China ‘elated’ by Philippines foreign policy under Duterte – state media
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China ‘elated’ by Philippines foreign policy under Duterte – state media

CHINESE Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily Online has declared the country is “elated” with the Philippines’ foreign policy under President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration.

The newspaper published a piece on Wednesday entitled China elated by Duterte’s independent foreign policy, which praised “mutually beneficial cooperation with other countries on the basis of equality and mutual respect.”

“We have noted relevant remarks made by President Duterte. China speaks highly of that,” Chinese foreign ministry official Lu Kang is quoted as saying in the wake of Philippine president’s State of the Nation (SONA) address on Monday.

SEE ALSO: Philippines military says it may use donated Chinese arms in Marawi

Interestingly, the article was authored by Filipino journalist Jelly Musico – a Filipino reporter from the state-run Philippine News Agency who is interning at the People’s Daily – signalling yet another attempt by the Chinese Communist Party to exert its influence in the Philippines.

The People’s Daily is the largest newspaper group in mainland China and the official newspaper of the Communist Party. It provides direct information on the opinion and policies of the government.

Under Duterte’s leadership, the Philippines has distanced itself from its traditional ally the United States and is increasingly courting and being courted by its northern neighbour China. Last week the president said he would never make a visit to the “lousy” US.

The People’s Daily piece continued that “Lu believes that China-Philippines relations will bring benefits not only to Chinese and Filipino people ‘but also relevant countries in the region.’”

China is trying hard to increase its economic and political power in Southeast Asia – not least via the One Belt One Road initiative, a drive to invest in major infrastructure projects across Asia and Europe.

Nevertheless, the disputed South China Sea has been a point of tension between China and various Asean nations.

2017-04-21T061002Z_350848409_RC11CE3A2BF0_RTRMADP_3_SOUTHCHINASEA-CHINA-PHILIPPINES

Filipino soldiers sing the national anthem in Philippine occupied (Pagasa) Thitu island in disputed South China Sea, April 21, 2017. Source: Reuters/Erik De Castro

After the SONA address, Duterte announced that the Philippines would be entering into a deal with China to explore oil in the South China Sea, which the former country refers to as the West Philippine Sea.

The two countries are also still in bilateral talks over territorial claims in the South China Sea – over which Beijing lays claim to 90 percent. An estimated US$5.3 trillion of trade passes through the maritime region annually, parts of which are also claimed by Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

SEE ALSO: Philippines, China still at odds over South China Sea a year after Hague ruling

As Musico’s article notes, last week also saw China’s foreign minister Wang Yi visit Manila for a two-day reciprocal visit, after his Philippines counterpart Alan Peter Cayetano was in Beijing earlier in July.

In late June, China donated US$7.35 million worth of guns and ammunition to aid the Philippine military’s fight against Islamic State-influenced militants in Marawi City, Mindanao.

Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi has said that relations between the two countries have entered a “golden period”, with Duterte courting the Asian superpower for investment and business interests.

Duterte had also previously spoken of wanting to acquire modern military equipment from China and Russia.