Pivoting to China


A decade ago, few people imagined the Philippines and China drawing closer. Even a few years ago, China’s One Belt and One Road policy (OBOR) did not really factor the Philippines into the equation.

When OBOR started, China’s vision of expanding commercial and cultural networks focused on China’s traditional maritime hubs like Singapore.

Apart from the City of Pearl reclamation project in Manila Bay, there is another project underway north of Manila. As a Manila newspaper reports:

“Xu Liang Dragon Group, owner of China’s biggest economic zone in Xiamen province, is developing a 3,000-hectare area encompassing 10 towns in Pangasinan into a mixed-use special ecozone (economic zone) and an IT Park in Manila with potential whopping investment haul of $360 billion.”

“This is the latest round of investment commitment by the Chinese in the Philippines in response to President Duterte’s friendly gestures toward China, whose territorial claims over the west Philippine sea triggered political tensions between the two countries during the Aquino administration.”

Today the political tensions are decreasing, with maritime disputes being marginalized in favor of economic cooperation. China and the Philippines are not letting the maritime disputes define the relationship.

It is good to see the Philippines not blindly follow the same conflict model that South Korea is following. What long-term strategies are being played out behind the scenes are another matter altogether.

The Philippines made little economic progress by following the western models of the Washington Consensus, the IMF, and so on. It makes more sense to engage more with China, and that is precisely what is happening.



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