O C T O B E R 2 0 0 4
C A R L B A K E R
● Their South China Sea territorial dispute remains a critical factor in
bilateral relations between China and the Philippines. Although they have
agreed to work within the framework of the Association of Southeast Asian
Nations (ASEAN) conflict resolution mechanisms to resolve the matter in
a friendly manner, both countries continue to make competing territorial
claims in the area.
● Despite the ongoing South China Sea dispute, both Manila and Beijing
have used China’s strategic engagement with ASEAN as a means to
improve bilateral relations. As a result, there is a growing anticipation in
the Philippines that China will present an opportunity for both expanded
trade and economic assistance.
● The Philippines remains committed to the One China policy and will not
let promises of financial rewards influence a decision to afford diplomatic
recognition to Taiwan despite lingering sentiment among some in the
Philippine Congress and the business community for a pro-Taipei position.
● While improving relations with China, Philippine authorities have
consistently drawn the connection between its cooperation with the U.S.
global war on terrorism and an expectation that the United States will
reciprocate with assistance in the external defense of the Philippines
should the need arise. This approach indicates that the Philippines remains
wary of China’s long-term intentions and that the United States will
continue to play a role in shaping the relationship.
● By reinvigorating its military alliance with the United States, the
Philippines may be in the undesirable position of having to choose
between security cooperation with the United States and economic
cooperation with China in the event of a confrontation between the two
over Taiwan. The Philippines hopes to avoid having to make such a choice.
Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies
Carl Baker is a member of the