It is rather difficult to discuss something about China without touching on the sensitive chords of geopolitics that is prevalent nowadays. But let us, for a moment, veer away from the delicate and complex issues about our relationship with our giant northern neighbor , and talk more about how China can be a good ally in terms of economic development and nation building .
It is a known fact that China is our biggest neighbor. It is the second largest economy, the most populated country, a land mass that covers close to 10 million sq.km. It would be the height of naïveté or outright stupidity to deny this . Our foreign policy has always been non-isolationist, and if we can see some kind of opportunity to be had in dealing with China in a more robust fashion ,then so much the better for all of us.
Corollary, it also bears stressing that reaching out to China does not mean abandoning or downgrading ties with erstwhile allies like the United States and Japan
President Duterte has always held his hand out to China in peace and friendship, he did the same with Japan. I was part of the business delegation in the last state visit to Japan and I witnessed this.
Recently, Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang was in Davao where he was met by the President and other top government officials. The high-level Chinese official was in the country to further discuss the promotion of free trade partnership through the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement which they are spearheading. Once accomplished, this agreement will most likely benefit the country’s exports. Trade Secretary Mon Lopez is in the forefront of this much needed initiative.
During their meetings, Vice Premier Wang said that the Philippines, as this year’s Chairman of the ASEAN, would play a crucial role in the discussions for the RCEP. Our Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said that both ASEAN and China can lead the region’s economic growth that would be inclusive to all members of society.
Students of development economics foresaw the rise of regional economies and the inevitable decline of national economies. Thus within the framework of RCEP, which include other countries like Australia, India, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea, the Philippines can greatly benefit from this.
Aside from that, the Vice Premier was also here in the country to discuss common interests that would, in his words, “bring more benefits than differences”. Bilateral ties were strengthened, no doubt, through him and President Duterte, particularly in trade and commerce. The governments of each likewise exchanged letters related to two feasibility studies, one for the Davao City Expressway Project, and the other for the Panay-Guimaras-Negros Bridges Project.
I have always been of the view, that countries, even people, should dwell on their similarities rather than their differences when dealing with each other. It could lead to a good start that will make discussions on the more difficult issues easier to navigate. In any event, it will keep the lines of communication open.
In the end, we all benefit.
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