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Chinese President Xi Jinping urges new Philippine leader Ferdinand Marcos Jnr to stick to an independent foreign policy

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Chinese President Xi Jinping said he hoped the Philippines elected president Ferdinand Marcos Jnr maintain an independent foreign policy.

On Wednesday, Xi spoke with Marcos for the first time since his election victory, after sending a congratulatory message.

Xi said China is willing to strengthen strategic communication and coordination with the Philippines on major international and regional issues.

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According to a reading from China’s Foreign Ministry, he told Marcos, “I hope the Philippines can continue to uphold their independence and self-reliance in foreign policy.”

Xi praised Sino-Philippine relations over the past six years under incumbent President Rodrigo Duterte, who tried to boost cooperation with China and overturned an international court ruling from Manila that rejected claims by China on almost all southern waters. China Sea.

The Duterte administration has been accused of human rights abuses by the Philippines’ traditional allies such as the United States, while China, its largest trading partner, has pledged massive investment and aid to some of its most controversial policies such as the War on Drugs.

“We have effectively managed our differences through dialogue and consultation, actively promoted practical cooperation in various fields, and achieved fruitful results in bilateral relations,” Xi said.

Xi pledged “continuity and stability” to the Philippines and pledged to “actively support and assist” the country’s economic and social development, emphasizing areas such as infrastructure, agriculture, energy , education, pandemic control and post-Covid recovery.

Duterte’s daughter, Sara, was Marcos’ campaign partner and won the separate vice-presidential election by a huge margin.

Marcos, widely known as “Bongbong”, said his new government would make China-Philippines relations a foreign policy priority and was willing to strengthen contacts at all levels and deepen cooperation in various fields such as trade and economy, infrastructure, energy, culture. and education, according to reading.

“I look forward to a brighter and stronger future for China-Philippines relations, and I am ready to work with the Chinese side to continue (…) the development of China-Philippines relations,” he said. declared.

The Marcos family has historical ties to China. In 1974, a year before the two countries established official diplomatic relations, his father, the late Ferdinand Marcos Snr, sent his wife Imelda and his 17-year-old son to visit Beijing, where they met Mao Zedong.

Xi referred to the visit during the call with the dictator’s son and praised him as a “builder, supporter and promoter” of bilateral friendship.

Marcos responded by saying that the Filipino people regard China as one of their most important partners.

Zhuang Guotu, professor and former dean of the Research School for Southeast Asian Studies at Xiamen University, said China pays close attention to the Marcos government’s stance on bilateral relations. .

President Rodrigo Duterte, pictured with his daughter Sara, the vice-president-elect, has received praise from Beijing for building closer relations. Photo: TNS alt=President Rodrigo Duterte, pictured with his daughter Sara, the Vice President-elect, has received praise from Beijing for building closer relations. Photo: TNS>

Zhuang said Washington had radically changed its Asia-Pacific strategy – including an increased emphasis on security – and could look to Manila for support.

But Beijing is not worried that relations will worsen under the new government, he argued, citing the Marcos family’s ties to Beijing and China’s status as the Philippines’ biggest trading partner.

“At this moment, [Xi is] emphasizing that the Philippines must have an independent foreign policy unaffected by other major countries,” he said.

Lucio Blanco Pitlo III, a researcher at Asia Pacific Pathways, said Xi’s remarks reflected China’s hope that Marcos would emulate the current president’s policies by enabling engagement with Beijing on economic and political fronts and dialogue on the South China Sea dispute as well as possible joint development of offshore oil and gas in disputed waters.

“Political continuity is in China’s interest. Both sides can build on the momentum of the past six years, play to their fullest, and institutionalize platforms such as a bilateral vice-ministerial consultative mechanism and a joint coast guard committee to manage maritime incidents and other related maritime issues,” he said.

Beijing also hopes the two sides “will be able to prevent their maritime disputes from turning into crises that could drag rivals like the United States into the fray” as they prepare for a major overhaul of the Chinese leadership later this year, Pitlo said.

“It can complicate its external environment at a crucial time in its domestic politics,” he added.

Ngeow Chow Bing, director of the Institute of China Studies at the University of Malaysia, said Xi’s reference to an independent foreign policy mainly meant that the Philippines should “not be fully aligned with the United States in strategic sense”.

He added that Duterte Snr’s China policy “leaves a lot of room for the Philippines to improve its relationship with China despite the challenges in the South China Sea,” Ngeow said.

Additional reporting by Bhavan Jaipragas and Jack Lau

This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice on China and Asia for over a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright 2022 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

Copyright (c) 2022. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

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