The existing literature on foreign policy formulation suggests that individual leaders in small and politically unstable states exert a disproportionate impact on foreign policy-making. Some analysts further contend that personalized foreign policy decision-making is more likely to suffer from discontinuities. This article, however, argues that the foreign policies of small and politically unstable states exhibit considerable variation in terms of constancy. It does so by offering a comparative study of the foreign policies of the Philippines and Thailand towards China. It demonstrates that the Philippines’ policy towards China underwent significant changes in the last few years of the administration of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, and that bilateral relations deteriorated rapidly after Benigno Aquino III came to power in 2010. In contrast, Thailand has maintained a cordial relationship with China despite domestic political turmoil since 2006. This article suggests that neither the shift in the distribution of capabilities nor the presence or absence of territorial disputes sufficiently explains this variation. It argues that the personalization of foreign policy and economic dependence are two important factors that determine constancy and change in the foreign policies of small states towards major powers.


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pp. 242-268
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