Post-Colonial Philippines’ History: A Lens into the South China Sea Conflict and U.S. Regional Interests Public Deposited

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  • May 5, 2021
  • Nesteruk, Svetlana
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Global Studies
  • This thesis looks through the lens of the Philippines’ post-colonial history to better understand how and why the mainstream understanding of the South China Sea conflict is lacking necessary historical perspective. By looking at asymmetry, rebalancing, and the post-colonial history of the Philippines itself, this thesis focuses on ideas that dominate the news today, which have roots in a largely obscured U.S. history of anti-communism and colonialism. Though the SCS conflict is often framed as a new clash between political superpowers United States and China, the Philippines’ history reveals that U.S. interests in the region have been constant, evolving over time to combat its perceived challenges of communism and China’s more recent economic and military rise. Furthermore, I stress that the chief regional political organization, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), finds itself in a challenging situation. This organization has gained considerable leverage as member states work together, yet it struggles to find a consistent policy to move forward towards resolving territorial and sovereignty claims in the SCS without the U.S. or China as arbiters. The Philippines, where domestic issues overshadow foreign policy, will continue to bargain on its own terms, choosing to go it alone or negotiate through ASEAN situationally rather than siding with either superpower. It is vitally important to reflect on the U.S.’s goals in the region and recognize that the U.S. needs the Philippines as a strategic ally, and that the Philippines has options outside of its relationship with the United States. Ultimately, the Philippines’ historical perspective can reveal the legacies of U.S. colonialism in the SCS, and draw attention to U.S. goals, motivations, and challenges in the SCS conflict and in the broader Southeast Asian region.
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  • In Copyright
  • Tsin, Michael
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of History
  • Bachelor of Arts
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  • 2021
  • English

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