The Philippines’ engagement with the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a case of within-country variation as it shifted from passivity to warm reception from 2016 to the present day. Under the Duterte administration, the BRI became one of the focal points of cordial relations with China, despite ongoing territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea, low public opinion of China, and the Philippines’ security partnerships with the major powers defending the current international order. This article examines how the Aquino and Duterte administrations perceived the Philippines’ power asymmetry with China in its engagement with BRI. While this power asymmetry has been maintained, if not increased over the years, Duterte’s positive stance can be explained by how the BRI projects can possibly help consolidate the authority and legitimacy of the populist leader. The essay assesses the benefits and risks of the Philippines’ engagement with the BRI, considering Duterte’s massive infrastructure program, the structural limitations of the Philippine government and its foreign policy positions with respect to China and the other powers in the region. In conclusion, the article analyzes the future prospects of BRI projects in the Philippines, given the COVID-19 pandemic and changes in big-power relations.


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pp. 277-300
Launched on MUSE
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