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Multipolarity: Episode 6

Ireland's Migration Riots, The Global Popularity Contest, America Hits the Bongbong in the Philippines

[00:02:00] Philip Pilkington: Coming up this week in the Philippines, the country's historic links to the US are being tested by its geographic links to China, who will win this tug of love 

[00:02:09] Andrew Collingwood: as anti-migrant protests grip island. It seems the elites may not be able to contain the native backlash.

[00:02:15] Longer term, does this mean that the post 1945 migration treaties, one pillar of the rules-based international order might be creaking? 

[00:02:24] Philip Pilkington: Finally, every Cold War is also just a popularity contest, and new data from a Cambridge study seems to suggest that outside of the West, the rival powers are climbing the social ladder.

[00:02:35] But 

[00:02:35] Andrew Collingwood: first Irish nationalism 2.0. British American listeners to Multipolarity and will be very familiar with the migrant issues and migrant debate within their own countries. Certainly Britain and the United States has gone passing through crises. She listened to her one side of the political debate in terms of the number of migrants entering their countries at the moment and the seeming inability of the authorities to do anything to stem the flow.

[00:03:02] However, I've also seen this week the the same issue is starting to affect island as well. Perhaps it has been affecting Ireland for some time, but of course, it's not something that often quite makes the news. But the, there have been significant protests I've seen this week, and well as the, as our podcasts known Irishman.

[00:03:22] I thought you would be ideal to let us know a little bit more about this and how it really fits into a more global trend. 

[00:03:29] Philip Pilkington: Philip, these, uh, protests have been going on since November. I suppose the background on it is that Ireland, um, stepped up to the plate. Rather big way to take on, uh, Ukrainian refugees.

[00:03:41] The numbers of those refugees are very hard to pin down in a lot of ways, but the, the official ones that are, are going around show that Ireland took on about 73,000. Just to give some context on that, Britain took on just under 160,000. So Ireland is maybe a 12th the size of Britain, and it's taken on about, you know, 40% of.

[00:04:04] Of the immigration load. A lot of migrants seem to have gone there because Ireland does have quite a generous benefit system and so on. Ireland itself has seen migration for a very long time. The country's demographics have changed a lot in the last 20 years, I'd say, but I think this has been a bit of a shock to the system.

[00:04:23] I don't think they've seen it at this level. The protests themselves are interesting because Irish people don't really protest. It's not really a protest type of, So the initial impulse by Irish ruling elite, I suppose, was to dismiss this and highlight the, um, political activists in the crowd, the far right political activists and these kind of people.

[00:04:45] But, you know, that might work for a minor protest, but this thing spread all over the country and it's, it's really caught a bit of a mood and I think it's laughed the Irish political class, knowing that this is a real. It's not some overreaction from social media or anything like that. They probably have taken in too many migrants at a time when there's already a housing crisis in the country that's widely talked about.

[00:05:11] All the time, and they did this in a mood that WA probably wasn't quite rational. It was the start of the Ukraine war. People really wanted to seem like they were doing their best and making an effort. I think we all remember this and I think that Irish policy makers got a little bit caught up in that and now they're dealing with the consequences of it.

[00:05:31] Yeah. I remember 

[00:05:33] Andrew Collingwood: back last spring or summer when the first wave of your refugees hit Ireland. I remember seeing on Twitter several people, Towns in Ireland that relied very much on the tourist industry, complaining quite precipitously that because the hotels were filled with refugees from the Ukraine conflict and elsewhere, it meant that the other businesses within the town weren't able to function as they would have been if the hotels had been filled with ordinary tourists.

[00:06:04] And this was causing big issues even. So I can only imagine that if things have continued to get worse, that kind of feeling and emotion would really well up in even the most forward thinking and communal of environments. I think it's interesting though that the issue with migrants has really, it, it's really become an elite versus populist issue across almost all Western societies at the moment.

[00:06:35] All, all the Western nation. I should say, whether that be the Anglo-Saxon world, whether it be the European world, and it's very much become an issue where the political class, the elites within societies are very much in favor of increased migration or high levels of migration at least. And they have become, uh, certain that this is the right way to build a, to build a society, to grow economies.

