Marcos’ visit helps regional stability

Philippines and China sustain the momentum of growth and recovery after COVID’s impacts

File photo shows Philippine President Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos speaking during the groundbreaking ceremony of the China-funded Samal Island-Davao City Connector Bridge in Davao City, the Philippines, Oct 27, 2022. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

In this time of global economic and geopolitical tumult, Asian regional stability and economic resilience will get a big boost from the three-day state visit to China of Philippine President Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos Jr and his wife, Liza Araneta Marcos. They were accompanied by top government officials and a business delegation.

Marcos was visiting China from Jan 3 to 5 at the invitation of President Xi Jinping.

Strengthening of Philippines-China economic and strategic ties will boost the growth prospects, resilience and stability of the two countries, and of ASEAN and Asia

China is the world’s biggest consumer market and second-largest economy, and the Philippines is competing with other Asian neighbors for a bigger share of Chinese trade, investment, tourism, technology and aid.

The Philippines is also consequential to China as the world’s 12th-most-populous nation, and because it is a country strategically located at the crossroads of the Pacific Ocean and the South China Sea, and is the geographically closest neighbor to China’s Taiwan island, it is therefore important to regional peace and stability.

Through most of the past two decades, former Philippine president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who is now deputy speaker of the Philippine Congress, and former president Rodrigo Duterte had both wisely guided the former United States colony into a more independent foreign policy. They deftly made the country a good friend of all the world’s big powers.

Marcos is expected to continue this pragmatic, constitutionally mandated and independent foreign policy, which is similar to the stance of most member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

The timing of Marcos’ state visit is auspicious, because China is now further opening up its economy and the visit has occurred at the outset of the new year.

Among the areas for high-level discussions and, hopefully, increased cooperation between the Philippines and China are trade, investment, aid, infrastructure, energy, security, possible joint oil and gas exploration, tourism, agriculture, technology, culture and people-to-people exchanges.

Marcos is not an ordinary Filipino politician. He goes to Beijing as a true, sincere and old friend of China, because it was his parents, the late former president Ferdinand Edralin Marcos and Imelda Romualdez Marcos, who had audaciously opened official diplomatic relations between Manila and Beijing at the height of the Cold War era in 1975, four years ahead of Washington opening official diplomatic ties with Beijing.

There also was the pivotal September 1974 visit by Imelda Marcos, who met as a special envoy with Chairman Mao Zedong and was accompanied by her son, the then 17-year-old Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos Jr.

That visit was unforgettable due to Imelda respectfully putting Mao’s hand to her cheek, and then Mao surprisingly kissing her hand in a classic Western gesture. The scene was captured by photographers, becoming what Chinese media described as “the No 1 kiss in the world” and “the only photograph of Mao Zedong kissing a woman”.

Now Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos Jr has visited again, but this time as president. So this state visit is not only strategic and historic, but also is sentimental and a reaffirmation of the traditional close friendship between the two countries. May diplomacy and the strong bonds of history between these two countries result in many great win-win and mutually beneficial economic gains.

The economies of the Philippines and China are now sustaining the positive momentum of economic growth and recovery following the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Marcos’ state visit to Beijing is a great opportunity to vigorously expand trade, investment and other cooperation.

In a wider context, the Philippines is an important part of the resource-rich ASEAN, which has already replaced the US as the second-largest trading partner of China after the European Union.

Another positive factor for the success of Marcos’ state visit and for bilateral cooperation is the fact that the economies of the Philippines and China are complementary, and the two nations are not competitors.

The Philippines can offer rich natural and agricultural resources, great tourism potential, a high-quality and English-speaking service industry, and a market of 110 million mostly young people. On the other hand, China can offer the Philippines its advanced industrial and technological resources, vast finance capabilities and the world’s biggest consumer market.

In this turbulent period of geopolitical and economic uncertainties, the strengthening of Philippines-China economic and strategic cooperation will boost the economic growth prospects, resilience and stability of the two countries, as well as of ASEAN and Asia.

The author, who is the moderator of the Pandesal Forum and a columnist for The Philippine Star, is an economic and political analyst. 

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.