2020 marks the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and the Philippines. At this historical moment, H.E. Huang Xilian, a diplomat who has been engaged in diplomatic work with Asia for a long time and has deepened ties with the Philippines, was appointed Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines. Huang Xilian said that “the mission is glorious and the responsibility is great”. But what is out of his expectation is that after being appointed Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines, the first major mission for him is to promote the two countries to jointly tackle challenges posed by the COVID-19.
On that occasion, Huang received an interview with China-ASEAN Panorama Magazine Agency. He talked about the comprehensive cooperation between the two countries in various fields since the establishment of diplomatic relations, as well as the story of China and the Philippines working together to fight the epidemic.
Relations between China and the Philippines have developed in an all-round way in 45 years
China and the Philippines are close neighbors across the sea. The two countries have a history of friendly exchanges for thousands of years. The 45 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations are a short period for China and the Philippines, but Huang believes that in 45 years, China and the Philippines have achieved comprehensive and substantial development. Although there were some ups and downs in the development process, the general direction was to move forward and go deep and solid. Especially in recent years, with the personal care and guidance of Chinese President Xi Jinping and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, China and the Philippines have made solid achievements.
Since 2016, President Xi Jinping has met with President Duterte for eight times, with frequent high-level interaction between the two countries and significant political mutual trust. Especially in dealing with the South China Sea issue, institutional meetings such as bilateral consultations between China and the Philippines have been successfully promoted, and both countries are committed to peace and stability in the South China Sea. At the end of 2018, when President Xi Jinping visited the Philippines, the relations between the two countries were officially upgraded to a comprehensive strategic cooperative relationship.
Huang said that economic and trade cooperation are a bright spot. At present, China is the largest trading partner, the largest source of imports, the fourth largest export market and the largest source of foreign investment of the Philippines. In 2019, the bilateral trade volume exceeded US$ 60 billion, up 9.5% year on year. 40 large Chinese enterprises investing in the Philippines directly or indirectly created 26,000 local jobs. “This not only reflects the development of China’s foreign trade and economic cooperation, but also brings tangible benefits to Philippine economy and people,” said Huang.
People-to-people exchanges have been promoted to a new level, together with political security, economic and trade cooperation which are called “three pillars” for the stable development of China and the Philippines. Huang said that in recent years, with joint efforts of two governments and the society, people-to-people and cultural exchanges between China and the Philippines have continued to develop, with qualitative breakthroughs in form, extent and impact compared with the previous ones.
It is worth mentioning that regional cooperation between China and the Philippines is also very close. As an important member of ASEAN, coordinator of China-ASEAN relations, and coordinator of China and East ASEAN Growth Area cooperation, the Philippines has not only played an important role in promoting China-ASEAN relations and consultation on “code of conduct in South China Sea”, but also given China international support on many aspects. “For example, during the epidemic, the Philippines highly appreciated China’s experience and achievements in fighting against the epidemic, repeatedly opposed politicizing the epidemic and gave China clear and firm support at the international level,” said Huang.
Under a rapidly changing international environment and increasingly prominent global challenges, Huang said that closer relations between China and the Philippines are in line with the common will and interests of people. He believed that in the future, China and the Philippines could also overcome interference and challenges and continuously promote the development of bilateral relations.
The Belt and Road Initiative benefiting people of both countries
China’s Belt and Road Initiative has a high degree of congruence with the “Build, Build, Build” program of the Philippines. In recent years, the two governments have strengthened strategic docking and encouraged enterprises and individuals from both countries to actively participate in such cooperation. Under the Belt and Road Initiative, China and the Philippines have gained a lot of achievements in the past few years, especially in infrastructure.
The cooperation between China and the Philippines in infrastructure has boosted the substantial growth of investment and project contracting between the two countries. In addition, the two sides have also carried out a lot of cooperation in policy communication, fruit trade, financial cooperation, personnel exchanges facilitation, etc. “I believe that after the outbreak, the speed of cooperation between the two sides in these areas will be increased again, and tangible results will continue to be achieved in the next two or three years for the benefit of people,” said Huang.
Fighting the epidemic together and enriching the connotation of bilateral relations
Since 2020, the novel coronavirus has become a great challenge for many countries. Huang said that in the past few months, China and the Philippines worked together to protect people, raised anti-epidemic materials and opened channels for mutual assistance. The traditional friendship between the two countries has been greatly reflected.
Before the outbreak of the Philippine epidemic, the Philippine government provided China with a number of important assistances, and all sectors of Philippine society also enthusiastically donated money. In more than two months, the Philippines has donated nearly 4 million pieces of personal protective equipments and only RMB 70 million yuan to China. At China’s most difficult time, the Philippines has provided support to China. China would always keep in mind. When the Philippines was challenged by the epidemic, China did its best to repay its goodwill and support. In addition to providing testing kits, masks and other materials, the Chinese government, enterprises and individuals have given a lot of support to the Philippines.
China’s assistance has been unanimously recognized by the Philippine government and the public. President Duterte once said that as long as there are difficulties, ask China for help. Philippine Health Minister Duke also repeatedly said that China’s assistance to the Philippines has greatly eased the urgency. Many ordinary Filipino people also left messages to express their thanks under the social account of the embassy, hoping that the friendship between two countries would last forever.
Huang commented that “the anti-epidemic cooperation between China and the Philippines is the embodiment of the fine tradition of helping each other in face of difficulties, and the epitome of the friendly relations between the two countries. In this process, through mutual support and help, China and the Philippines have further deepened mutual trust, consolidated the foundation of public opinion and enriched the connotation of the partnership in the new era. It is believed that facing the “post-epidemic era”, the friendly and cooperative relations between the two countries will continue to be expanded and deepened.”
CAEXPO will play a more important role in relations between China and the Philippines
CAEXPO, which has been successfully held for 16 times, is an important platform for China-ASEAN exchanges and cooperation in multi fields. The Philippines is an important member of ASEAN and an active participant of the CAEXPO. Huang said that the CAEXPO has played an increasingly prominent role in promoting economic and trade cooperation between China and the Philippines. He believed that as the CAEXPO grew stronger, it would become even more important.
At present, China and ASEAN are working together to promote the Belt and Road Initiative and the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity 2025, and implement the China-ASEAN Strategic Partnership Vision for 2030. CAEXPO is expected to play a better role in promoting high-level dialogues and business cooperation in local areas, enhancing policy communication between governments and enterprises in more countries along the Belt and Road, and pushing forward practical cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative, thus making new contributions to mutually beneficial cooperation and common prosperity between China and ASEAN countries.
· Source: China-ASEAN Panorama