[00:07:04] And that the benefits far outweigh the, uh, negatives of high levels of migration. And for many years there really hasn't been a choice. I mean, there hasn't been a choice for voters in America, for instance, the Republican Party has very much been a party of high migration. It, you know, it's not just Democrats.

[00:07:23] Likewise, in the United Kingdom, you've got the Conservatives and Labor Party, both of which, certainly at central party head office level, have traditionally been in favor of our. Boris Johnson, tremendously in favor. Certainly the remaining of the Conservative Party, which until a couple of years ago, was much bigger than the Brexit wing of the party.

[00:07:43] Again, in favor of high migration, even some of the erg, the kind of the Brexit ultras within Parliament in favor of high migration. Whereas for the population at large, high migration levels are tremendously unpopular, extremely unpopular. You know, it's become a populist cause because, Populism as an idea is this attempt to put back on the political debating table what has been taken off.

[00:08:10] And it's interesting for me to hear at least that this is not simply an Anglo-Saxon matter going into. Into countries like Ireland as well. It's very much one of the major stories. So outside the 

[00:08:21] Philip Pilkington: potential here is that Ireland could be a bit of a canary in the coal mine. As I emphasized before, Ireland really doesn't have a protest culture.

[00:08:30] The the default mode in Ireland is really, people just shrug and get on with it, and it's just that type of place. But I mean, as you say, there's definitely been discontent growing. About large ways of migration in Europe, especially also in America. But this feels to me a little bit different. This doesn't feel like simmering anymore.

[00:08:49] What we're seeing in Ireland is definitely a boiling over, and I wonder if it is a canary in the coal mine because, um, looking again at the, at the not very good or reliable figures, but Germany's taken over a million Ukrainian migrants in and Poland's taken. Poland being famous for as a country that's very skeptical.

[00:09:07] Migration has taken in 1.5 million. Cheche has taken in nearly uh, 500,000. But I think Ireland stands out among a few other countries like Austria that have taken in very large amounts relative to their very small populations. And I wonder if what's happening there isn't going to start happening in Europe.

[00:09:27] Again, just remember I, as I said before, the migrant crisis, which is what it really is now in Ireland, met a stormfront of a housing crisis as well that's been there for quite a long time. I'd imagine that if a recession hits this year, it will cause that other stormfront in Europe, people may be just about able to tolerate the situation.

[00:09:48] But if they start losing their jobs and so on, it could, it could get quite rough. So I wonder if, as I said, Ireland isn't a canary in the coal mine, and we could see more of this in Europe in the coming years. 

[00:10:00] Andrew Collingwood: I think that's a very good point. Both you and I expect something more than a recession to come, and I don't mean something more than a recession in the short term.

[00:10:08] Maybe it'll be a simple recession. Maybe it'll be a bit more than that, maybe. Will be completely wrong and zero will eek out some kind of growth. However, I think what we both agree on is that in the medium to long term, Europe is in for a period of, uh, very difficult economic times as the world moves from a unipolar to a multipolar world order now that Europe seems to have cut itself off permanently from the most economically rational source of its energy and also significant market for its export.

[00:10:38] Even before that, there was a very difficult period within. Of long-term stagnation, really with a kind of lost decade or two after the global financial crisis. So I think that we're both in agreement that Europe, and when I say Europe, I include the United Kingdom in that it's looking at a period of, if not total stagnation, then very difficult economic growth where it eeks out very slowly minor gains.

[00:11:08] And in that environment, what can often happen is you. Fights over how a shrinking pie is divided. Right? It's it, it's much easier as a government to divide the pie when its size is growing year after year, after year. It's a completely different matter when you have a range of competing interests and competing groups, and that pie has to be divided even as it gets smaller.

[00:11:34] And I think with the, you know, the strikes in Britain, some of the social unrest that we're seeing in France at the moment, the protests that you've mentioned in Ireland, I think in Europe we're starting to see the seeds of significant political and social disquiet, which given the long term or, or the, say, the decade long economic outlook for Europe looks as though it's only going to get worse.

[00:12:00] And, and you might even get to a point where in some c. You get genuine political destabilization. 

[00:12:06] Philip Pilkington: This week we might have already, or last week I should say. Seen some of it already spread. I mean, there was a big clash of police in Mercy side near Liverpool, outside a hotel, housing, a unit. It hasn't spread in the UK in the same way it's spread in Ireland.

