Social Climate

The people reject the pivot to China

/ 05:05 AM February 15, 2020

Last Wednesday’s SWS 2020 Survey Review-Diliman Edition showed, among many other things, that the Filipino people continue to strongly reject the Duterte administration’s policy pivot toward China, and prefer to continue traditional relations with the United States.

The review covered the four quarterly nationwide Social Weather Surveys of 2019. Its presentation slides are at https://www.sws.org.ph/swsmain/artcldisppage/?artcsyscode=ART-20200204102720. Its closing topic, Foreign Relations, covers today’s piece.


The antipathy of Filipinos toward China has been clear for a very long time. The rise of China’s trust rating from -33 in 2016Q3 to +9 in 2016Q4 was prodigious, but short-lived (“Filipinos don’t pivot,” Opinion, 5/27/17). The deep distrust in China returned, and persists up to now.

The West Philippine Sea (WPS). The people resent China’s bullying in the WPS, and are disappointed by the administration’s meek response to it.


ʎ Eighty-seven percent of adult Filipinos want the government to assert its right to the WPS as stipulated in the 2016 decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration. Ninety-three percent say it is important to recover what China has occupied in the WPS.

ʎ Eighty-nine percent say it is wrong to leave China alone with its infrastructures and military presence in the WPS. Eighty-four percent say the government should form alliances with other countries that are ready to help us in defending our security in the WPS.

The invasion of foreign Chinese workers. Filipinos are worried about the growing presence of foreign Chinese workers in their midst. Thirty-one percent say there are already many, if not very many, foreign Chinese workers in their own localities; 52 percent consider the rising number of such workers a threat to the country’s overall security.

The suspicious intentions of the Chinese government. Forty-four percent disagree that “most of what the Chinese government wants to happen in the Philippines is good for the Filipinos.” Only 27 percent agree, implying a net -17 confidence that China has good intentions for us.

This compares to the continuously positive confidence that the US government has good intentions for the Filipino people, in 20 consecutive SWS surveys in 1985-2005. SWS will repeat this item for both the United States and China in future surveys.

Filipinos strongly prefer to associate with the United States. The country that Filipinos trust most has always been the United States (net +72 in 2019Q3); the one they trust least is China (net -33). Only two of the first 12 trust ratings of China during the Duterte period have been positive.

ʎ Seventy-eight percent say that relations with the United States are more important than relations with China. Only 12 percent say that relations with China are more important.


ʎ Sixty-one percent believe that the United States will defend the Philippines in case of invasion by another country; only 9 percent do not believe it.

The administration’s latest move, to terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement, is totally out of sync with the desires of the Filipino people.

The public is invited to the launch of a new book from Oxford University Press, “The Philippines: What Everyone Needs to Know,” on Tuesday, 2/18/2020, 2-5 p.m., at the SWS Knowledge Center, 52 Malingap St., Quezon City, to listen to author Steven Rood (SWS fellow-in-residence) and commentators John D. Forbes (senior advisor, Arangkada Philippines Project, American Chamber of Commerce), Karina Bolasco (director, Ateneo de Manila University Press), and Antonio La Viña (executive director, Manila Observatory). To attend, contact Malou Tabor at [email protected] or (02) 8924-4465 local 501.

Contact [email protected]

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TAGS: China, SWS 2020 Survey Review-Diliman Edition, West Philippine Sea (South China Sea)
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