President Duterte's China Visit to Focus More on Business Than South China Sea Dispute
On the eve of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's official state visit to China, economic analysts have said the bilateral talks between the two countries would likely center on business and trade instead of their dispute over territories in the South China Sea.
Duterte will travel around 400 business leaders including the country's richest business moguls on his four-day visit to Beijing from October 18-21.
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President Duterte is the first Philippine leader to be invited by Chinese President Xi Jinping for one-on-one talks.
$3 US Billion
"Duterte's visit is the strongest signal so far that tensions between China and the Philippines have ease*d off," said Li Jinming, professor of international relations at Xiamen University's Research School of Southeast Asian Studies.
Li said President Duterte may be veering away from the United States to befriend China but this is likely temporary.
"He's right now distancing the country from the U.S., but some of that is just rhetoric. We don't think he will or can cut the U.S. off. We'd be curious to know how long these icy ties can last. It might just be a temporary thing," Li emphasized.
Manila reportedly stands to receive at least $3 billion worth of funding assistance from Chinese banks and private companies throughseveral agreements and memoranda of understanding (MOA) that will be signed by both countries.
Philippine Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said China has offered Manila billions of dollars to fund its infrastructure projects as well as other key sectors such as agribusiness, construction, infrastructure, technology, rail, among others.
"There are a lot of private sector initiatives taking place. Like for banks, they're committing funds to support the growth of the Philippine economy in general. Most of them are fund commitments," Lopez said.
Lopez said the Philippine government is currently reviewing the Chinese offers and so far he said that the country will have more money to finance whatever projects it wants to pursue.
China's financial assistance could come in soft loans and investments, according to Lopez. He added that Manila plans to strengthen its trade ties with Beijing, the country's second largest trading partner.
Although Duterte has admitted that his China trip is meant to ease tensions between the two nations over the South China Sea dispute, he said that he is looking forward to exchanging views with Chinese leaders on how to improve ties between both nations.