Choosing China or the US…or not

Throughout civilization, smaller and militarily weaker nations usually had one of two options with stronger aggressive neighbors—be cooperative or be conquered. Either alternative created a vassal state making one subordinate to the other, which then owed not only allegiance and monetary and military tribute, but also became a pawn subject to the interests of the patron state.

It was rare for them to have voluntary alliances, as there were the few strong and geographically separated “superpowers” and the many smaller countries, which even together were no match to the empires.

An early “Mutual Defense Treaty” was the “Auld Alliance” signed in 1295 by King of Scots John Balliol and Philip IV of France. The terms of the agreement stipulated that if either country were attacked by England, the other country would invade English territory.

These alliances were not always beneficial. When Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, Russia came to defend Serbia. Germany seeing Russia mobilizing, declared war on Russia. France was then drawn in against Germany and Austria-Hungary. Germany attacked France through Belgium pulling Britain into war.

The Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between the United States and the Philippines allows the US to rotate troops into the Philippines for extended stays and to build and operate facilities on Philippine bases for both American and Philippine forces. The US is not allowed to establish any permanent military bases. The agreement was signed by Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg in Manila in 2014. Announced last week, the US and the Philippines have agreed to four new additional EDCA sites in the country.

Both China and the US want to be the “Big Dog” in the region. Who decides the Champion?
The headlines read: “UK and Australia launch pact against Chinese economic coercion” and “US and Australia deepen defense ties, vow to check ‘dangerous’ China.” But without China, Australia’s economy turns into a “Mad Max” movie. China imports over 30 percent of all Australian exports followed by Japan (9 percent), South Korea (6 percent), India, (4 percent) and the US at 3.5 percent.

China is the largest trading partner for all Asean economies based on the total value of both exports and imports. The Philippines sells a combined $20 billion to Japan (No. 1) and the US but imports $23 billion from China. Singapore, Indonesia, and Malaysia have China as the largest partner for both exports and imports.

These sum up the attitudes in the region. January 12, 2023: “Vietnam’s Relations with the United States: Time For an Upgrade.” February 2, 2023: “Vietnam sees a shared future more with China than US.”

Filipinos are probably equally divided on favoring the US or China and that is understandable. The US watched the Chinese take control over the South China Sea since the 1990s while barely lifting a finger. As a result, but without any justification, China continues to harass Filipino fishing boats in the region and constantly violates the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone.

Wanting to stay in the middle between the two superpowers makes sense, of course. But what happens if we are ever pushed by circumstances or directly by either China or the US to make a choice? 


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