By Herman Tiu Laurel
PH-China cooperation in the ‘Asian Moment’
The world’s attention is now focused on Asia as the rare convergence of several crucial regional and international activities pursuing the unity and welfare of mankind are convened in Cambodia, Thailand and Indonesia this November.
Three major regional and international meetings of world leaders is being held in Asia - APEC 2022 with its theme “Balance in All Aspects” hosted by Thailand, ASEAN with the theme “Stronger Together” hosted by Cambodia, and G20 2022 with the theme “Recover Together, Recover Stronger” hosted by Indonesia.
Asia comprises 45 percent of the global economy and is projected to exceed 50 percent of world output by 2050. This ideal can be achieved only if the global environment of peace and stability can be ensured and any breakdown in the dialogue amongst diverging international perspectives and powers are averted.
The population of Asia by 2050 is projected to grow to 5.26-billion and will comprise 54 percent of world population by that time, coupled with its share of the world economy it will indeed constitute the continuing fruition of the Asian Century and Asia as the center of global growth and epicenter of stability for the world.
At the heart of Asia’s rise is, of course, China and ASEAN’s peaceful rise in these first two decades of the 21st Century, while the West continues its decline due to an inherently afflicted economic system based on predatory exploitation of neo-colonial economies, bust-bust cycles and profiteering from geopolitical conflicts.
China’s rise in bringing along ASEAN and many other parts of the world, including the network of countries traversed by the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has convinced the world of the optimum viability of China’s model of development as well as the wisdom of its unique system the global community can learn from.
At the same time China’s clear and unwavering declaration of its mission to conduct “win-win” relations with all major, medium and small nations, its recent announcement of its Global Security and Development Initiatives, and its vision and mission to help create a “Community of Shared Future for Mankind” has convinced the world of is sincere intentions.
This global perception of this sincerity has also been reinforced by the good works of China all over the world over the past seven decades beginning with the 1950s and accelerating in the second decade of the 21st century with the ”Build, Build, Build” of the BRI and the humanitarian diplomacy of China during the Covid 19 crisis
For all the above reasons China has succeeded in overcoming hostile resistance emanating from former hegemonic world powers of the West to its goodwill and good works. The “Pivot to Asia” of the US followed by the “trade war” and the campaign against Huawei, and now the “microchips war” have not stopped China’s growing acceptance by the world.
ASEAN, for its part, has economically grown by leaps and bounds, from strength to strength the past decade since the decision to press for ASEAN centrality and become the top trading partner of China, with the new economic standing came prestige and geopolitical gravitas increased to the point that ASEAN has become a pivotal balancing weight in international politics.
ASEAN has grown in the atmosphere of stability and peace with China’s cooperation that disallowed the small issues of the tempest in the teapot, i.e. the South China Sea disputes, from becoming an issue of disunity, tension and conflict. After early heated initiatives from some countries. things have settled down to amiable talks and compromise leading to the Code of Conduct.
China and ASEAN showed the world the way of Asians to harmony and peace amidst dialogue and cooperation, and thus this is a glowing example the world is impressed with. At the same time this enhances the credibility of China’s multilateral and multipolar organizing initiatives such as BRICS plus, SCO, RCEP and others.
While Asia is settling down and rolling up its sleeves to work double time on post-pandemic recovery, the West is in turmoil created by US-NATO’s provocations and sanctions war against Russia compelling the latter to turn to Asia and become part of the Asian family. Russia, China and the BRICS countries are now preparing a new alternative world currency soon to end the US Petro-dollar domination.
Philippine-China cooperation which began in 1975 with the establishment of Philippine-China diplomatic relations under the later President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos Sr. and became moribund after the 1986 color revolution, found resurgence when President Rodrigo R. Duterte engaged President Xi Jinping in a “Pivot to China” which shall endure under President Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos Jr.
Today, during this “Asian Moment” Philippines-China relations and cooperation is a crucial element as the US is counting on the Philippine to be its launching pad to support the US destabilization of Asia to abort the Asian Moment from continuing to become the Asian Century. The debate over the US troops and facilities still based in the Philippines becomes a pivotal issue.
Although there is no clear position from the new Marcos administration on the final fate of the US troops and facilities, called EDCA (Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement) bases, the Filipino mass campaign to oust the bases is raging on. The five-year term of the agreement deemed unconstitutional by legal experts shall be up for termination or renewal in April of 2023.
President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. is expected to make a state visit to President Xi Jinping in January of 2023 and much of the strategic cooperation projects sealed between the Chinese President and the previous administration shall be revisited, renewed and enhanced in the visit of the new Philippine president. Relations are expected to be reinforced and elevated.
Of particular importance will be the continuation of the projects and investment pledges of President Xi Jinping in the 2017 meetings with President Duterte of which many have already been accomplished in the first half of 2022 including in Package 1, and will now continue through Package 2 of the USD25-billion economic assistance aggregation of projects and investments.
Trade expansion between the Philippines and China is expected as China widens its opening of it market to Philippine goods, services, and ventures, especially after the expected ratification of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) by the Philippines this year. China, as President Marcos will reaffirm, as he said upon his inauguration, China as is the Philippines’ “strongest partner”.
Philippine-China relations and cooperation will only boost and fortify the “Asian Moment” as China and the region forges ahead in the New Era of the multipolar world, preserving the unity of the Asian region while the world continues its historic shift of half-a-millennium of geoeconomic and geopolitical weight from the West to Asia.
Philippine economic growth is showing green shoots after two-and-a-half years of continuous crisis from the pandemic to the raging war in Europe’s east, with the growth of 7.6 percent in the third quarter of 2022 no doubt largely due to trade with China. After the Xi-Marcos meeting, this will certainly accelerate through to the next years so long as the two nations and the ASEAN maintain the stability of the region.
Such is the primordial significance of Philippine-China strategic cooperation in this crucial period of the 21st century in the time of the “Asian Moment.” President Rodrigo Duterte said in 2018 he foresees that relations with China will "bloom into something like a big and beautiful flower", now the Philippines can expect a lush garden to too flourish.
Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in the foregoing article are solely the author’s and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the Philippine News Agency (PNA) or any other office under the Office of the Press Secretary.
About the Columnist
Herman Tiu Laurel is a veteran journalist and founder of think tank PHILIPPINE-BRICS Strategic Studies.