PBBM should lead pivot to China


By Herman Tiu Laurel


The Philippines and China are anxiously awaiting the January 3 to 6, 2023 state visit of President Bongbong Marcos, Jr. to Beijing. That’s just three weeks away. Preparations on both sides are hectic and indeed kept very quiet that we hear nary a murmur from any of the usual sources. The Philippine ambassador designate to China, Jaime Flor Cruz, is also meticulous avoiding any possible “ambush interview” that would complicate life for the president and himself.

                2023 seems to be ending on a calm note for Philippine-China relations. The usual controversies whipped up with regularity by the US-Amboy agitation-propaganda machinery’s last project was the “space debris” issue which they alleged was “forcefully seized” by Chinese Coast Guard from the Philippine Navy. The first, unadulterated word if from Wescom spokesman Maj. Chrerrly Tindog, “Since involved an unidentified object and not a matter of life and death, our team just decided to return.”

                We narrate the “space debris” media hype episode to highlight the additional problems that such  agit-prop creates for the president in his handling of international relations. The vociferous cabinet members are not helpful either, the OIC chief of the DND has been reported speaking up for the additional 5 EDCA bases the US is seeking and never denied that he said so. Fortunately, none of these faze the very high-level and professional Chinese diplomats.

                The past month confirmed beyond any doubt the “Pivot to Asia” of the world. The “Asian Moment” in November where world leaders converged in Cambodia’s ASEAN summit, Bali for the G20 and Bangkok for the APEC. At the G20 all carpets led to President Xi Jinping who met 8 world leaders in one day. It was the Middle East this December when Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Cooperation Council met with President Xi Jinping at the first ever Arab-China Summit.

                President Xi’s state visit to Saudi Arabia was a historic moment where Crown Prince Salman showed off his highest regard for President Xi Jinping by putting up a welcome ceremony that put President Joe Biden’s arrival and fist bump with Prince Salman to shame. Tens of billions of $ of project were signed ranging from Huawei 5 and 6G projects to purchase of China’s most advanced fighter jets replacing previous U.S. orders.

                In my post of the Xi-Salman grand welcome and upgrading of ties to “comprehensive strategic partnership” I commented that China’s fair, jut and positive “win-win” diplomacy is what wins friends and cooperation, in stark contrast to the arrogant, aggressive, imposing U.S. diplomacy that has been backfiring on the U.S. very  badly and with dire strategic consequences for the declining world power. While China’s rise continues,  U.S. decline accelerates.

                2023 augurs well for China as it has begun to ease its Zero Covid policy this year-end and proceed to the next year with high hopes of a return of its economy to full normalcy. This 2022 may end with an overall growth rate of 3.2% some estimates show after a good 3rd quarter at 3.9% growth and a negative 2nd qtr. The growth target for 2023 is still being debated by Chinese leaders and planners but a conservative 5% target is being broached.

                The higher the target of China for 2023 the better for ASEAN and the Philippines so we can hope for a growth market for Philippine goods wile also expect a new deluge of Chinese tourists which had hit 1.8-million strong in 2019 until the pandemic hit hard. At that time the target was to break two-million Chinese tourists and over the years to takeover a major slice of Thailand’s 12-million strong Chinese tourist arrival as of 2019. This should be one of the talking points of PBBM with Xi in the January visit.

                President Bongbong Marcos is likely going to be the first head-of-state President Xi Jinping will see in 2023 and that is hardly an accident, for the Philippines is also the most important country right now and in the near future for China and President Xi Jinping. Peace in the region is underpinned by the peaceful relations between China and the Philippines – for the only beachhead left for the U.S. in the region is the Philippines which had been seen to slip away during President Duterte’s term.

                President Bongbong Marcos has let the militant and belligerent anti-US stand of President Duterte slip and loosen a little by his characteristic or calculated ambiguity or even unresisting   attitude to U.S. forcefulness in pushing it presence and expansion in the Philippine in collaboration with apparently pro-US officials in the government. At  best PBBM has been ambiguous, which may have its uses in diplomacy but also hold perils if allowed to persist.                

AS somebody commented on my series of new posts on FB, the writing is on the wall and PBBM must hurry to read and heed. Now is the tie to lead ASEAN’s pivot to China, being the first to meet President Xi in 2023. La the groundwork for the best years of the Philippines with China for the rest of the decade, and like Saudi Arabia for the GCC be the leader in ASEAN to assert the Asian Century’s mission as a partner of China.

<strong>Herman “Ka Mentong” Tiu Laurel</strong>
Herman “Ka Mentong” Tiu Laurel

is a broadcast journalist. He is a former columnist of Daily Tribune (INFOWARS and DIE HARD III; Mondays and Wednesday) and OpinYon (Consumers’ Demand!, Critic’s Critic, and People’s Struggle; weekly).
He hosted Talk News TV and Journeys: Chronicles of our Asian Century, both on Global News Network.
He is now the host of the radio and live stream program Global Talk News Radio for Radyo Pilipinas 1 – 738AM, which broadcasts every Sunday 8AM to 10AM.
While in quarantine, he is hosting the live stream program Power Thinks on his personal Facebook page Herman Laurel (fb.com/hermantiulaurel) and the Global Talk News Radio Facebook page (fb.com/globaltalknewsradio)
He was also the former Administrator of the Philippine Refugee Processing Center (PRPC; now called the Bataan Technology Park, Inc.) during the administration of Corazon C. Aquino.

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