NEW DELHI – Since the dawn of international politics, smaller states have faced the formidable challenge of navigating great-power rivalries. Today, it is the geopolitical contest between the United States and China that has compelled countries to balance their competing national interests. Toward which side they gravitate depends on domestic and external circumstances.
Consider the Philippines, which has an interest in maintaining both its growing economic ties with neighboring China as well as its half-century-old security alliance with the US. The Philippines’ last president, Rodrigo Duterte, placed greater emphasis on the former, turning sharply away from the US and toward China after his election in 2016.