Reacting to China’s Rise: A Comparison of the Hedging Strategies of Malaysia and the Philippines by Alfred Gerstl

Date & Time

21. 10. 2020 at 15:30 PM



Due to its geographic location, Southeast Asia is especially affected by the increasing rivalry between the United States and China. Traditionally, most Southeast Asian nations follow a hedging strategy, i.e., they aim to insure themselves against risks and uncertainties stemming from great powers’ behavior, while trying to reap security and/or economic benefits from their respective relations. For this, they pursue a seemingly contradictory policy consisting of cooperative and conflictive elements. This presentation introduces an updated hedging framework to compare the hedging strategies of the middle powers Malaysia and the Philippines towards China. It shows that notably the Philippines deepened their economic relations with Beijing under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), but that both also engage the US and Japan economically and politically-diplomatically. Paradoxically, China’s assertive behavior in the South China Sea provides incentives for both limited balancing against China and limited bandwagoning with China under an overall hedging strategy. In the conclusion it will be answered whether Malaysia and the Philippines indeed follow a planned hedging strategy or rather employ an opportunistic and ad hoc policy that merely respond to China’s policies and actions.  


Mag. Dr. Alfred Gerstl, MIR holds a Marie Sklodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship at the Department of Asian Studies at Palacký University. He was previously an excellent and key researcher in the EU-funded project “Sinophone Borderlands – Interactions at the Edges”. Alfred previously taught International Relations at various universities in Australia, Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, and Russia. His research focuses on China’s relations with Southeast Asia and Central Eastern Europe, the Belt and Road Initiative and the South China Sea dispute.