A Chance of a US Comeback: China Missteps


Rodrigo Duterte, the dictatorial president of the Philippines who has amassed a bucketful of global criticism concerning his stripping of rights away from journalists and extrajudicial killings of thousands of individuals in a phony “war on drugs,” would seem like the natural ally to an equally-authoritarian China. Yet, despite Duterte’s strongman appearance and his threatening war against one of America’s closest allies, Canada, it seems as though Duterte is on the verge of signing a deal with the United States which would allow entry to US troops for the purpose of defending against Chinese encroachment on the South China Sea. In a domestic news climate all but pronouncing the death of America on the global stage, why then are we seeing signs of life? The answer might very possibly lie within years of building aggression and broken promises on the behalf of China.

I. End of the Central European Honeymoon

The 17+1 program, a joint-infrastructure venture between China and various Eastern and Central European countries, was once seen as a gateway for which China could use to springboard its way into the entirety of Europe, leading to the eventual demise of US-control in the region. To be blunt, the results have been more than disappointing for China— Lithuania’s Foreign Minister denounced the program, and the country is on the verge of leaving; the Estonian Foreign Intelligence Service warns of China dominating Europe; the mayors of Prague and Budapest have steadily become more vocal and powerful in dissenting against their respective countries’ populist and pro-China leaders; and the latest 17+1 conference had more than lackluster attendance from member states. Even Germany, the magnum opus of Central Europe that has historically been more moderate in its condemnation of China, is leaning towards a more outwardly anti-China foreign policy, with the front-runner to be the next chancellor wishing to take a more active approach in combating the growth of authoritarian interference abroad. The culmination of these worsening relations has resulted in China sanctioning five European figureheads and organizations critical of China, further exacerbating misgivings between both parties. All of this is simply to say that the winds have most certainly changed for China. Even with the United States’ perilous relationship with Europe, somehow China has been swept aside. 

II. Speaking Loudly and Carrying a Big Stick

In reaction to the dire condition in the country, President Biden authorized the sending of masks and oxygen to India. On the other hand, the CCP sent out a mocking post online, eschewing any humane and diplomatic symbols of goodwill. Additionally, in response to continued hostility in the South China Sea, Malaysia, Australia, and the Philippines have all become diminishingly supportive, if not outright indignant, about China’s blatant attempts at extending its maritime domain. If China truly wished to have its pursuits for soft power fully realized, stunts such as these clearly would have to cease. Luckily for the US, they have not and show no signs of stopping, a sign of hope.

In closing, it is very appealing to get stuck in self-flagellation over the woes of American diplomacy and yearn hopelessly for returning to the days of pax Americana, but these developments prove a path forward. Admittedly, the United States is clearly not the sole agent of these promising events, and we will most likely never see the day where America could realistically single-handedly shape the global state of affairs again. However, when faced between a world ruled by Xi Jinping or a world in which each country can exercise at least a limited amount of autonomy, one must choose the latter.