Between the United States and China: Philippines foreign policy in the case of South China Sea



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Tartu Ülikool


In 2016 there were several events that could change the Philippines' foreign policy in Southeast Asia. The tensions in the South China Sea were growing since several parties claimed the sea, and there were new presidents elected in the Philippines and the United States. This thesis focuses on the Philippines' strategy in this complicated geopolitical situation between the two great powers, the United States of America and China. The aim of this thesis was to identify how the Philippines respond to the changing geopolitical dynamics in the region after 2016 in the case of the South China Sea and which strategy they are using in their actions. The author explains the situation in the region, defines a small state, and then discusses the potential strategies a small state has in the case. The author set a hypothesis that the Philippines mainly use a hedging strategy to respond to the region's geopolitical dynamics. To test the hypothesis, the author conducted content analysis on the Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte's speeches, statements, interviews, and press conferences between 2016-2020. There were used official sources from the presidential web page. The purpose was to find statements related to the United States, China, or the South China Sea and identify the strategies. The author confirmed the hypothesis. Several strategies were used to maneuver in this complicated geopolitical situation, such as balancing, bandwagoning, hedging, and engaging. According to the theoretical part and Duterte's statements, the main strategy used between 2016-2020 was hedging.