Mr. Ernest Bower explored the political economic underpinnings of EDCA. He recalled that, in the aftermath of the Asian Financial Crisis in the late 1990s up to 2009, China responded positively to the region: it moved away from the ideological approach to foreign policy, constructively engaged its neighboring countries by boosting regional trade and investment, and cultivated strong diplomatic ties. After 2009, however, Mr. Bower noted that China suddenly changed course when it began drawing the controversial 9-dashed line, triggering anxiety among its neighboring countries. This is what Clinton responded to in Hanoi, emphasizing that US has a stake in the stability of South China Sea—the freedom of navigation. After which, he reiterated that the American intent with EDCA is to deepen its overall engagement and practical security relationship with the Philippines.
Ernest Bower is a nonresident senior adviser for Southeast Asia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He is recognized as a leading expert on Southeast Asia. He is president & CEO of BowerGroupAsia, a well-known business advisory firm he created and built. Before forming his company, he served for a decade as president of the US-ASEAN Business Council, the top private business group composed of America’s leading companies in Southeast Asia. Over 20 years, he helped to establish and build the Council from the ground level, working with government and private-sector leaders from the United States and Southeast Asia.