Liminality in the China Watching of Aileen San Pablo-Baviera

Tina S. Clemente
Asian Center, University of the Philippines Diliman

Vol. 15 (2021): 149–176 | Download PDF


The tenor of foreign relations between the Philippines and China dominates the discourse on the subject, privileging statist narratives while marginalizing others. The agency of China watchers is one such subject that does not get the scholarly attention it deserves, as the contributions of actors in engaging with China are often taken as given. I seek to draw insight on the individual’s role as an actor, which is shaped and enriched by her choices and lived experience while interacting with attendant environments. Using liminality as a key notion, I unpack the agency of Aileen San Pablo-Baviera as a Filipino specialist on China. The paper reflects on how enthusiastic agency as a reaction to liminality contests existing spaces of understanding, communities of discourse and practice, and institutional capacity—dimensions that shape engagement with China. The work contributes to a phenomenological perspective on Philippines-China connections by emphasizing an organic turn in considering ideas, personal initiatives, processes, environments, and institutional nuances.


Philippines-China relations, China Studies in the Philippines, individual agency in foreign relations