Gone are the banquets extolling the “golden age” of Sino-Philippine relations that had marked the past decade. Instead, relations today have sunk to an all-time low with armed vessels from both states staking out Scarborough Shoal – a tiny atoll in the South China Sea that sinks at high tide except for one rocky outcrop – which both say is theirs.
What has caught the world by surprise is the refusal of the Philippines – whose most powerful warship is a second world war-vintage former US destroyer – to cave in to China’s demand to leave the atoll 220 kilometres west of Luzon, even if the face-off was described by former Philippine foreign minister Domingo Siazon as “between an elephant and an ant”.
Observers point to three main reasons for Manila’s tougher stance towards Beijing. Foremost was the sea change in Washington’s attitude to getting involved in the South China…
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