Between the U.S. and China: Nationalism and Public Support for Hedging in the Philippines

About the Talk
Under pressure to choose between the U.S. and China, Southeast Asian countries have adopted a hedging strategy: deepening economic relations with China while strengthening security cooperation with the U.S. How does the region’s public view this strategy? With tensions rising in South China Sea territorial disputes, are more nationalistic individuals more likely to oppose hedging? Using an original public opinion survey conducted in the Philippines, this study finds that while an overwhelming majority of respondents were concerned about the territorial disputes, more nationalistic Filipinos were no more concerned than less nationalistic ones. Further, more nationalistic Filipinos were more likely to view economic relations with China as important for the Philippines and to approve of Duterte’s China policy, which follows the logic of hedging. These surprising findings suggest that under the shadow of great-power competition, the link between domestic politics and foreign policy is nuanced in the Philippines, and Southeast Asia in general.

About the Speaker
Xiaojun Li is Associate Professor of Political Science at NYU Shanghai and University of British Columbia (on leave). His recent books include Token Forces: How Tiny Troop Deployments became Ubiquitous in UN Peacekeeping (Cambridge University Press 2022), Fragmenting Globalization: The Politics of Preferential Trade Liberalization in China and the United States (University of Michigan Press 2021), and How China Sees the World: Insights from China’s International Relations Scholars (Palgrave 2019). He holds a PhD from Stanford University and was a Princeton-Harvard China and the World Fellow at Harvard University, a POSCO Visiting Scholar at the East-West Center in Honolulu, and an inaugural Wang Gungwu Fellow at the ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore.

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