The headlines are unwavering: The Philippines, under President Rodrigo Duterte, has opened its arms to China. This sentiment has alarmed Filipinos, who are fearful that China will trample their country’s sovereignty in the disputed South China Sea, handicapping the archipelago with burdensome “debt trap” Belt and Road projects and sending waves of workers from the Chinese mainland, who often stay illegally on tourist visas and have a predilection for getting up to no good. “We are Filipinos,” one young protester told me at an April demonstration outside the Chinese embassy in Manila, “and we hate China!”
According to a series of surveys by the research outfit Social Weather Stations, which are frequently referenced in Philippine media, most Filipinos harbor a deep distrust of China. This made for the basis of a widely shared argument in November by Philippine Inquirer columnist Solita Monsod, who, despite claiming to register her discontent with the country of China rather than Chinese people, raised the ire of many readers by lambasting the Chinese Filipino community.