[00:12:20] I think it, it seems relatively contained, but I mean that would look like potentially the start of something in terms of the prognosis for the European economy. Yeah, it looks pretty grim and as you. That kind of an environment, uh, can be quite febrile. I mean, I guess one of the, one of the interesting questions I'd be interested on hearing your thoughts about it.

[00:12:39] I mean, we have had wars before, but it's only really the, the last two iterations, I suppose, Syria and now Ukraine that have caused these. What can only be described as destabilizing migration flows into Europe. I mean, why do you think that is? Is, is is that because we've altered our laws in some way that we didn't have in the past?

[00:12:59] Clearly. Um, something, something doesn't work with our migration policy whenever there's a war and these huge refugee flows. I think 

[00:13:07] Andrew Collingwood: there have been two or three things that I've run concurrently. The first is, Since the end of the Cold War, or, or, or since the beginning of the 21st century, let's say, the United States joined by Britain has engaged on a kind of quite hubristic effort to remake the world in America's image, kind of the NeoCon ideal, the the liberal universalist ideal, and that led wars in, of course, Iraq, Afghanistan.

[00:13:39] Well, Afghanistan is slightly different. Syria and Libya as well. And, and, and Libya in particular under Gaddafi was a bull walk against migration from the Arab world in Sub-Saharan Africa. He, he, he kept a lid on it, but now Libya is, for all intents and purposes, a failed state. There's no protection on the Libyan route essentially.

[00:14:01] The second one is Turkey. In the past and the Lebanon were also, and Jordan, Also were places where people fleeing from these wars could actually go in the past. Whereas now those countries are so overloaded and to some degree as well also have more strained relations with the European Union and are less inclined to serve that role that that bull war's being removed as well.

[00:14:26] I think the second point is that the laws that. Or the international treaties that Britain at least, and, and most of the rest of the European nations signed up to in the aftermath of the Second World War, in particular the 1951 Yuan, uh, refugee Convention and 1953 European Convention of Human Rights.

[00:14:50] They were designed for a completely different, as I say, the aftermath of World War II to deal with the huge and, and. Horrendous actually population exchanges that the great powers agreed to, to, to kind of sort out Europe and, and, and kind of divide it up. And thirdly, to provide a legal framework to help people from the nascent Soviet block escape.

[00:15:13] Whereas now, uh, we're faced with a completely different world. We're faced with far easier travel, much more rapid exchange of information, and yet these rules still apply. So the 51 human rights. Sets the bar very low in terms of claiming asylum. You know, you just have to show that you have reasonable fear of persecution because of your political views, your gender, your sexuality.

[00:15:39] Now if, if you just take those three political views, I mean, how many Democrats are there in China or right. Mayan Ma, I mean, almost anybody who can say, well, I'm a Democrat. I could fear persecution, could reasonably claim asylum equally on sexuality. How many homosexuals might there be in Africa and sub-Saharan Africa where homosexuality in some countries is punishable by the death penalty?

[00:16:06] You know, that can them, British courts have ruled that Pakistani women might be a specific social subset. That could claim asylum. Now there are what, like 150, 160 million women in Pakistan, but I assume that it would also extend to the rest of the Muslim world as well. I mean, Could, uh, a Saudi Arabian woman come to Britain and claim asylum based on the fact that she's a woman in Saudi Arabia that makes it very easy to claim asylum.

[00:16:34] And in the rare occasions that people are refused asylum because you know, well over 70% of people who come into Britain in small boats across the channel are granted asylum. And the rare occasions you then have the European Convention on Human Rights and the activist European Court of human right.

[00:16:51] Which really make it extremely difficult to remove people. Only 11 illegal migrants were removed from Britain in 2021. So these laws do have an effect. And I think the reason that they have an effect essentially is that word gets around, is a very powerful motivational force. People, people find out and hear that it's possible to go to islands, to go to the US to go to.

[00:17:21] And you'll get in and get to stay. People are acting rationally. You know, if you are somebody struggling in the north of Iraq, for example, in, in, in the Kurd area of Iraq, or if, if you are living in say, Kenya, or which is one of the more stable and prosperous countries in sub-Saharan Africa, but you know, certainly in somewhere like Liberia or Sierra Leone or in Myanmar or.

