Russian President Vladimir Putin. At the same time, Duterte has called U.S. President Barack Obama a “son of a whore,” refused to join U.S.-sponsored naval patrols in the South China Sea, and ended several joint military programs between the two countries. Rumor has it that it is Duterte’s way of getting back at the Americans for previously denying him a visa to visit the United States.

Whatever the reason, many Filipinos are alarmed at Duterte’s shifting alliances away from the West. They question whether he has the right to unilaterally move the Philippines away from its traditional democratic allies, towards totalitarian communist countries.

While administration spin-doctors scramble to put the right “spin” on the president’s statements, pompously proclaiming that the Philippines no longer wants to be seen as an American “lackey” or be beholden to the West in any way. Whether such perception is indeed reality or simply a manifestation of some kind of inferiority complex, the fact is those who feel that way now seem to hold the reigns of government in the Philippines.

But putting all that aside, and simply asking whether Duterte’s decision is the correct one or not—only time will tell. China appears hell-bent on not just surpassing the United States economically as well as militarily, it also appears to want to eviscerate its industrial might to insure that an American resurgence will never happen (click to watch YouTube video).

If that is indeed what happens, because of America’s complacency, hubris, or inability to counter the Chinese onslaught, then America, at some point in time, will bow to China and Duterte’s decision to choose China over the U.S. would be heralded as a truly brilliant one. If he is wrong however, he will be forever ridiculed or worse. Duterte might have to suffer the fate of leaders who allied themselves with the wrong country—remember Benito Mussolini who picked Adolf Hitler and fascism instead siding with the Allies? We know how messy that ended. Published 10/24/16

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