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News Link • Philippines

When Duterte Met Abe

• by Peter Lee

As I discuss in my most recent piece for Asia Times, Duterte v. United States: The Empire Slaps Back, I find the US tunnel vision concerning Asian attitudes toward engagement with China puzzling.

The big story in Asia IMO is the smaller powers trying to integrate with the PRC economically while keeping it at arms' length militarily, but that doesn't seem to drive the coverage I see. Perhaps as a function of that "salary depends on not understanding" Mark Twain crack, US diplos/generals/journos/wonks seem determined to ignore the centripetal forces at play in Asia with China at their heart.

There's also a gigantic blind spot in US coverage of the Philippines. If you read the papes, everybody in the Philippines is staring anxiously out at the South China Sea for "Chizilla" to emerge and wreak havoc on a jewel of Pacific democracy.

Actually, if you read my piece, you'll find that the forces ravaging the Philippines are poverty, inequality, social division, corruption, and the occasional megatyphoon and I have an idea the reason that Fidel Ramos championed Duterte is because he saw him as the one candidate who would focus on domestic issues and not pivot-friendly bullsh*t.

The US story is that the threat of "China rising" must be contained militarily, its economic reach reduced, and Asia should look for a "high standards" trade bloc, TPP, for its growth story instead of canoodling with the Chicoms.

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