Virtual Dinner Chat: China-Philippines Relations and U.S. Strategic Calculus


The Jamestown Foundation is proud to present a private Zoom webinar event on “China-Philippines Relations and the Strategic U.S. Calculus.”

The United States has increasingly turned its attention toward countering Chinese activity in the Indo-Pacific. But under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, the Philippines, one of the U.S.’s main strategic partners in the region, has grown closer with China. Duterte has been lured by the prospect of easy Chinese financing—much of it through the Belt and Road Initiative—for local development projects that often serve domestic political ends. But his preference for the authoritarian China has run up against countervailing pressures both within his government and throughout civil society more broadly that are concerned about growing Chinese influence and control.

As the Indo-Pacific becomes a hot spot for strategic competition between China and the U.S., Chinese maritime militias have also continued to test the Philippines’ sovereignty of disputed territories. Notably, Duterte rejected U.S. assistance during the most recent stand off between Chinese fishing vessels and Filipino security forces at Whitsun Reef earlier this year. Even as support has grown to end Manila’s accommodative posture towards Beijing, Duterte has remained slow to improve relations with the United States. Instead, he has walked a fine and at sometimes contradictory line between the two great power states.

The Jamestown Foundation has invited the former Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific, Dave Stilwell, along with Professor Renato Cruz de Castro of De La Salle University in Manila and Derek Grossman from the RAND Corporation to discuss the strategic implications of the triangular relationship between the U.S., China and the Philippines.

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Dave Stilwell

Fmr. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific

Renato Cruz de Castro

Distinguished University Professor, De La Salle University in Manila

Derek Grossman

Senior Defense Analyst, RAND Corporation

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Participant Biographies


Renato Cruz De Castro is a Distinguished University Professor in the International Studies Department, De La Salle University, and Manila.  He is the chair-holder of the Dr. Aurelio Calderon Chair in Philippine-American Relation. He earned his Ph.D. from the Government and International Studies Department of the University of South Carolina as a Fulbright Scholar in 2001, and obtained his B.A. and two master’s degrees from the University of the Philippines. As a member of the Board of Trustees of the Albert Del Rosario Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ADRI), he contributes his two monthly opinion columns to the Business World and Philippine Star.  He has written over 100 articles on international relations and security that have been published in several scholarly journals, monographs, and edited works in the Philippines, Japan, South Korea, Canada, Malaysia, France, Singapore, Taiwan, Germany, the United Kingdom, Australia, the Netherlands, and the United States.

Derek Grossman is a senior defense analyst at the RAND Corporation focused on a range of national security policy and Indo-Pacific security issues. He is particularly interested in China’s relationships with Taiwan, Vietnam, Japan, India, Pakistan, the Pacific Islands, and the Koreas. Grossman served over a decade in the Intelligence Community (IC), where he served as the daily intelligence briefer to the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), and to the assistant secretary of defense for Asian & Pacific Security Affairs. He wrote an award-winning paper for the IC’s “Galileo Competition,” which solicits innovative ideas to optimize IC enterprise management practices. Prior to DIA, Grossman served at the National Security Agency and worked at the CIA on the President’s Daily Brief staff.  Grossman is an adjunct professor at the University of Southern California and a regular contributor to The Diplomat. He holds an M.A. from Georgetown University in U.S. national security policy and a B.A. from the University of Michigan in political science and Asian studies.

David R. Stilwell served as the Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs between 2019-2021. Prior to his appointment as Assistant Secretary, he served in the Air Force for 35 years, beginning as an enlisted Korean linguist in 1980, and retiring in 2015 in the rank of Brigadier General as the Asia advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He served multiple tours of duty in Japan and Korea as a linguist, a fighter pilot, and a commander. He also served as the Defense Attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, People’s Republic of China, 2011-2013. Mr. Stilwell directed the China Strategic Focus Group at U.S. Indo-Pacific Command in Hawaii 2017- 2019 and was an Adjunct Senior Fellow at the East West Center in Honolulu from 2016-2019. He earned a B.S. in History from the U.S. Air Force Academy (1987), and a Master’s Degree in Asian Studies and Chinese language from the University of Hawaii at Manoa (1988). He is a 2009 graduate of the Executive Leadership program at the Darden School, University of Virginia. He was awarded the Department of Defense Superior Service Award in 2015. He speaks Korean, Chinese and limited Japanese.