Former Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte gave an interview to China’s state-run Global Times on Friday in which the erratic leader trashed the United States as “antagonistic and hostile” and advised his successor, President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., to adopt a more conciliatory posture toward China.

Duterte claimed his goal after becoming president in 2016 was to “craft an independent foreign policy” that was “not really against America,” but would be friendlier to China.

What Duterte actually did was vacillate between blustery threats against Beijing and obsequious groveling, neither of which got him anywhere with the aggressive Chinese Communist tyranny. Duterte could go from threatening suicide missions against Chinese forces to telling Filipinos that resisting China’s imperial ambitions was futile in a matter of weeks.

By the time he left office, Duterte settled on a narrative that he really wanted to be China’s good friend, but the United States kept pushing him into confrontations. He repeated this narrative in an obsequious performance during his Global Times interview on Friday:

I know that the previous administrations were always favoring the Americans in everything. Whatever be the events, whatever be the problems of Southeast Asia or the world, for that matter, it seems that China here in Asia is doing everything that is possible to encourage that we gather as good neighbors, especially when President Xi Jinping proposed the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). That was really intended to galvanize relations between Asian countries.

But America, from a foreign policy standpoint, appears to be very hostile. So if you stick with America, if you identify yourself with America, then everything becomes blurry with our relations with China and the rest of the ASEAN countries.

Most of the ASEAN countries have followed a very neutral, independent foreign policy. I would have wanted that. Had I listened to the advisors of government, I could not have improved the relations between the Philippines and China. That is why I slowly detached myself, and, at least in foreign policy, and announced to China that we are not enemies, that we have never been, and never will be in our lifetime.

Duterte’s good friends in Beijing spent the past few months attacking Philippine naval vessels and fishing boats with increasing levels of force to drive them away from islands China has no legal claim to. 

In March, the Philippines lodged its strongest protest to date against China for blasting a Philippine Navy supply boat with water cannons and injuring several crew members. China’s growing aggression against the Philippines led to mass protests in Manila this week and inspired a trilateral security summit between the Philippines, U.S., and Japan, which Beijing furiously denounced.

Duterte mentioned none of this in his Global Times interview, insisting the only problem in what Filipinos refer to as the West Philippine Sea is American malevolence.

“I must reiterate that I do not have a quarrel with the America. I just don’t like their behavior. Their behavior is because at one time or another, they were imperialists. After Spain, they also occupied my country. And even though they say that it was good for the Philippines that they came and educated us, that’s nonsense,” he said.

“Here in the West Philippine Sea, when I was president, there was no quarrel. We can return to normalcy. I hope that we can stop the ruckus over there, because the Americans are the ones pushing the Philippine government to go out there and find a quarrel and eventually maybe start a war,” he said. None of that is remotely true, as Chinese aggression against Philippine territory dates back to China losing a crucial case at the Hague in 2016.

Duterte rushed to assure his Chinese interviewers that he fully supports Beijing’s claims on Taiwan, so he sees no reason for the Philippines to be drawn into the conflict if China decides to invade the island. He also spoke about how much he values the Philippines’ “robust trade relations” with China, while insisting his country does not have “really good trade relations with America.”

“Maybe [the Americans] are kind, I do not care to know, because I’m not interested,” he said. 

If Duterte ever develops enough interest to educate himself, he will discover America’s bilateral trade relationship with the Philippines is worth over $30 billion per year, the U.S. is one of the largest donors to economic aid and disaster relief programs in the Philippines, and the Peace Corps has been active there for over half a century. The United States is the largest export market for products from the Philippines, although China is its number one trading partner overall.

Duterte managed to complain that America is not doing enough to protect the Philippines in the same breath he complained America has too many military bases there:

America is giving the instructions to the Philippine government to “not be afraid because we will back you up.” But I do not think that America will die for us. And yet America has so many bases in the Philippines now; I objected to it when the US wanted to build a military base in the Philippines. Then with the consent of the president of the Republic of the Philippines, they have so many bases. 

Duterte said he was “very sad” for the state of Philippine-China relations under his successor, President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., who has “taken a more hardline stance on the South China Sea issue,” as the Global Times put it.

“During my term, China allowed fishing [by Philippine fishermen] and nobody was disturbing them,” Duterte said wistfully. 

Agan, this is not remotely true – China bullied and harassed Filipino fishermen repeatedly during Duterte’s term and Duterte’s office lodged diplomatic protests against Beijing for doing it. 

The Global Times unsurprisingly chose to flatter Duterte’s delusions and praise him as a friend of China instead of reminding him of what happened when he was president, then milked him for a few more quotes about how the Marcos administration is foolish for teaming up with the United States and Japan against the growing Chinese threat. 

Duterte was happy to oblige.

“We have bilateral relations with America, but if your foreign policy is crooked or favors one country and is sometimes hostile because you are with America, then everything is wrong. That is the problem,” he said.

“In the matter of principle, there is a quarrel going on because there is the U.S. telling everybody, ‘Okay, you fight. Do not be afraid because we are here.’ It’s antagonistic and hostile,” he asserted.

Duterte told the Global Times it was a waste of effort for the Chinese Communist regime to talk with Marcos, because “it is the Americans that will tell him what he should say to you.”

“We do not have any quarrel with China. We know that if it would come, it would come because of the Americans. So we have to accept it because our government admittedly allowed it. But we will always be friends, I can assure you,” he gushed.

On the same day he gave this slobbering interview to Chinese state media, Duterte held a press briefing during which he said he backed down from Manila’s legal and internationally-endorsed claims in the South China Sea because Chinese dictator Xi Jinping threatened to “go to war” with the Philippines if he didn’t.