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On China’s ‘silk road’

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At Large

On China’s ‘silk road’

/ 12:06 AM September 22, 2015

GUANGDONG—There were oblique references to “maritime issues” between the Philippines and China during this visit of Philippine officials, but most

everyone on both sides of the table, so to speak, chose to look forward and explore ways to achieve further cooperation between the two countries.

Foremost of these ways was the building of what Chinese officials call the “21st Century Maritime Silk Road,” described by Prof. He Chuantian, vice president of Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, as “a road to common prosperity between China and its neighbors.”

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Initially proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping in his address before the Indonesian Parliament in 2013, the Maritime Silk Road is part of a larger plan of economic cooperation called the “One Belt, One Road Initiative.”

Of its neighbors in Southeast Asia, however, the Philippines and Vietnam—which also happen to be the two countries most vocal about so-called Chinese “incursions” into disputed territories—have not made any public statements strongly supporting the Chinese Maritime Silk Road. Indonesia has instead announced its own “global maritime fulcrum initiative,” while saying its own plan and China’s are “complementary.”

Prof. Chen Weiguang, director of the Higher Education Center of Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, says the “Belt and Road initiative” is China’s way of seeking “peaceful cooperation,” based on the principles of “openness and inclusivity.”

Professor Chen outlined four main principles that will govern the operations of the “One Road” initiative: policy coordination, facilities connectivity, shared development and “people-to-people” exchanges. The plan, the professor proclaimed, would “enable Asia to fly high.”

* * *

RELATIONS between China and the Philippines officially date back to 1990, when China opened its embassy in Manila. But the ties between our peoples date back much, much earlier, predating the arrival of the first colonizers, the Spanish.

Long before the Spanish landed on our shores, our ancestors had been trading with Chinese sailors, with shards of ancient pottery dating back to the earliest dynasties proof of the lively exchanges taking place. Indeed, as Rep. Gina de Venecia, who led a delegation of women legislators on this visit, pointed out: “Filipino-Chinese are represented in all levels of Philippine society—politically and economically, not as strangers but as our own. In fact, an estimated 27 percent of the Philippine population have Chinese ancestry.”

Indeed, the ties that bind our two countries are strong and enduring. And as “Manay” Gina put it, “our countries will continue to value our blood ties and deep friendship and forbid any momentary misunderstanding to hurt the Asian Century that we are trying to build.”

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In the course of this visit, much proof was offered of the prosperity that China has been able to achieve at a breathtaking pace. We dropped by the Guangzhou Lefun Culture Science and Technology showroom, and were treated to demonstrations of China’s magnificent advances in multimedia technology, including theaters equipped with sound and picture systems that enhance the viewing experience. It’s no wonder China continues to dazzle worldwide audiences at international events, such as the Beijing Olympics, with much of the technology employed provided by Lefun.

* * *

ANOTHER highlight of the visit to Guangzhou was a tour of the Canton Tower, a multipurpose observation tower that today stands as thethird-highest such structure in the world. On the observation deck at the 108th floor, we could glimpse the sprawl of Guangzhou, albeit a little murky with the smog. There was a portion of the deck with a glass floor on which the daring could walk and pose while seemingly floating on air.

The high point of any tourist’s visit to this bustling city, though, has to be the nighttime Pearl River tour. Its popularity is evidenced by the large number of Chinese as well as foreign tourists who queue up for the ferries. High up on the third deck, in an open-air setting that allowed the breeze and the cool night air to surround us, we took in the view of the Pearl River meandering through the city, with many buildings gleaming with lit-up towers and skylines. Why, I wondered once again, can’t we do this with the Pasig River? Well, for one, the stench alone could kill one’s appetite for sightseeing. Sigh.

Of course, no one goes to Guangzhou without a bit of shopping. Not for nothing is this city called “the manufacturing capital of the world.” One of our destinations was a small shopping center filled with nothing but shops selling bags, suitcases and other such goods, all made in China and bearing Chinese trade marks. Only the thought of our overweight baggage stopped us from going on a buying frenzy!

* * *

LEAVING China for a bit, there’s a “multimedia,” or rather “multiarts,” treat awaiting art lovers in “Dancing in One Voice,” a performance of the Philippine Ballet Theater (PBT) that brings together its dancers with opera stars and the finalists in “The Voice Philippines,” a popular TV singing competition.

This melding of high art and popular art, says PBT, is “to give artists from different fields an opportunity to come together and give light to the quiet unsung heroes” of the company.

“Dancing with One Voice” goes onstage at the Cultural Center of the Philippines on Sept. 26 at 8 p.m. and on Sept. 27 at 6 p.m. Affordable tickets meant for students are available, but buy early because the supply of tickets is limited.

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TAGS: China, news, sea dispute, West Philippine Sea
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