[00:17:46] It just makes sense to try to move to Britain. And if you know there's a good chance that you can make Britain your home, if you're young enough and brave enough to make the journey, then why not? And I, I think that's the reason we, you know, we have had a lot of destabilizing laws, we have got quite lax laws on this, but ultimately, migrants are acting rationally and they know that they can make wealthy western nations their.

[00:18:14] And once they do, they'll have a much better life than they could have hoped for at home. And eventually they'll probably be able to bring their family as well. So they're acting rationally in my view. Philip, it, it, I, I would hope that you or I would act in the same way given, given similar choices. It seems eminently set sensible, and of course the political class are firm believers in this.

[00:18:37] Philip Pilkington: What's to stop them? Yeah, I think that's probably a pretty good outline of the situation. It just seems really destabilizing. It seems. It seems like, I think you kind of alluded to it, that we're still living in this kind of nineties myth that, you know, the world was all gonna be one and you know, people could just go here and there and everyone was happy, and if migrants came over, it would add to the labor force and so on.

[00:19:01] That's just not the reality of what we're seeing in Europe, and it hasn't been the reality of what we've been seeing in, in Europe for 15 years. I think we, our leaders at least got through the, the previous migration crisis just about, I don't, I don't think they'll get through another one without kind of trying to deal with the situation in some way.

[00:19:21] I don't think that they can just shove this one in the closet. You and 

[00:19:25] Andrew Collingwood: I often talk about the economic and geopolitical aspects of the shift to a new world order, but I think one thing perhaps we're guilty of forgetting is this also has a domestic aspect as well in a lot of Western countries that run parallel where people want to discuss issues, whether it's things like de-industrialization and trade policy, whether it's migration, whether it's kind of liberal values.

[00:19:53] You know, the, the, the political classes tend to be much more liberal than the average population that have really been off the table for discussion for at least 30 years. And I think this is all part of the, part of the shift to a new world. It's, it's happening economically, it's happening geo strategically, but it's also happening in, in, in domestic politics as well.

[00:20:15] But on the subject of the, of the shift to. To a multipolar world. I saw a study, in fact, you forwarded me a study kindly enough, Mr. Wilington from Cambridge University, which basically produced some data which used opinion polling throughout the world. Opinion polling, which I believe captured about 97% of the world's population.

[00:20:37] And through these polls, try to take a look the way the world is bifurcating into a more of a bipolar system from the unipolar system that we've had. Now I have my own opinions on this, but maybe you want to explain more because it is an interesting 

[00:20:54] Philip Pilkington: study at least. Yeah. So this study came out from the uh, center for the future of democracy associated with the University of Cambridge.

[00:21:03] It was called a World Divided Russia, China, and the West. And as you say, it's got, it's got an awful lot of, of, of, of very good polling data, which in itself is really interesting. I'm not totally convinced by the study itself in terms of what it's, I guess, interpretation of the data is. So, some of it's reasonable, some of it's not.

[00:21:23] I mean, the, the first, the first issue is a very simple methodological one. The study seems to implicitly. The public opinion data drives geopolitical relations, but of course, no, that's not true. Geopolitical relations drive public opinion. That's generally how things work, and you can see that in the study itself because, um, For example, in developed countries, support or, or warm feelings on the part of the public for Russia fell off a cliff after the invasion of Ukraine.

[00:21:53] Classic example. The events drive the opinion, not the opinion driving the events. So, so in, in that sense, i d I don't think that the researchers have got their hands on a very powerful causal mechanism. It's more so I'd read it as kind of taking the temperature of the world in so far as he can do that.

[00:22:12] They, they, they said 97%, I'm, I'm not sure if 97% of the world's population got a cause. Of course sampling errors could probably be quite bad in other countries. I'll say some of the headline figures that kind of stood out, and then maybe we can both be a little bit more critical. The whole thing, the standout charts for me basically showed that among developing countries, public opinion for Russia and China are now higher than for the United States.

[00:22:40] Not hugely higher, marginally higher, but still slightly higher. Whereas in developed countries, the opposite is the. We also see that public opinion on China and Russia have increased. The developing countries have got more in favor of Russia and China over the past few years. The opposite, again, has been the case in the developed countries, Russia and China.

