Resumption of sound development between Beijing and Manila expected

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As the farce of arbitration on the South China Sea is to end soon, it is time for the new Philippine government of Rodrigo Duterte to stop the wrong foreign policy of its predecessor, so as to bring China-Philippines ties back to the track of sound development.

Expectation of resumption of sound development of China-Philippines relations

An aerial photo taken on Sept 25, 2015 from a seaplane of Hainan Maritime Safety Administration shows cruise vessel Haixun 1103 heading to the Yacheng 13-1 drilling rig during a patrol in South China Sea. [Photo/Xinhua]

Since Duterte assumed presidency on Thursday, sparks of hope have arisen for resumption of sound development of relations between China and the Philippines after bilateral ties seriously deteriorated during the rule of former Philippine President Benigno Aquino III.

In 2013, the government of Aquino III filed a case of arbitration with the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration over territorial disputes between China and the Philippines on the South China Sea, stoking tensions in the South China Sea region.

On June 29 -- just a day before the assumption of presidency by Duterte, the Permanent Court of Arbitration announced that an arbitral award in the case initiated by the Philippines against China will be issued on July 12, meaning that the farce of arbitration started by the government of Aquino III will come to an end in days.

Since winning the election, Duterte has made a series of overtures on China-Philippines relations, signaling that improvement of relations with China would be a foreign policy priority of his government, in sharp contrast to the wrong foreign policy pursued by the former government.

As whoever started the trouble should be responsible for settling it, any substantial improvement of relations between China and the Philippines under the current situation actually depends on efforts of the Philippine side. Therefore, it remains to be seen whether the new Philippine government will be able to play the role of settling the trouble left over by the former government, how long it will take before the new Philippine government can shake off the burden of wrong diplomacy created by its predecessor, how much efforts it will make in this endeavor, and how it will face the serious harm caused by the farce of arbitration to China-Philippines relations.

Today, there do exist chances for the new Philippine government to substantially improve relations with China, and also for it to eliminate negative impacts of the farce of arbitration on China-Philippine relations and even on the regional situation.

In a message to congratulate Duterte on his victory in the election more than one month ago, Chinese President Xi Jinping said that China and the Philippines see a long history of friendly exchanges and profound traditional friendship between the two peoples.

"A friendly, stable and sound China-Philippines relationship is in the fundamental interest of the two countries and the two peoples," Xi said, adding that he hoped the two sides would work together to get bilateral relations back onto the track of sound development.

In response, Duterte said he was "honored" to receive the congratulatory message from the Chinese president, calling him a great leader.

"I was honored receiving a congratulatory message from a great president," Duterte reportedly made the remarks when speaking with reporters in Davao City after unveiling the members of his cabinet to the media.

The indirect "dialogue" reflected by the two foregoing passages has been interpreted as a positive signal for improvement of relations between China and the Philippines. It is noteworthy that both sides mentioned therein the history of China-Philippines relations, and that both emphasized the existence of a long history of friendly exchange between China and the Philippines and the maintenance of profound traditional friendship between the Chinese and Philippine peoples.

Since ancient times, China and the Philippines have maintained friendly exchange and profound traditional friendship between the two peoples, which is just one of the reasons why the two countries can get bilateral ties back onto the track of sound development despite negative impacts of the wrong foreign policy pursued by the government of Aquino III.

In history, the South China Sea used to be an important link via which the two countries conducted friendly and equal exchanges.

Historical literature "The Philippine Islands, 1493-1898" gave an account of a story about friendly contacts between China and the Philippines in the South China Sea.

In 1626 AD, the region of today's Hermosa in the Philippine province of Bataan was facing a severe famine, but the then Manila government was unable to offer aid to the region. Local Catholics had to pray every day that Chinese merchant ships could come as annually scheduled to help them cope with the emergency. Shortly afterwards, when six Chinese ships fully loaded with rice arrived on Hermosa port from the South China Sea, the locals hailed the timely rescue as "a gift from God."

Almost at the same time, chronicles of southeast China's Fujian Province known as "The Book of Fujian" also recorded a history of people-to-people contacts between the two countries, saying that sweet potato widely planted in today's China had actually been introduced from Luzon -- today's Philippines.

At that time, after seeing that sweet potato was widely grown in Luzon and its growth had gained good harvests, businessmen took sweet potato plants via the South China Sea to Fujian, where they were successfully planted. During the first years of extensive cultivation of sweet potato, it helped local people survive famines.

In the long history, the South China Sea mainly played the role as such a link and platform for equal exchanges and common development between China and neighboring countries.

However, in the past few years, the government of Aquino III put aside the traditional friendship between the two countries and the needs of the Philippine people's livelihood and development by pursuing a wrong foreign policy that led to serious deterioration of relations between China and the Philippines. Considering oral promises made by some countries outside the region as a security umbrella and economic driving force, Aquino III internationalized the South China Sea issue and was willing to serve as a vanguard for those countries in muddying the waters in the South China Sea.

In fact, it is difficult for Manila to find its real security interests from the frequent navigation by foreign military vessels on the South China Sea.

In economy, the promises of some Western countries have not helped improve the people's livelihood in the Philippines. Instead, escalation of South China Sea disputes has deprived many Filipinos of their means of survival.

Therefore, the cognitive, decision-making and strategic errors the Aquino government committed will finally bring bitter fruit to its people and even undermine regional stability and prosperity.

Only enhancing win-win cooperation and developing the economy are in the fundamental interests of the two countries.

As is known to all, China has been prudent and tolerant in handling its relations with the Philippines while considering the Philippine people's livelihood.

In 2015, bilateral relations were difficult, and the trade between China and other Asian countries as well as between China and countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations went down by 7.8 percent and 1.7 percent respectively. However, the China-Philippines trade hit a record high of 45.65 billion U.S. dollars, up 2.7 percent from a year ago.

Now, China has become the Philippines' largest source of imports, second largest trade partner and third largest export market. The two countries are complementary to each other in industry, with the existence of great potential for economic growth and broad prospects for investment cooperation, which makes up a right way for mutually beneficial cooperation compared to the empty promises some countries made to Aquino III.

In the 1980s, then Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, after meeting then Philippine Vice President Salvador Laurel and then Philippine President Corazon Aquino successively, proposed peacefully solving the South China Sea disputes, and shelving disputes while seeking joint development. The reason why such a constructive consensus was reached was that the two sides realized that hope was far more than difficulties and common interests were far more than differences.

Only through cooperation and common development can China-Philippines relations be brought back onto the track of sound development. As long as the Philippines remembers the history, envisages realities and refrains from jumping into traps set by some forces outside the region, it will not be difficult for it to substantially improve relations with China.

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