January 5, 2023
BEIJING – In his meeting with Philippine President Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos Jr. on Wednesday, President Xi Jinping once again highlighted the great significance China attaches to its neighborhood diplomacy, and its pursuit of mutual understanding and win-win cooperation with regional partners such as the Philippines.
Noting that China observes bilateral ties from strategic heights bearing the whole picture in mind, President Xi said that China appreciates that the Philippines can play a bigger role in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to help the region get rid of the shadow of a new Cold War, steer clear of bloc confrontation and remain a high ground for sustained prosperity.
President Marcos responded positively to Xi’s remarks, expressing the Philippines’ willingness to continue to settle maritime disputes through friendly negotiations in a proper way and jointly explore the oil and gas resources in the region. And the Philippine leader anchored the steady development of bilateral ties in various fields in the foreseeable future by saying that nothing can hinder the continuity and development of bilateral friendship. That’s in line with the interests of both countries and the region, and sends a clear signal to the external powers that their attempts to drive a wedge between regional countries and China are doomed to failure.
Marcos is the first foreign head of state to visit China in 2023, the visit is the first to China by Marcos as Philippine leader, and this is a rare first-of-the-year overseas visit by a Philippine president that is not to an ASEAN country. In spite of outsider instigation for the Philippines to get “tough” against China in the emerging geopolitical contest, President Marcos’ “a friend to all, an enemy to none” foreign policy is a boon for bilateral relations.
As President Xi indicated, to strengthen their connectivity and development synergy, more exchanges, communications and collaboration will be carried out at different levels so that the two sides can effectively draw on each other’s experience, better dock their development strategies and weave their ties closer in their respective pursuit of modernization.
Marcos was correct in observing that China-Philippine relations should not be defined by the maritime issues, because after all they are only one aspect of what he deems a “deep, multi-faceted, and mutually beneficial” relationship.
“The issues between our two countries are problems that do not belong between two friends such as the Philippines and China,” he said. “We will seek to resolve those issues to the mutual benefit of our two countries.”
The two sides can take the visit as an opportunity to advance cooperation in the four previously identified key areas of agriculture, infrastructure, energy, and cultural and people-to-people exchanges and consolidate their relations as good neighbors, good relatives and good partners.
With both Beijing and Manila committing to a more constructive approach to their relationship, thriving bilateral ties will deliver increasing benefits to both peoples.