[00:23:04] In the past 10 years have become far less popular again. I'd say that's probably more due to events than anything else. Study also points out, interestingly enough that the developing countries, or they are poorer, have a population of 6.4 billion, while the developed countries have a population of 1.2 billion.

[00:23:22] So in terms of sheer numbers, let's just say the USA isn't winning and one. Point I'd make about that chart, which really jumped off the page at me, didn't seem to jump off the page to the researchers unless I didn't read it. But if you look at the polling of developed countries on the United States, it's pretty consistently ran about 60% favorability and then suddenly it falls off a cliff and bottoms out at around 45%.

[00:23:55] So a significant. When Donald Trump is elected, and then when Joe Biden's elected, it reverts back up to its previous normal level of around 60, 61, 62, 60 3%. Now, that I think is very interesting because it means that the domestic problems, the domestic political tensions in America actually drive global perception of America amongst its allies.

[00:24:26] And honestly, if I took one thing from the study, it would've been that the rest of it kind of just fits the, the, the, you know, the multipolar narrative I guess that that, that we discussed quite a lot. And I don't think you really needed polls to show this, although they are interesting. But the fact that domestic, so the fact that they found that developed countries are the key ally of the United States, and at the same time domestic political turbulence is so detrimental.

[00:24:54] To that. I just thought that jumped off the page at me and I don't think it was much discussed 

[00:24:59] Andrew Collingwood: in the study. Yeah, I thought that was interesting actually. And especially the, the part about the divergent trends between the developing world and the developed world that so-called golden billion of people where in the developed world you see very much that Russian China are becoming less and less unpopular as conflict between.

[00:25:24] And the West ramps up. And I, and I think you're a hundred percent correct in what you said at the beginning, that it is events and geopolitics that drive these opinion polls, not the other way around. They got the direction of causality all wrong, whereas in the developing worlds that kind of six points, 9 billion or however many it was, Russia and China are becoming more popular.

[00:25:48] And in fact, interestingly, Russia is more popular than China at. I wonder if that's, uh, a kind of t. The effectiveness of the diplomatic charm offense of that Russia has been on since February, 2022. Certainly we've seen, you know, the Russian foreign Foreign minister, Sergei Lavaro touring the world is been on a kind of nonstop tour for many months, especially in the Middle East and Africa itself.

[00:26:11] So I thought that was interesting. But really what disappointed me about this study, most of all, was that right from the. They tried to describe the difference as between democracies and authoritarian states, and that's not what's happening in the world at the moment. Of course, that's the way that it's being framed by Washington and to a lesser extent, by London and Brussels and Berlin, you know, a, a rerun of the Cold War totalitarianism versus liberalism and democracy.

[00:26:46] But that's absolutely not what's happening. And, and to a certain degree it really wasn't. What, what happened in the Cold War either. This is simply classic great power competition. It's about who gets to control what and who gets to set the terms of trade and where, and it's about national security and that's entirely what it's about.

[00:27:08] And I, I think it's disappointing to see these things cruxed in. In a kind of democracy versus authoritarianism way when really that's not what's happening. Philip Coniff wrote an excellent article today for Unheard, and when she talks about the way that India and Brazil, both of them democracies perhaps imperfect, but both democracies, neither of which have taken aside in the Russia versus the West conflict at the moment.

[00:27:35] India has continued trading with Russia. It's continued diplomacy with Russia. It's continued doing business with. In its own national interest. Equally, Brazil has refused to take America's side on this matter, and, and both democracies have stayed neutral. I think this is not a matter of democracy versus authoritarianism.

[00:27:56] I think it's a. Classic example of great power competition, and that was something that leapt out at me from this, uh, this 

[00:28:04] Philip Pilkington: report. I totally agree. The goodie versus body narrative implicit in the report, I think was weak. Frankly. It was clearly retrofitting the data. I mean, not to get too technical about it, but they actually did have an attempted linear regress.

[00:28:19] To try and show this authoritarian nexus or whatever. So they had, they had positive view of Russia and China on one side of the regression, and dissatisfied with the functioning of democracy. On the other side of the regression, there's actually no correlation. I can see that there's absolutely no correlation, but they run like a fake line.

