15th April 2024 – (Manila) In the intricate tapestry of international relations, nations often find themselves navigating a delicate tightrope, balancing economic imperatives against geopolitical ambitions. The Philippines, a nation with deep cultural and historical ties to the West, finds itself at the centre of this precarious dance, as it attempts to court Chinese investment while simultaneously aligning itself with the strategic interests of the United States and Japan.

The recent trilateral summit in Washington, D.C., where Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. joined his counterparts from the United States and Japan, has thrust this delicate balancing act into the global spotlight. On the surface, the summit was touted as a platform for deepening economic and security ties among the three nations, with the Philippines seeking to secure at least $100 billion in investment from its allies.

Yet, beneath the veneer of economic cooperation, the undercurrents of geopolitical manoeuvring were unmistakable. The joint statement issued by the three nations made explicit references to the South China Sea, the East China Sea, and the Taiwan Strait, stoking fears of a concerted effort to contain China’s regional influence and exaggerating the spectre of a perceived Chinese threat.

It is a paradox that has not gone unnoticed by the watchful eyes of experts and analysts, who have sounded the alarm over the inherent contradictions in the Philippines’ approach. How, they ask, can the nation hope to attract Chinese investment while simultaneously provoking Beijing through its alignment with the United States’ Indo-Pacific strategy and its tacit endorsement of Japan’s hawkish stance on regional security?

The words of Harry Roque, the former spokesperson for former Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, cut to the heart of the matter. “No Chinese [businessman] will invest now because I know for a fact that many Chinese who intend to invest have put it aside already because they fear that their investments might be confiscated given the hostile environment,” he cautioned, his words echoing the sentiments of a business community wary of the geopolitical crosscurrents.

Chen Xiangmiao, the director of the World Navy Research Center at the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, echoes this sentiment, decrying the Philippines’ shift toward the United States as a “major mistake” that will undoubtedly have a negative impact on the nation’s relationship with China, ultimately leading to a decrease in Chinese investments.

The crux of the matter lies in the Philippines’ delicate balancing act – a nation that seeks to court Chinese investment while simultaneously aligning itself with the strategic interests of the United States and Japan. It is a precarious dance, one that experts warn is inherently unrealistic and fraught with contradictions.

For the Philippines, the allure of Chinese investment is undeniable. Faced with a myriad of domestic challenges, from food security and inflation to outdated infrastructure and high unemployment rates, the influx of Chinese capital represents a lifeline, a means to jumpstart economic growth and alleviate the burdens weighing upon the nation’s shoulders.

Yet, in its pursuit of economic prosperity, the Philippines finds itself caught in the crosshairs of a geopolitical tug-of-war, a clash of titans vying for regional supremacy. By aligning itself with the United States’ Indo-Pacific strategy and embracing Japan’s more assertive stance on regional security, the nation risks alienating the very economic partner it seeks to court – China.