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Read “Geopolitical Quandaries in the South China Sea" | A PowerPoint Presentation by Professor Baviera

Posted in News @ UP Asian Center

Professor Aileen Baviera of the UP Asian Center delivered a lecture, “Geopolitical Quandaries in the South China Sea: Options for the Philippines, China, and the U.S.”  in connection with the exhibit “Historical Truths and Lies: Scarborough Shoal in Ancient Maps” held last 22 February 2016. 

In her lecture, Professor Baviera argued that Filipinos must expand their understanding of the geopolitical context of the South China Sea disputes, beyond a “West Philippine Sea mentality”,  in order to fulfill its simultaneous objectives of asserting the Philippines’ maritime rights, upholding international law and preserving regional stability. She stated that the growing power competition between China and the U.S. in the South China Sea region must not be allowed to dominate over other goals and concerns; otherwise, doing so may complicate or even prevent the Philippines from pursuing its maritime rights, including the development of fisheries and hydrocarbon resources. 

Below are some excerpts from her presentation.

United States’ Quandary

  • The U.S. has less resources now, compared to the past, that it needs to sustain its primacy in the region
  • The U.S. faces the issue of alliance credibility should it not support the Philippines, yet it fears entanglement in the conflict between China and the Philippines;
  • U.S. bilateral relations with China has a dual character: it has elements of cooperation as well as competition; and
  • Its involvement in the South China Sea dispute is complicated by its not having ratified the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

China’s  Quandary

  • China is a dissatisfied power that is not yet ready to confront the U.S. due to material limits to its capability as well as having few real allies;
  • The “China dream” is an ambitious vision that will have to be fulfilled amidst an economic slowdown; and
  • China pursues contradictory regional policies, marred by the persistence of “Middle Kingdom” mentality. Its declining credibility has led its government to resort to checkbook diplomacy towards its neighbors, particularly developing countries. 

Philippines’ Quandary

  • The Philippines is torn between principlism and pragmatism in the way it deals with China;
  • The Philippines continues to rely on an alliance with the U.S. whose credibility and legitimacy are questioned by many;
  • The Philippines’ has “exclusive” claims over resources which it cannot develop by itself; therefore it may have no choice but to pursue joint development; and
  • Despite the Philippines’ best efforts, there is no guarantee that China will respect and uphold the decision of the ongoing arbitration as legally binding.

The exhibit was organized by the Philippine Social Science Council and was held in conjunction with a series of lectures, also featuring Professor Jay Batongbacal of the UP Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, as well as Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio.  

Dr. Aileen SP. Baviera is Professor at the Asian Center, University of the Philippines Diliman. She specializes on and writes about contemporary China studies, China-Southeast Asia relations, Asia-Pacific security, territorial and maritime disputes, and regional integration. The editor in chief of the journal, "Asian Politics & Policy," she is also author of many academic publications, including “Territorial and Maritime Jurisdiction Disputes in East Asia: Comparing Bilateral and Multilateral Approaches,” a chapter that appeared in "Bilateralism, Multilateralism and Asia-Pacific Security: Contending Cooperation" published in 2013 by Routledge. She completed her Ph.D. in Political Science at the University of the Philippines Diliman.  VIEW FULL PROFILE. 


The UP Asian Center offers M.A. degrees in Asian Studies with four fields of specialization: Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, and West Asia. The Center also has an M.A. program in Philippine Studies that allows students to major in Philippine society and culture, Philippine foreign relations, or Philippine development studies. The Center offers a Ph.D. program in Philippine Studies in conjunction with the College of Arts and Letters and the College of Social Sciences and Philosophy. Get an overview of these programs. The Asian Center also houses a peer-reviewed, open-access journal, Asian Studies: Journal of Critical Perspectives on Asia. It has published several books and monographs, and hosts or organizes various lectures and conferences 

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