[00:28:41] So that's really, that's really shabby to say. It's 

[00:28:44] Andrew Collingwood: one of those lines where it says, you know, n equals 0.1 more. 

[00:28:47] Philip Pilkington: Yeah. I mean, they, they, well, they haven't quoted the R squared because there, right, yeah, exactly. Right. There is no R squared. There's just a gray line Porsche. I, I have to say, I mean, that's really not quality work, but, no, I agree.

[00:28:59] I mean, but e e even more generally, trying to frame these complex things in terms of good and bad, I, I don't think it's particularly helpful, especially when they have disco polling. To work with the countries with a positive view of the United States and a negative view of Russia and China net are very divided.

[00:29:20] So you have countries like Albania, Poland, Casa O, South Korea, and these have an extremely positive view of the United States. It's like 90 to a hundred percent almost. And then they have an extremely negative view of Russia, you know, 25% or. But then on the other side, you have, um, pretty much everybody else, all the European countries, you know, France, uh, Austria, Germany, Australia, and these have negative views of China and Russia.

[00:29:51] Very similar to Poland and Albania, you know, similar, similar rates. But then they don't have a hugely positive view of the United States. It's about 50 50. Whereas on the other hand, the, what we might call the loyalists of the China and Russia block, so like Laos, Serbia, Brunai, I guess there are less of them.

[00:30:11] There are definitely less loyalists, but they tend to be more robust. So the reason I'd highlight that isn't to say that one side is winning and one side is losing. I don't think that's. But just to say that the European countries who are net favorable to the United States over China and Russia are still pretty divided on the United States.

[00:30:35] The other thing that, um, that stood out to me is that the most countries are actually clustered in a, in a spot where they're favorable to. Okay, so that's where most of the world sits. The polarized blocks are mainly in the kind of immediate Russo, China sphere, whatever you wanna call that, and in the, in the west, in the developed west.

[00:30:58] But everywhere else is kind of up for grabs really, in terms of public opinion. Again, I think we both agree that public opinion isn't really a driver here, but in so far as it's interesting. I, I thought that was interesting. Now, one thing to say. I think picking out an example shows why this public opinion measure can be quite silly.

[00:31:20] Um, so take the example of Brazil. Brazil on this public opinion metric has a very positive view of the United States. It's about 75% or so, and it's got a fairly negative view of Russia and China. It's at about 30%. But of course we know because we've discussed it on previous podcasts that the Brazilian ruling leaves and the current president l.

[00:31:43] Is very in favor of getting involved with China in terms of trade and so on. So I think the example of Brazil and I could pick out others, show the limitations of this methodology that I'm sure that if you go to Rio De Jane era, that loads of people watch American TV and they think of America as the promised land and all this kind of thing.

[00:32:01] I've no doubt that that's true, but that doesn't mean that they're leaders. Are cutting, are, are not cutting trade deals with China or aren't considering, you know, launching their own currency to try and get rid of dollar influence and so on. So, I, I, I just think picking out an example and making a concrete shows the vast limitations of a study like this.

[00:32:23] I'm sure 

[00:32:23] Andrew Collingwood: a lot of listeners will have seen the, the map that's been circulated on the internet for probably a year or so now where it colors every nation on the, on the earth, either red or. Depending on whether their main trading partner is the United States in blue or China in red, and it shows what that chart looked like, what the world looked like in, I think 2012 or maybe 2002.

[00:32:51] And then most of the countries were mostly trading with the United States, or they traded more with the United States than they did with. Now, fast forward 20 years or 10 years, I can't remember which, and most of the world is, is treading with China more than it trades with the United States. And I think that popularity is one thing, but economic necessity is entirely another.

[00:33:15] But I think that leads us onto the third story this week, w, which is that the Marcos government in the Philippines, it's been a while since we've had a Marcos government in the Philippines, but we're back. Has signed a deal to invite back the United States military to military bases on the Philippines.

[00:33:36] And this is really interesting and, and geopolitically consequential because a core requirement for the United States if they are to contain China, is to be able to project force into the Western Pacific or you know, toward China's eastern seaboard, if that makes sense. To listen. And to do that, they need basis.

