"Our bilateral relations with China should be based on mutual benefit and mutual respect for each other's territorial integrity and sovereignty."
Why is the centenary of the Chinese Communist Party—which Beijing marked on July 1st—worth writing about?
As I see it, the speech delivered by Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is also the General Secretary of the CPC and Chairman of the Central Military Commission, tells us a lot about what our next-door neighbor to the west has already achieved since the CPC took over the reins of government in 1949 and more important, what it plans for the future are.
What China wants to do in the years ahead should concern us, precisely because this would have a significant impact on our bilateral relations -- particularly in the fields of diplomacy, trade and investments, development assistance, and people-to-people and cultural exchanges amid our territorial and maritime dispute in the South China Sea.
At the outset, Xi Jinping pointed out that the CPC had realized the first centenary goal of building a moderately prosperous society by bringing about a historic resolution to the problem of absolute poverty in China. The Party, he said, "is now marching in confident strides toward the second centenary goal of building China into a great modern socialist country."
Since the very day of its founding, Xi said, the CPC has made seeking happiness for the Chinese people and rejuvenation for the Chinese nation its aspiration and mission. By carrying out a socialist revolution, China has managed to eliminate the exploitative and repressive feudal system that had persisted for thousands of years, and established socialism as its basic system.
In the process of socialist construction, the Chinese leader said, the nation had witnessed the most extensive and profound social changes in its history, transforming it from a poor and backward country in the East with a large population initially into a highly centralized planned economy and later into a socialist market economy, and from a country that was largely isolated to one that is open to the outside world. Economic reform and opening up also enabled China to achieve the historic leap from a country with relatively backward productive forces to the world’s second largest economy, and to make the historic transformation of raising the living standards of its people from bare subsistence to an overall level of moderate prosperity, and then ultimately to moderate prosperity.
Xi described socialism with Chinese characteristics as having driven coordinated progress in material, political, cultural-ethical, social, and ecological terms, and thereby pioneered a new and uniquely Chinese path to modernization, and created a new model for human advancement. The task, he said, is to promote high-quality development and build up the country’s strength in science and technology, continue to govern based on the rule of law, and uphold core socialist values.
At the same time, China will accelerate the modernization of national defense and the armed forces. A strong country must have a strong military, Xi emphasized, as this would guarantee the security of the nation. The Chinese military, he explained, is "a strong pillar" for safeguarding the country and preserving national dignity, and a powerful force for protecting peace in the region and beyond. We'll have to see what Washington thinks of this.
On foreign relations, Xi stressed, China is committed to promoting peace, development, cooperation, and mutual benefit, to an independent foreign policy of peace, and to the path of peaceful development, Xi said. The CPC, he added, will continue to work with all peace-loving countries and peoples to promote the shared human values of peace, development, fairness, justice, democracy, and freedom. In addition, China will continue to champion cooperation over confrontation, to open up rather than closing doors, focus on mutual benefits instead of zero-sum games, and oppose hegemony and power politics.
So how would Xi deal with two contentious issues, Hong Kong and Taiwan? He vowed to adhere to the letter and spirit of the 'One Country, Two Systems' principle, under which the people of Hong Kong administer Hong Kong, and the people of Macao administer Macao, with a high degree of autonomy. As for Taiwan, he said resolving the Taiwan question and realizing China’s complete reunification is "a historic mission and an unshakable commitment of the Communist Party of China. We will uphold the one-China principle and the 1992 Consensus, and advance peaceful national reunification."
That brings us to the current state of our bilateral relations. Recall that prior to the establishment of our formal diplomatic relations in 1975, the CPC had supported the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) with political, moral and material support. After 1975, however, the CPC appears to have withdrawn all support to the CPP, with whom it shared the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist ideology. In fact, the CPC now deals only with the ruling party, the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino (PDP), whose original leaders were staunch defenders of democracy, but whose current leaders have turned out to be their diametrical opposites.
At any rate, we believe bilateral relations with China at present should be based on mutual benefit and mutual respect for each other's territorial integrity and sovereignty. We should vigorously oppose the aggressive Chinese presence in the West Philippine Sea, yet at the same time be aware that the territorial and maritime dispute is not the totality of our overall bilateral ties that encompass several key areas. As we've pointed out in the past, we should allow peaceful dialogue and consultation to prevail over enmity and harsh confrontation, if that's possible at all.
Or we can always fall back on the old Russian maxim that says: Trust, but verify.