The Philippines and China: mischief in the reefs
The Philippines’ relations with the PRC since 1949 have at times closely paralleled several of its ASEAN partners, while at other times they have sharply deviated from its neighbours. In the first few decades following the country’s independence from the United States in 1946, avidly pro-US and anti-communist governments in Manila viewed the PRC as a threat to regional security and, due to a nationwide communist insurgency, a threat to the country’s internal stability. A staunch supporter of US containment policies in Asia, the Philippines played host to some of the United States’ largest overseas military bases and contributed ground forces to both the Korean and Second Indochina wars. By the early 1970s, however, changing geopolitical realities, coupled with economic imperatives and a desire to pursue a more balanced foreign policy, forced Manila to reassess its relations with Beijing. Mutual hostility subsided and in 1975 the Philippines became the second ASEAN country to forge diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic. Yet for the remainder of the Cold War, Sino-Philippine relations were not only insubstantial, but also subject to periodic strain over a range of issues including Beijing’s support for regional communist parties, Manila’s close ties to Taiwan and competing sovereignty claims in the South China Sea.