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"America Has Lost" in the Philippines

By       Message Pepe Escobar     Permalink
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From Strategic Culture

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"Your honors, in this venue I announce my separation from the United States... both in military and economics also."

Thus Philippines President Rodrigo "The Punisher" Duterte unleashed a geopolitical earthquake encompassing Eurasia and reverberating all across the Pacific Ocean.

And talk about choosing his venue with aplomb; right in the heart of the Rising Dragon, no less.

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Capping his state visit to Beijing, Duterte then coined the mantra -- pregnant with overtones -- that will keep ringing all across the global South; "America has lost."

And if that was not enough, he announced a new alliance -- Philippines, China and Russia -- is about to emerge; "there are three of us against the world."

Predictably, the Beltway establishment in the indispensable nation went bananas, reacting as puzzled or in outright anger, dispersing the usual expletives on the crude populist, unhinged leader.

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The bottom line is that it takes a lot of balls for the leader of a poor, developing country, in Southeast Asia or elsewhere, to openly defy the hyperpower. Yet what Duterte is gaming at is pure realpolitik; if he prevails, he will be able to deftly play the US against China to the benefit of Filipino interests.

The springtime of our relationship

It did start with a bang; during Duterte's China visit, Manila inked no less than $13 billion in deals with Beijing -- from trade and investment to drug control, maritime security and infrastructure.

Beijing pulled out all stops to make Duterte feel welcomed.

President Xi Jinping suggested Manila and Beijing should temporarily put aside the intractable South China Sea disputes and learn from the political wisdom of history -- as in give space to diplomatic talks. After all, the two peoples were blood-linked brothers.

Duterte replied in kind; "Even as we arrive in Beijing close to winter, this is the springtime of our relationship," he told Xi at the Great Hall of the People.

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China is already the Philippines' second-largest trade partner, behind Japan, the US and Singapore. Filipino exports to these three are at roughly 42.7 percent of the total, compared to 22.1 to China/Hong Kong. Imports from China are roughly 16.1 percent of the total. Even as trade with China is bound to rise, what really matters for Duterte is massive Chinese infrastructure investment.

What this will mean in practice is indeed ground-breaking; the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) will definitely be involved in Philippine economic development; Manila will be more involved in promoting smooth China-ASEAN relations in all sorts of regional issues (it takes the rotating chair of ASEAN in 2017); and the Philippines will be more integrated in the New Silk Roads, a.k.a. One Belt, One Road (OBOR).

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Pepe Escobar is an independent geopolitical analyst. He writes for RT, Sputnik and TomDispatch, and is a frequent contributor to websites and radio and TV shows ranging from the US to East Asia. He is the former roving correspondent for Asia (more...)
 

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