Duterte’s visit to China aims to reduce rift

By Liu Xin Source:Global Times Published: 2016/10/10 0:38:39

Greater business ties would enhance mutual trust: expert

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's visit to China this month is meant to reduce tensions in the South China Sea and promote bilateral ties, as he moves to reduce the country's dependence on the US, analysts said.

Duterte will visit China from October 18 to 21, the Manila-based Siongpo newspaper reported on Sunday. Duterte is scheduled to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, visit the Great Wall and talk to business leaders.

China's foreign ministry has yet to confirm the report.

This is Duterte's first visit China since taking office in June, and he will also visit Japan from October 25 to 27, the newspaper added.

"Duterte's historic visit will help the two countries restore relations and serve as an opportunity for China and the Philippines to set aside differences on the South China Sea and mutually use the waters," Xu Liping, a senior fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' National Institute of International Strategy, told the Global Times.

Relations between the two countries have been strained for years over the South China Sea disputes. China has resolutely opposed the award given by the Philippines-initiated arbitration tribunal in The Hague in July, which ruled against China's nine-dash line claim.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper reported in August that Duterte will not insist that The Hague ruling be implemented, and said he would like to discuss the matter when asked about his visit to China. He also said he wants to discuss with China giving Filipino fishermen access to waters near Huangyan Island.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said in September that China welcomes a Duterte visit to China as early as possible, and that "China values its ties with the Philippines, and high-level visits are important to improve bilateral ties, enhance understanding and trust."

Policy shift?

Unlike his predecessor President Benigno Aquino III, Duterte wants to improve relations with China and reduce US influence in the Philippines, which explains why he sharply criticized the US and cancelled joint patrols in the South China Sea, Xu said.

The Philippines has put on hold the joint patrols and naval exercise in the South China Sea with the US, and Duterte also wants to halt the 28 military exercises carried out with US forces each year, the Associated Press reported.

Duterte has also lashed out against Washington's criticism of his deadly crackdown against illegal drugs.

"Duterte is implementing a strategy of balance among great powers in an effort to maximize the Philippines' national interests. This will strike a blow to US President Barack Obama's strategic rebalance to Asia since Washington regards the Philippines as an important Asian ally," Chen Xiangmiao, a research fellow at the National Institute for the South China Sea, told the Global Times.

It does not mean that the Philippines has given up its policy to use non-claimants to contain China, said Chen, noting that Japan agreed to provide two patrol ships and lend up to five surveillance aircraft to the Philippines in September.

But relations between the two countries look promising since Duterte has made developing the country's economy and improving Filipinos' lives his primary mission, and China could help the Philippines develop its public infrastructure, railways and telecommunications, especially on the Belt and Road initiative, Xu said.

The Philippine Star newspaper reported on Friday that China lifted its ban on banana and pineapple imports from the Philippines. China had destroyed 35 tons of bananas from the Philippines valued at $33,000 in March and suspended 27 exporters.

"Although differences on the South China Sea may linger between the two countries for some time, an improvement in business ties would help enhance mutual trust, relax political tensions and create opportunities to communicate," said Chen.


Posted in: Diplomacy

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