During Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang's official visit to the Philippines from Thursday to Sunday, leaders of both countries agreed to strengthen trade and economic cooperation, the Xinhua News Agency reported Friday.
Generally, it will be an extraordinary year for Sino-Philippine relations. The Philippines, assuming the presidency of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) this year, will be a focus of China's attention regardless of how the relationship develops. In addition, the Philippines will host East Asian cooperation meetings this year, which Chinese leaders will attend. In this sense, the Philippines has become an important player as China consolidates its relations with ASEAN members.
Improved Sino-Philippine relations are conducive to the fundamental interests of the two countries. With the world's economic center of gravity shifting eastward, East Asian countries quickly recovered from the global financial crisis and are experiencing rapid development. Given the big difference in industrial structures, China and the Philippines have great economic complementarities in terms of trade and investment. The Philippines is in need of infrastructure upgrading to meet the needs of its rapid economic development. On March 7, China and the Philippines reached an economic aid agreement, under which China will finance at Philippine infrastructure projects worth $3.4 billion, which are expected to improve the Philippines' transportation conditions and people's livelihood.
Certainly, while improving its relationship with China, the Philippines is also striving to adopt a pragmatic policy and learning to walk a fine line between ASEAN and major players for the purpose of its own interests. After all, with strong domestic pro-US sentiment, the Philippines remains a US ally, where a high level of security cooperation exists. Nevertheless, in terms of politics, economics and other fields, it is essential for the Duterte administration to create a balanced diplomatic strategy. ASEAN can provide strong support for the Philippines as an important platform for the country to promote its status and role in East Asian cooperation. The excessive reliance of the Aquino administration on the US caused serious dissatisfaction with some ASEAN members, affecting the overall unity and cohesion cherished by ASEAN, but the Duterte government has succeeded in reversing the situation by changing its policies.
In regards to the future, the development of Sino-Philippine relations requires more and stronger cooperation. The cooperation framework between the two countries has already been established, which is expected to grow stronger. In the future, China and the Philippines also need to boost their mutual political trust so as to lift the current strategic cooperation partnership to a new height. Moreover, increasing non-governmental exchanges as well as the implementation of more cooperation initiatives and projects are bound to offer continuous momentum for the healthy and steady development of bilateral relations.
The author is a research fellow with the Institute for Foreign Policy Studies of the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies. firstname.lastname@example.org