by Herman Tiu Laurel – Asian Century Journal – June 3, 2022
President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos, Sr. (FEM) forty-seven years ago travelled to China to meet with Chairman Mao Zedong on June 8, 1975 and subsequently signed the joint communique with Premier Chou Enlai on June 9 the following day establishing formal diplomatic ties between the Philippines and the People’s Republic of China (PRoC).
On June 9, 2022 the formal diplomatic ties between the Philippines and the PRoC will be celebrating its 47the anniversary. The ties have only become stronger after President Rodrigo R. Duterte and President Xi Jinping agreed in November 2018 to “to upgrade their ties to comprehensive strategic cooperation and jointly advance the Belt and Road construction.”
June 2022 is significant too as the 30th of the month will see the inauguration of the second Marcos to assume the Philippine presidency. On that day Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos, Jr. (FRM) as landslide winner of the 2022 presidential elections will take his oath of office as the 17th president of the Republic of the Philippines.
On May 12, just two days after the elections, in probably the earliest congratulatory message the president-elect Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos, Jr. (fondly called “BongBong” or BBM for short) received, China’s President Xi Jinping’s congratulations were personally hand-carried by Ambassador Huang Xilian to president-elect Bongbong Marcos.
Subsequently, on May 18 President Xi Jinping personally called President-elect Bongbong Marcos, Jr. and according to BBM in the considerably lengthy conversation
Xi recalled the elder Marcos’ role in the development of China-Philippines relations and called him a “builder, supporter, and promoter of China-Philippines friendship”.
President-elect BBM was quoted saying the conversation lasted half-an-hour long, narrating what transpired:
“It wasn’t the usual congratulations. We really covered a lot of ground. We talked about the way forward for the China-Philippine relationship. So, it was very good, very substantial…” and “I told him that in my view, the way forward is to expand our relationship not only [in the] diplomatic [front], not only [in] trade, but also in culture, even in education, even in knowledge, even in health to address whatever minor disagreements that we have right now,”
A truly engaged discussion between the two national leaders, which augurs well for the relationship of the two countries going forward to the next six-years. President-elect BBM has also stated before the public that, as widely reported “relations with China will be expanded and shift to a higher gear under his administration” and Beijing responded with assurance of support for his “independent foreign policy”.
From the past to the present though almost half-a-century has passed, Philippine-China relations is moving forward in positive leaps-and-bounds. Reviewing some of the deep insights of the elder Ferdinand E. Marcos assessing his historic move recognizing the PRoC even ahead of the United States of America and taking stock of China, Marcos Sr. said in 1978 on the occasion of the visit of Vice-Premier Li Hsien-Nian:
“The whole world is indebted to Chinese culture for many, many arts. Voltaire once said: ‘The Chinese invented all the arts before we possessed any single one of them.’ The impact of Chinese culture and civilization upon the whole world, north or south of the Tropic of Cancer, whether in the Orient or in the West, has been vital in molding the entire history of human civilization.
“If in the past the leadership of the People’s Republic of China was famed for their Long March, today, we see once again the Fifth National People’s Congress calling for another historic long march towards economic modernization and national unity. I have no doubt, considering the indomitable courage, the will power and the single-minded purpose of the leadership and the people of the People’s Republic of China, that they will succeed in their new historic long march….
“But to my mind, the greatest contribution that China has made to the peace of the world is her sincere and deep concern and interest in the welfare of small developing countries like the Philippines. It is sometimes difficult to decipher the policies of the great powers. But with China, it is clear that she is on the side of the small undeveloped countries of the world.
“I am, therefore, confident that I express the sentiments of all these small and developing countries when we say to the leadership of the People’s Republic of China — thank you, for it is with your faith and trust in our capability that we will be able to maintain peace in our world.”
Almost half-a-century later FEM’s words is truer than ever. China led the world in the period of the 2020-2021 pandemic crisis China topping the vaccine production and delivery to the emerging economies, declaring its 2-billion vaccine doses producing as “global public good”, and leads the world in calling for peace through talks in Ukraine.
Filipinos know as well or even better than many other peoples of the world about China’s “sincere and deep concern and interest in the welfare of small developing countries”. In 2021 February 28 China donated with no- strings-attached the first 600,000 doses of 51-million doses total eventually delivered of Covid-19 vaccines to the Philippines that allowed the start of the vaccination campaign.
In terms of peace promotion, in 2022 the global security situation fell into the Ukraine War crisis and its ensuing economic sanctions war. China led the vast majority of the World’s developing countries and emerging economies to call for mediation and denouncing those that “add fuel to the fire”. China advocated a “win-win” solution and the conflicting parties sought its mediation.
How true the words about China from the elder President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos turned out to be. China as promoter of peace and as a caring force for small countries like the Philippines is affirmed so many decades later when it has become a world power in the unfolding of the history of Mankind.
As the new Marcos administration prepares to take the reins of government the concern over its capacity to overcome the daunting perils mount. The challenges are Herculean. A food crisis stalks the world. Global fertilizer supplies are in shortage due to sanctions on Russia oil and fertilizers, as well as on its wheat exports.
Fuel prices are triple of the pre-Ukraine War times and its multiplier impact hits consumer and industrial sectors, devastates the jobs market, government revenues vitally needed to reduce pandemic-induced debts. Despite the 60% landslide victory of the younger Marcos his promised P 20/kilo rice, new jobs, lower transport costs will be expected by the people.
It is fortunate for President Marcos, Jr. that the millennial friend and elder brother China is a close neighbor. At this early stage of the crisis China, which has had positive GDP growth of 4.8% despite the residual impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, is ready and able to help its neighbor and millennial friends the Philippines.
We are aware of China’s initiatives to help: preparing shipments of affordable fertilizer to stave off the food crisis, planning or channeling discounted fuel prices to the Philippines, upping imports from the Philippines and, as soon as possible double the 1.8-million Chinese tourists to the Philippine.
With such constructive cooperation between the two countries, it is certain that Philippine-China ties will surmount all obstacles to progress and prosperity through the next six-years of the new Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos, Jr. administration. Despite the turbulence in the world, China-Philippine ties will continue to bloom and blossom.