CHINA President Xi Jinping arrives in Manila today for a two-day state visit. For perspective, we culled from an article of his (edited to fit space) explaining his goals and expectations in touching base with President Duterte:
“China and the Philippines are neighbors facing each other across the sea. The exchange of ships and merchants between our countries began more than a thousand years ago. Over 600 years ago, Chinese navigator Zheng He visited Manila Bay, the Visayas and Sulu on his seven voyages seeking friendship and cooperation. The King of Sulu also made a goodwill visit to China, bringing with him good wishes to the Chinese people and leaving behind touching stories of China-Philippines friendship.
“Many born on the southeast coast of China sailed across the sea to settle in the Philippines and have since lived in harmony with the local community. The ancestors of national hero José Rizal came from Jinjiang of China’s Fujian province. The famed Chinese General Ye Fei, who fought for the founding of New China, was born in Quezon of the Philippines. For both our peoples, these are proud names to remember.
“Since President Rodrigo Duterte took office, China and the Philippines have reengaged in dialogue and consultation for the proper handling of the South China Sea issue. Our relations have now seen a rainbow after the rain. In just a little more than two years, China has become the Philippines’ largest trading partner, largest export market and largest source of imports, and the second largest source of tourists.
“There has been a surge of interest for private investment in each other, and interactions between our cultures have been frequent. More and more Philippine fruits are coming to the dining table in Chinese households, and a growing number of Philippine scenic spots are being included in the itinerary of Chinese tourists.
“China firmly supports the Philippines’ fight against drugs and terrorism and its post-conflict reconstruction of Marawi, thus contributing to peace in the country. In disasters, our peoples have stood together and helped each other.
“Under President Duterte’s leadership, Filipinos are striving to implement the 10-Point Socioeconomic Agenda and the “Build, Build, Build” Strategy, making the country more and more prosperous.
“I am visiting this time mainly to have in-depth discussions with President Duterte on how to elevate our all-round cooperation under new circumstances and plan for greater progress. These are what we must do to achieve this goal:
• “Deepen political mutual trust to sustain the growth of China-Philippines relations. China wishes to plan with the Philippines relations with a broader perspective, and strengthen strategic communication on bilateral ties and major regional and international issues. We need to properly handle differences through friendly consultations, enhance dialogue and cooperation on maritime issues, and make the South China Sea a region of peace, friendship and cooperation to benefit our peoples.
• “Enhance practical cooperation to cement the foundation of China-Philippines relations. With its unique geographical advantage, the Philippines is a natural partner in the Belt and Road Initiative. China wishes to work with the Philippines to renew the legacy of the ancient maritime Silk Road, enhance synergy between our strategies under the Belt and Road Initiative, deepen cooperation in business, trade, infrastructure, agriculture, tourism and other fields, and assist the Philippines in livelihood projects. China will continue to deepen cooperation with the Philippines in defense, drug control, counter-terrorism and law enforcement.
• “Strengthen people-to-people ties to keep relations strong. China and the Philippines are very close to each other in geographical location, ancestral ties and cultural background. Friendly exchanges are an endless source of strength for our relations. We need to promote interactions between our political parties, parliaments, think tanks, and at the local level. We need to increase exchanges on education, science and technology, culture and the youths. This way, the friendship between our peoples will grow from generation to generation.
• “Join hands to deepen East Asia cooperation for win-win results.This year marks the 15th anniversary of China-ASEAN strategic partnership. The Philippines successfully hosted the East Asia leaders’ meetings last year, and has taken over the important role and responsibilities as the country coordinator for China-ASEAN relations this year. China supports such Philippine role, and will work with it to upgrade China-ASEAN relations and achieve greater East Asia cooperation. China will increase input in the BIMP-EAGA initiative launched by the Philippines, foster new growth drivers for cooperation with ASEAN, and help develop Mindanao and other regions in the country.”
• ‘Seize today, or lose tomorrow’
IN HIS article, Xi said that since China started its reform and opening-up four decades ago, it has grown into the world’s second largest economy, the largest industrial manufacturer, the largest trader of goods, and the holder of the largest foreign exchange reserves.
He said: “China now contributes over 30 percent of global growth, and has lifted more than 700 million people out of poverty by the United Nations standard. Now, China is deepening reform across the board and opening itself wider. Its effort in reform and opening-up will never stop.”
Quoting the proverb “Seize today, or you will lose tomorrow,” Xi said China will work with the Philippines to seize the opportunity. He said: “Let us work together to build upon the Asian tradition of peace, credibility and good neighborliness, and further consolidate the bilateral relations for an even brighter future of the two countries and of Asia as a whole.”