US 2020 Presidential polls: How Trump, Biden differ on PH, China approach

Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 29 2020 03:36 PM

US President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden speak during the first 2020 presidential campaign debate in Cleveland, Ohio, US, September 29, 2020. Brian Snyder, Reuters

MANILA — How will a Joe Biden presidency differ from Donald Trump’s handling of China and the Philippines? 

International studies professor Rommel Banlaoi said Thursday that if Biden wins the Nov. 3 US Presidential elections, there would be pressure on the Duterte government to uphold human rights and pursue greater democratic reforms in order to access US economic and military aid. 

Banlaoi, who heads the Philippine Association for Chinese Studies, said there would also be more room in the settling of disputes between the US and China should Democrat candidate Biden become US president. 

Trump has taken a tough approach in dealing with China, including on trade, and has recently called on Beijing to abide by the 2016 arbitral ruling invalidating its 9-dash line claim over nearly all of the South China Sea. 

“I think if Biden wins, there will be more flexibility, and more rhyme and reason compared with Trump, because we know the position of the liberals - more accommodating and willing to engage and talk with China. So, there will be more rooms for settling of political differences under Biden,” Banlaoi said in a virtual forum. 

“But under Donald Trump, it will be a difficult period again for China, and will also again be a difficult period for the Philippines because we need to balance our relationship with the United States and China,” he added.

American foreign policy towards the Philippines, he pointed out, would be “more of the same” whoever wins in the election. 

There could be slight adjustments, however, with how the winning US president approaches the Philippines. 

Analyst Ramon Casiple, meanwhile, emphasized that the Philippines, along with the rest in the Southeast Asian region, would still be a focus of US policy given the recent changes in geopolitical alignments.

While there may be a change in the US administration, fundamental policies could still be intact with regard to Washington's international relations, said Casiple. 

“In so far as the Philippines is concerned, I think the trend will still be the assertion of the US position with regard not only the regional politics here but even the domestic politics in the coming Philippine elections,” he said.

Casiple, the executive director of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform, said he expects that the US will take great interest in whoever wins the 2022 Presidential elections in the Philippines as well.

“It is the US interest that will be at stake here, so do not expect the US will be passive with regard to our electoral process. In fact, I am already anticipating that it will be an issue not only with the Embassy but with the whole political elite in the US,” he said.

“There is already recognition that our part of the world will be something that both China and the US will be handling or addressing as relatively important area of contention in the coming year.”

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Washington is Manila's longest and only treaty ally. The two countries trace their relations to the time the former colonized the latter before the turn of the 20th century until 1946.

When President Rodrigo Duterte came to power in 2016, he adopted an independent foreign policy that relied less on the United States, and embraced China, the world's second largest economy, and even Russia.