If Yukon Huang, Senior Associate in the Carnegie Endowment in Washington, is correct, the post-COVID-19 decade would spell greater years for the Philippines. And it’s starting very soon.
Huang is a political and economic analyst. He was also the World Bank’s former Country Director for China.
During a recent “webinar,” he analyzed US President-elect Joe Biden’s future in United States (US)-China relations.
He sees the Philippines in between the two superpowers, though. It’s a development that could trigger bigger things for the country, calling the next 10 years as the “Philippine period” when it becomes a central player in the South China Sea conundrum that has China, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member nations, and even the US as interested parties.
“I think this is going to be a ‘Philippine period’ in the next decade,” he said enthusiastically during the talk that was organized by Dioceldo Sy, CEO of Ever Bilena.
That was how he described the country’s opportunities as US President-elect Joe Biden analyzes his future in the region.
Biden, he said, is coming in “at a time when he wants to form a stronger alliance with Asia and Southeast Asia.”
“Biden sees the ASEAN as an important coalition of countries. You also will see the Philippines has a potentially major role to play, economically speaking.”
Biden is set to be inaugurated as the 46th US President on 20 January 2021. He is coming in at a time when his country has lost its once strong grip on Asia after Donald Trump abandoned Barack Obama’s so-called pivot to the region.
That left a vacuum which China has confidently filled on its way to becoming the only country to level with the US as a world superpower.
Biden will try to chase those lost years. He has four years to regain — four years which were enough for China to complete its status as the mightiest nation in the region and in many parts of the world.
A second look to the Philippines is also a no-brainer for the US. The country was once the strongest ally of Americans in Asia, with many Filipinos even sacrificing their lives to allow US presence in the region until the Americans favored Japan to counter the communist threat from Russia.
Only that communism rose from within. China built itself on its own brand of communism to become a world economic and military power.
The US and its allies have briefly looked at Vietnam, but it “is more or less used up, and the next logical place to build a capacity in East Asia — to diversify — is the Philippines.” Those words, from Huang again.
“So, I think you will find yourself politically and economically getting more attention from the Biden administration than you got from the Trump administration,” he stated.
“Problems cannot be resolved without the Philippines playing a major role of what I call ‘key position in a discussion,’” Huang added.
President Rodrigo Duterte has forged very close links with China as part of his “independent foreign policy.” He has also been in touch with Russia and its President Vladimir Putin.
Huang views China as also keenly interested in reducing tension with the United States. “It has to realize (that) to do that, it has to improve relations with its neighboring countries. And I think the Philippines has a major role in that respect.”
The two major powers have been constantly locked in trade disputes. Whether both countries admit it, these should ease up a bit as they hurt their economies as well.
China is the number one trading partner of 124 trading countries. It is the second-largest source of trade. If the US closes its trade with China, it will not survive, Huang said.
An International Monetary Fund study also showed that “if you decouple with China, in short-term China suffers. (But) in 10 years, the US suffers more — its growth, cut in half.
“The top 10 US companies depend on China. When the US can’t sell or invest in China, US tech can’t grow. The United States can grow only on innovation,” Huang added.
President Duterte has a year-and-a-half to play a big role as a fulcrum to all these. He is also in constant touch with both governments — and some others — to make sure that the local fight against the coronavirus pandemic would be won.
The last time he spoke in front of world leaders, he begged in all humility before the rich nations to not abandon the poor countries in the distribution of anti-COVID-19 vaccines.
The World Health Organization and the United Nations are one with the Philippine President in this call.
Duterte, however, could now speak from a position of strength.
China has long heard Duterte. It has promised to provide the Philippines with the vaccines. Vaccine Czar Carlito Galvez said the country plans to purchase about 20 to 50 million doses from China.
Biden could help Duterte, too, and make the Philippines a priority in the US pharmaceutical companies’ jab distribution, too.
He would need the Philippines and Duterte soon. What would some vials mean in exchange for the decade that would ensure world peace, harmony, progress and co-existence?