[00:33:58] You know, they can't do it just from Guam and Okinawa and South Korea. They need more basis. So to be able to have four or five, which this deal suggests in the Philippines, is actually a big bonus for the US attempts to contain China. And of course, from the Philippines perspective there. Running, uh, territorial disputes, maritime territorial disputes, a series of shoals and small islands in South China Sea, which both the Philippines and China claim.

[00:34:28] So you have that at play as well. Now, I, I think that the, this is one of those events that listeners who want to follow the shift towards multipolarity, but also want to think more about how that's going to work out, who's going to be left on top, who's going to win? Probable Titanic struggle in the Western Pacific.

[00:34:51] These are the sort of events that people should be looking for. The US curing four naval VA of four or five naval bases in the Philippines in a strategically very important area of the world and crucial for its strategy of containments to China. 

[00:35:08] Philip Pilkington: Yeah, absolutely. So just to give some of the political context, maybe we can go more into the political context later because it's actually quite interesting.

[00:35:17] But prior to, uh, Marco Jr. Becoming president last year, obviously the very famous and controversial Duterte was the president there, and he was in favor of more, um, cooperation with the Chinese. So his successor coming in, Doing this stuff is obviously a huge win for the us. That said, if you look at the economic situation of the Philippines, it's very interesting and it, it might help people to understand why even though there are some disputed territories between the Philippines, Filipinos, and the Chinese, that this relationship seems to be grow.

[00:35:58] So if you look at American exports to the Philippines, they've fallen dramatically since the early two thousands. I mean, they, they fell coming up to 2008, and then after that they just flatlined in dollar terms. They haven't grown at all. I don't fully understand why this is, why is it that America is no longer successful at exporting to the Philippines, which has long been a place of interest to the United States?

[00:36:24] I don't, I don't know the answer to that, but they've really fallen in on the game there. Meanwhile, China's gone from strength to strength. I mean, it's grown exponentially since 1998 really, but really since 2008, and then it's really sped up in the last three. So just to give some some sense on that, in 2012, in December, 2012, the share of exports to the Philippines, the share of, well, we should say it the other way around.

[00:36:51] The share of Filipino imports by the United States was 16%. The United States, even though it had stagnated for years, was still the biggest exporter to the Philippines. China was the second biggest, and it stood at 11.4. Now, fast forward to 2022, the situation couldn't look more different. Total Filipino imports, China makes up 22.7%.

[00:37:20] That's almost a quarter while the US has fallen to 6.8%. It's it's third or fourth down the list. Now, of course, this is because American exports to the Philippines have first fallen and then stagnated. I don't understand why that. But this is leading to this incredible catch up by China. China isn't just the Philippines main trade partner, it's by far the Philippines main trade partner, and the United States is fourth, fifth on the list.

[00:37:52] Now, I think this, as you say, says something more broadly about Multipolarity, how the world's gonna play out and, and the mistakes that the West is. America should be all hands on deck trying to figure out how to integrate themselves as much as possible in the Philippines. And they've completely fallen down for whatever reason.

[00:38:13] I don't fully understand it, but they've completely fallen down for the past 25 years and. It's fine that they can get a new leader in who's, uh, more sympathetic to America and agree agrees to a military base. But that's dependent on the political cycle. Meanwhile, you have this force of nature just chugging away, which is the economic relationship that's building up between China and the Philippines.

[00:38:37] So it seems to me the, the last thing you learned from this, and that's a general lesson in an emerging multi-polar world, the Americans just need to get competi. About the economic trade relations they have with these countries, or they will lose the game. You, you can't just find allies, you know, Fairweather friends or whatever.

[00:38:56] That's not gonna work. You, you need to build an economic basis of that relationship and the only way to do that is to compete for their trade. 

[00:39:04] Andrew Collingwood: I think that's a hundred percent right. And I think it's the big gap in American foreign policy, especially with regard to China at the moment. These countries at the United States wishes to ally with South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, to a lesser extent, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia.

[00:39:22] Increasingly, China is going to be by far the most important economic partner for all of those countries separating from China, have a far greater detrimental effect on those countries. And when I say far greater, I mean like not even close, not even compar. Than it would separating from the United States.

[00:39:45] It may well be that the United States manage to, you know, as, as they try to force the world into blocks as they're doing with microchips at the moment. It may well be that they manage to peel off some of those countries, but I would not bet on it when the economic pain is gonna be so great. I think the impossible situation that the United States faces with.

