习近平同欧洲理事会主席米歇尔举行会谈
习近平同欧洲理事会主席米歇尔举行会谈
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Invitation to join the US club falls flat in region once again

Source: China Daily | 2022-11-24
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Invitation to join the US club falls flat in region once again

This is an editorial from China Daily.

The schemes of the United States appear so rash and mischievous that they have been humiliatingly rebuffed by countries in Asia on the many occasions that visiting members of the Joe Biden administration have tried to peddle them in the region.

US Vice-President Kamala Harris was the latest to end up sheepishly shutting up shop. Although she did not cite China by name in her remarks aboard a Philippine coast guard patrol ship docked in Puerto Princesa in Palawan, the Philippines, at the edge of disputed waters in the South China Sea on Tuesday, Harris was clearly trying to sell the administration's China containment strategy to her host.

Saying that Washington would press an international campaign against "irresponsible behavior" in the disputed waters, the most senior US official to visit the archipelago country in recently years was clearly trying to fan the flames of the spat between Manila and Beijing over their territorial dispute which had led to relations souring under former president Benigno Aquino III.

Yet while she underscored the US' support to its treaty ally "in the face of intimidation and coercion in the South China Sea" and its willingness to cooperate with the Philippines, her solicitude was met with merely a courteous "Well, thank you. Thank you, Madam Vice President" from her host.

The cold shoulder she was given at this moment was in stark contrast to the warm welcome she has received on other occasions during her trip. But that has been the case for other senior US officials assigned with the same task when visiting countries in Southeast Asia. This repeated rebuffing of the US' recruitment message should have driven home to the US side the regional countries' attitude to its clique-building efforts. Although the invitations to join the US club are delivered in an envelope bearing the White House's seal of approval, the recipients are well aware that it is nothing more than an invite for endless troubles in the region.

Those penning the invites should think more from the angle of the addressees and realize that if the US cannot outcompete China in providing public goods to the region, the only reply they will receive will continue to be a "thank you, but no thank you" note.

Just four days before Harris' visit to Manila, the Philippine leader had a candid and extensive dialogue with President Xi Jinping in Bangkok on the sidelines of the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting. The depth and breadth of their discussion, which condensed down to specific projects, industries and programs across sectors ranging from clean energy and trade to infrastructure and agriculture, should have forewarned Harris of the bitter truth that she was destined to be heading home empty-handed.

Notably, President Ferdinand Marcos told Xi that while the two sides can further strengthen communication on their maritime disputes, these should not define the entire Philippines-China relationship.

Had Harris done her homework well, she would have realized that effectively asking her host to eat his words was both rude and futile.

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