How President Marcos Jr. can sweeten his upcoming state visit to China
After meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Indonesia, President Marcos Jr. should follow up his communication with the Chinese leader in his state visit to China in January 2023.
Among the issues that should be addressed is the need to put an end to China’s bullying, as seen in the latest incident of its ships blocking and forcefully seizing the rocket debris being towed by a Philippine Navy ship to Pag-asa Island on Nov. 20. Even as Mr. Marcos presses his appeal on the formulation of a marine code of conduct among Asean countries, there is a need to do away with China’s confrontational stance in the form of its constant harassment of Filipino fishermen and our military ships even within our territorial waters.
Eliminating the maritime tension created by China’s provocative acts will allow the conduct of productive economic activities beneficial to all maritime claimants. To inspire the institution of a modus vivendi in the West Philippine Sea, Mr. Marcos should recount to President Xi the deep cultural and kinship ties between the Philippines and China before and after the coming of European colonizers to our shores.
For example, Mr. Marcos should recount how Sultan Paduka Pahala of the then prestigious Sultanate of Sulu visited the Ming court of Yongle Emperor (Zhu De) in 1417, together with his family and his retinue of officials and slaves. Bringing a tribute of exotic Philippine products, the Sultan planned to strengthen good trading relations with the Chinese. Unfortunately, the Sultan contracted and died of a mysterious disease during his China sojourn. The Chinese emperor honored him with a royal funeral and buried him in a tomb customarily built for a Chinese prince. The Sultan’s companions who stayed in China were eventually absorbed into the Hui ethnic group and later became Chinese subjects.
Mr. Marcos should inform President Xi as well that our national hero Jose Rizal’s great, great grandfather was Cua Yi Lam, a native of Jinjiang in Fujian province, who migrated to the Philippines and settled in Calamba in 1697. He became a Christian and assumed the name Domingo Lamco, changed in 1731 to Mercado to signify his being a merchant. Lam’s descendant was Juan Mercado, father of Francisco Mercado, who was Rizal’s father. Jinjiang paid homage to Rizal by erecting an 18.61-feet bronze cast statue, the tallest Rizal monument outside the Philippines. In recognition of their historical connection, Jinjiang and Calamba established sisterhood ties in 2018, with the former referring to Rizal as its adopted son.
Then there’s the Manila-Acapulco galleon trade from 1565 to 1815, when galleon ships with Filipino sailors traded sought-after goods like silk and porcelain from China and Manila hemp, and indigo from the Philippines. This set-up also led to a steady flow of Chinese migrants to the Philippines. The President should inform his Chinese counterpart of how the descendants of their Chinese nationals used their Confucian values to become successful in business, and how creating geopolitical instability will adversely affect the lives and businesses of their ethnic relations, who currently comprise some one-fourth of the Philippine population.
To create more goodwill, Mr. Marcos can steer his talk toward the serious joint extraction of marine oil and gas that both countries sorely need for their economic advancement. Furthermore, he can promise the facilitation of business applications of Chinese investors in the Philippines and cite the country’s investment strengths, including our strategic business location, which is within the average four-hour flying time from major capitals of the Asia-Pacific region; the high quality of labor with good English proficiency; a liberalized and business-friendly economy; well-developed infrastructure, and a hospitable lifestyle amid a tropical milieu.
Meliton B. Juanico,licensed environmental planner;retired professor of geography,University of the Philippines Diliman
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