[00:40:10] Is that really, you know, if they're going to provide an economic counterweight to China, even if it's not given, you know, trade gravity and, and, and those sort of economic rules, perhaps they can never quite match the Chinese when it comes to trade with Taiwan or trade with trade with the Philippines.

[00:40:31] But if they're gonna at least provide some kind of economic counterweight, It really needs to open up their own markets in America to these countries to help these countries develop, to allow these countries to export to the United States and vice versa, to get us products and, and, and especially one would've thought services into these countries.

[00:40:55] But the issue that the Americans have at the moment is that that is a huge vote loser in the United States. Donald Trump. Won an election when he won in 2016 because in part because he promised to bring American jobs back home, and much as the liberal press at the time ran for the smelling salts that fear that it might cause a trade war.

[00:41:23] Joseph Biden, since entering the White House, has done nothing to roll back Donald Trump's tariffs or, or, or trade barriers or anything like that. And in fact, With the Inflation reduction Act, he's gone even farther than Mr. Trump ever did. And I think that it, it's obvious to me anyway, that that's because both parties now realize that extending free trade, that allowing even more competition with Southeast Asian countries is just gotta lose some votes.

[00:41:54] It's gonna be extremely difficult for them anyway to, in that kind of domestic political environment. Also, think about the strategic. Which really desperately needs and is calling out for the US to at least attempt to provide a economic counterweight to China in that region, because otherwise the military counterweight that they're offering at the moment 

[00:42:18] Philip Pilkington: will just crumble.

[00:42:20] Yeah. And I think the, the problem underlying that is basically, I mean, sad to say, but America's just not competitive. It's strange. I mean, if you know America, if, if you've lived there, if you've been. You know that the people are brilliant to business and they're hyper-competitive people, but they seem to have just lost their edge in the thing that they excel at, which is business.

[00:42:40] It's the strangest thing in the world. But ultimately that's why they're not able to stomach it. That's why the, the political forces are pushing back with their ability to continue to engage with the world and to retreat behind a protectionist wall. China don't need to do that because China can compete.

[00:42:56] They can sell lots of stuff to the Philippines, and then they're perfectly happy to buy lots of stuff from the Philippines in return. America's scared to buy from other countries because they don't have enough stuff to. Now some of that's just simply labor costs. Of course. I mean, China has, um, stormed ahead based on the fact that it had a relatively poor population and still has a relatively poor population.

[00:43:17] Although it's catching up gradually. You just simply can't blame it all on that. No, 

[00:43:22] Andrew Collingwood: I mean, Germany has high wages, right? But it has a huge trade surplus. 

[00:43:27] Philip Pilkington: Well, yes. Um, so Germany will be a good example. I mean, some of Germany's trade surplus now comes from artificially suppressing its currency by being in the Euro, euro system and then basically flooding the, the poorer countries with, with its goods.

[00:43:41] But Germany also runs pretty good trade with China. I don't know if they have a surplus or not, but, They, they tend to be able to sell, sell stuff there, big, heavy capital equipment. There needs to be a way for the United States to figure out how to rebalance its trade in such a way that it's not, it's not basically scared to trade.

[00:43:59] We're in simpatico about it. I'm not a free trader. I, I, I don't believe in laissez fair trade, but on the other side, I can definitely see that there's very destructive forms of protectionism. There's forms of protectionism that aren't really motivated to get your economy back on track, to get it restarted, to get you back to the competitive edge that you had before.

[00:44:21] There are forms of protectionism that are just, they look weak and they're fearful, and they're just retreating behind the wall and saying, we can't do this anymore, and blaming other people for your lack of competitive. And I'm really sad to say, I think America's moving in that direction. And what they need to do is they need to take the instinct perhaps that that Trump planted there and subsequently grow in dc, which is to become a bit more skeptical of free trade, but do so in a productive way.

[00:44:52] How do you really improve your industrial base? How do you improve your competi? Throwing up the protectionist walls is not gonna work, and it's gonna greatly diminish American influence in the world.

[00:45:10] Andrew Collingwood: You've been listening to Multipolarity Subscriber Follow for Fresh episodes every week.

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