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“While other countries are playing catch up in reaping the benefits of a diverse international relations, the Philippines under Mr. Duterte had secured its foothold with non-traditional allies.



An emerging view in Southeast Asia is that the administration of President-elect Joe Biden will usher in a new era of improved engagement of the United States with other nations, particularly China, that will be beneficial to the entire region. The most pernicious aberration introduced by the administration of President Donald Trump in global relations is his decoupling policy that sought to sever all trade pacts in the false notion that it will protect American industries.

It only heightened conflict while it resulted to the opposite of what the policy aimed to achieve for the entire US economy, which was that it considerably weakened growth since the business operations of American companies are interdependent with factories in China.

Biden assumes the presidency on 20 January 2021 regardless of the stunt that Trump may pull from his sleeves in protesting the election results.

Zheng Yongnian, professor of Global Studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said fundamental changes in the global trade structure is happening, which accelerated as a result of adjustments nations made during the coronavirus disease pestilence.

Zheng explained that even without the pandemic, structural changes in the world had started.

The weakening of China-US ties and the US-launched trade war against China were already happening before the pandemic, the expert on foreign relations noted.

“These changes are a reflection of the West’s relative decline and China’s rapid growth,” he noted.

The current global structure has the US at its center, but in the future, Zheng said the world would be multipolar.

“China is growing, Russia remains a strong power, Germany and India are rising, and regional big powers like Indonesia are also getting a bigger role on the international stage,” he noted.

President Rodrigo Duterte started his term on a certain track of an independent foreign policy, which his yellow opponents and the myopic pundits called as a China pivot and a cop out from the arbitral ruling victory.

Ja Ian Chong, Associate Professor of Political Science at the National University of Singapore, said Biden needs to put up an effort to convince China and the new emerging power bloc Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which includes the Philippines of his sincerity.

“Trans-Pacific relations will also be difficult to sustain if the United States wants engagement more than their Southeast Asian counterparts, or if Washington believes that it can ease its way back into a region without putting in an effort,” he indicated.

He said that apprehension about the lack of US commitment and abandonment of the region pervades among Southeast Asian countries after four years of the Trump administration.

Biden should do more than his predecessors.

“The George W. Bush administration seemed to care little about Southeast Asia unless it concerned counterterrorism. The Obama administration talked of ‘rebalancing,’ but these efforts apparently fizzled out,” Ja noted.

Obama’s rebalancing’s apparent sole objective was to contain China and protect American hegemony in the Pacific region.

Trump’s withdrawal of the United States from the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) affirmed the lack of US commitment to Southeast Asia.

The China-backed Regional Economic Cooperation Partnership eventually replaced it and was signed last December.

While other countries are playing catch up in reaping the benefits of diverse international relations, the Philippines under Mr. Duterte had secured its foothold with non-traditional allies.

It’s all about a leader’s foresight and commitment to do what is best for the nation’s interest.