Aussie Journalist: Duterte Gave US, China A 'Big Gift'
A Canberra-based Australian journalist revealed that President Rodrigo Duterte gave US and China "a big gift" despite him being known as the most inscrutable president of the country.
In his piece, Graeme Dobell of the Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) said that in spite of the Philippine President's notorious way of dealing with things, Duterte was able to deliver “benefits to both China and the United States.”
“His swing towards China offers Beijing all sorts of goodies, from the possibility of a bilateral deal in the South China Sea (SCS) to a chance to unbalance the US rebalance,” he said noting that Duterte could have “changed the immediate tone of the SCS argument at an otherwise dangerous moment.”
Dobell discussed that “the fresh opening [Duterte] offers China creates an important pause in a dangerous chain of events. The volatile president met a volatile moment in the SCS and actually brought the temperature down.”
The arbitral decision at The Hague has thrown the SCS issue currently in a crisis mode.
“Many feared China’s reaction after its humiliation by The Hague Tribunal. Beaten by Manila on nearly every argument, the worry was that China might lash out by beating up the Philippines—perhaps building a new base on Scarborough Shoal, seized by China in 2012 after a standoff with the Philippines Navy,” Dobell said.
"United States President Barack Obama reportedly drew a red line around Scarborough, warning President Xi Jinping of serious consequences if China started to build another base. Perhaps Obama’s red line worked. Or perhaps Beijing decided not to test a lame duck president during an extraordinary US election campaign. Or maybe Beijing opted to turn the other cheek to the humiliation and loss of face delivered by the Tribunal. Or Duterte’s arrival is possibly the game-changer Beijing’s after,” he added.
“Obama can accept the fleeting Duterte benefit—that confrontation with China hasn’t (yet) happened—and head for the door. President Hillary can have the task of wrangling with the maverick who could wreck the alliance. If it’s President Donald, he’ll happily say ‘go to hell too’ and declare the alliance a bankrupt business. Such a business-like response from Trump would be apt, because Duterte has a lot of business he wants to do with China,” Dobell said,
“At last, Beijing would be getting the sort of shift it wants—using the power of money to create strategic power,” he wrote. “Sometimes the mad and bad throw up unusual chances.”