As China grapples with managing COVID-19 while reopening its faltering and debt-laden economy in 2023, US allies and partners will be making fundamental strategic decisions about their management of the rising state with a rapidly growing military. So with the new year comes a host of critical questions.
Will Manila invite the American military back to Subic Bay, the iconic naval base, and allow US troops to operate regularly from five other bases around the country?
The answer seems increasingly likely to be yes, with Chinese harassment of Philippine vessels and its persistent patrols in areas claimed by Manila helping the new government find clarity. The Subic Bay shipyard was purchased by the US-based private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management earlier in 2022. And there are persistent reports of efforts to bring the US Navy back to the vast port.