"The visit seems déjà vu and bring us back to the glorious past of Philippine-China relations and forward to a future of prosperity and peace."
The much-anticipated meeting between President Xi Jinping and President Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines has been waiting to be fleshed out for many weeks now.
Months ago, it was thought that China’s top leader would arrive early November in Manila; later information has put the date at Nov. 25. However, the latest cue from our contacts in diplomatic circles puts the arrival at around the third week of November, and that China’s Air Force One will be landing in Davao City.
President Xi Jinping’s work schedule is not as easy to track as other world leaders. Chinese media have frequently reported that unlike American leaders, their president is hardly ever seen taking a time off—especially not for golf or other such bourgeois activities. In fact, since 2015, Communist Party members are banned from playing golf, one of the new rules to maintain the purity and discipline of China’s ruling party.
The Chinese people and media are proud to say their leaders are driven and hardworking. Indeed, President Xi will be arriving from Papua New Guinea after the 2018 APEC Leaders’ meet and from the Philippines will proceed to the G20 in Argentina where he will have the meeting with US President Trump on the sidelines—the first after the “trade war” started last July. President Xi is the most travelled Chinese leader since the 1949 Revolution, it is said.
China’s Belt and Road Initiative kicked off trade and investments in railways, telecommunications, power, transportation, ports, shipping and trade, running into trillions of dollars and through over 100 countries that have signed the BRI cooperation agreement. In just the past five years the Belt and Road Initiative has grown from a concept to a key platform for building a community with a shared future for humanity and international public goods.
In the past five years, China’s trade in goods with countries along the Belt and Road exceeded $5.5 trillion. Chinese direct investment in the non-financial sectors of these countries reached $80 billion. It has also set up 82 overseas economic and trade cooperation zones in countries along the Belt and Road, invested $28.9 billion dollars and created about 244,000 local jobs.
As of May 2018, China had signed 16 free trade agreements with 24 countries and regions, nearly half of which are countries along the Belt and Road. Under the initiative, China has set up 81 education institutions and projects as well as 35 cultural centers in countries along the Belt and Road. In the first half of 2018, China spent over 270 million yuan (around $39.3 million) on the Silk Road scholarships.
The responsibilities on President Xi Jinping’s shoulders are unimaginably huge. For President Xi to successfully serve China, he serves the World. While the US is engrossed with attempting to restore lost glory with “America First,” China is pursuing the “Community of Common Destiny” in the world, to ensure peace and prosperity where all nations are in a win-win mode—supporting each other’s pursuit of economic development and liberation.
This brings us to the real highlight of President Xi’s visit to President Duterte and his hometown of Davao City. Secretary of Foreign Affairs Teodoro Locsin Jr. announced last Nov. 7 that President Xi and President Duterte will be signing the Belt and Road memorandum of understanding in this historic visit, stressing that the Philippines is the only country left out of the BRI. “Who’s in it? Everyone but us... Is Vietnam in it? Yes. You know, Vietnam is really jealous of its rights in Asia, and they joined in.”
One of the newest revelations about the BRI vision involving the Philippines was reported, surprisingly, of all media, in the Voice of America on Oct. 21: The decision to make the Davao Port as an “import-export base” along the way to the countries further south such as Indonesia, and opening to the South Pacific.
Even Jay Batongbacal, perennial critic of China and often cited as an Amboy, agrees that “if they have plans for extending the maritime silk road towards Indonesia and the South Pacific islands, then Davao would be a good place.” Batongbacal, of course, added a dig about the so-called “debt trap” which has already been definitively debunked by the facts on the ground, an issue we will write on next to drive the final nails on the “China debt trap” calumny by the West.
The BRI landing in Davao, Mindanao, reminds us of the trade missions to China of Rajah Kiling of the Kingdom of Butuan in year 1,000 that set off from that northeastern part of Mindanao known for the Agusan river. Likewise, the entourage of 300 led by Sultan Paduka Batara of Sulu to Emperor Yongleof China in 1417, 601 years ago, to bestow mutual honor of friendship, cooperation and trade—a relationship that made the Sulu Island known as the richest Emporium of Asia.
The coming visit of President Xi to President Duterte in Davao City, Mindanao, seems déjà vu and bring us back to the glorious past of Philippine-China relations and forward to a future of prosperity and peace.