After an unprecedented war of words as tensions mount in the South China Sea, Beijing has been scrambling to win back its newfound friends in Manila.
Only days after the Philippines for the first time explicitly called on Beijing to abide by the 2016 arbitrary tribunal award in the South China Sea, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi held extensive talks with his Filipino counterpart.
Meanwhile, Chinese ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian vowed to prioritize the Philippines for any Covid-19 vaccine distribution, while warning against US “meddling” in regional disputes.
But US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s latest statements on the South China Sea disputes, has seemingly encouraged regional allies to take a tougher stance against China.
With hardening anti-China sentiments in the Philippines, and Beijing’s failure to fulfill its promise of large-scale investments, the Southeast Asian country’s defense establishment is also doubling down on its criticism of China’s aggressive behavior.
Marking the 45th anniversary of the establishment of formal diplomatic ties, the Chinese diplomat was eager to reassure the Philippine government and downplay differences.
Only days later, Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian promised Manila would be a top priority in the provision of any “global public good,” especially the development of Covid-19 vaccines.
When the Covid-19 vaccine is developed and put into use, China will give priority to providing it to the Philippines, as a global public good.
Aside from efforts to “fast track” essential travel between the two countries and establishing a “green channel” for the swift delivery of critical goods and services, China also promised to aid the Philippines’ economic recovery program.
As the resumption of work and production proceeds in an orderly manner, there will be more Chinese-financed projects in the Philippines which will inject strong impetus to the local economic recovery and improvement of people’s derailed livelihood.
While China and ASEAN countries (are) working very hard on managing the South China Sea issue, we have to be on high alert that the United States as an external force has also been intensifying its meddling in the South China Sea spat.
Since coming to power in 2016, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has made warmer ties with China a top foreign policy priority.
But the lack of big-ticket Chinese investments, as well as increasingly aggressive actions by Chinese maritime forces, seems to have undercut the strategic honeymoon.
If anything, the Philippine defense chief has openly backed the US’ warning against China, reflecting growing confidence in American resolve and commitment to its regional allies.
Asia Times / ABC Flash Point WW III News 2020.