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Protesters shout slogans while marching with a Philippine flag toward the Chinese consulate in Manila, Philippines, July 12, 2018 (AP photo by Bullit Marquez).

Duterte’s Efforts to Align the Philippines With China Face a Backlash

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s time in office has shown how a charismatic, populist leader can recalibrate a country’s foreign policy almost single-handedly. Under his watch, the Philippines has pursued an “independent” foreign policy, one that is less hostile to China and less dependent on the United States, the Philippines’ sole treaty ally and former colonizer. As a result, the Philippines’ relations with China have entered a new “golden age,” in Duterte’s words.

At the same time, his popularity does not give him unilateral power over the Philippines’ foreign and defense policy—at least not yet. His aggressive push to reorient Philippine foreign policy has been met with stiff resistance at home, especially from the defense establishment and pundit class, which remain wary of China. Indeed, the policymaking landscape remains highly contested, with the president constantly having to incorporate the views of other veto-wielders within the Philippine elite. ...

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