Author: Jinhyun Lee
Year: 2020, Volume 20 Number 1
The decline of the U.S. and the rise of China have been one of the main drivers of change in the foreign policy of the countries in East Asia. Although having been often called “hedging,” recent developments show more variation in states’ response in the region. President Duterte’s leaning towards China, possibly in response to the economic opportunities given by the Belt and Road Initiative, has reversed the predecessor’s position. This poses puzzles that demand explanations beyond the state-level analysis. This paper examines what accounts for the shift and whether it is sustainable. Although the Philippines’ foreign policy has traditionally been driven by the ruling elites, the election of President Duterte in 2016 has drawn renewed attention to the public as one of the domestic factors that influence foreign policy. Duterte’s pivot to China appears to be conflicting with the general sentiments of the public about the U.S. and China, but in line with their aspirations for economic prosperity, considering the potential economic benefits that China can offer. This paper argues that recent policies can be explained by the dominant sentiment present in East Asia called “econophoria” (Buzan & Segal, 1994), which refers to the prioritization of economic growth to the point that legitimacy comes from rising living standards. It contends that econophoria is not something imposed by the state, but it is a choice by society as well.
Keywords: Philippines-China-US relationship, hedging, South China Sea, Belt and Road Initiative, populism, public preferences and foreign policy, ASEAN