Relations between China and the Philippines are significantly warming up, at least in Beijing’s eyes.
On October 6, China’s foreign ministry announced that, at the invitation of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang will visit the Philippines from November 12 to 16 to attend the 12th East Asia Summit. Li will be the first Chinese premier in ten years to visit the Philippines.
Besides the East Asia Summit, Li will also attend other high-level meetings, including the 20th China-ASEAN (10+1) leaders’ meeting, the 20th ASEAN-China, Japan, and Republic of Korea (10+3) leaders’ meeting, and the leaders’ meeting on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) during his stay in Manila. Li will also hold private talks with Duterte to “exchange views on regional and international issues of common concern” and a joint communique will be issued accordingly, said the ministry.
Foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying highly praised the warming relations. She said:
China and the Philippines are traditional friendly neighbors. Since the improvement of bilateral relations last year, the political mutual trust between the two countries has been deepened, the bilateral cooperation has been in full swing, the maritime dialogue and cooperation have been resumed and the China-Philippines relations have been moving forward for the better.
Notably, in an attempt to show that China has attached great importance to China-Philippines relations, the ministry later held a press conference particularly on Li’s upcoming visit, hosted by Vice Minister of Commerce Wang Shouwen and Assistant Foreign Minister Chen Xiaodong.
Chen said, “Premier Li chose the Philippines as the first foreign country to pay an official visit after the 19th Party Congress, which shows that China highly values bilateral relations.”
Wang added that China and the Philippines had “achieved fruitful results in cooperation on trade, investment, development aid, major infrastructure projects, and people-to-people exchanges since bilateral relations fully recovered.”
In terms of “fruitful results,” the Philippines have gained more economic benefits from China than vice versa.
As soon as he took office in June last year, Duterte significantly shifted the country’s foreign policy toward China by agreeing to resolve the South China Sea dispute through bilateral talks, despite the ruling of The Hague’s Permanent Court of Arbitration on a case against China brought by the previous Philippine government.
In return, Chinese President Xi Jinping immediately invited Duterte together with his delegation, composed of more than 200 business people, to Beijing in the following October. Duterte’s four-day visit resulted in $24 billion worth of investment and financing agreements with China, of which $15 billion were investment projects and $9 billion credit facilities.
In the latest press conference, China’s foreign ministry revealed that Li will propose nearly 30 new initiatives to deepen practical cooperation on interconnectivity, food security, poverty reduction, tourism, and anti-corruption with the Southeast Asian nation. Obviously, Li is ready to spend more money during the upcoming Manila visit.