In an email interview with The LaSallian, Ambassador Ma Ke Qing sheds some light into Philippine-China relations.
1. How would you describe Philippine-China relations?
China-Philippine relations are characterized by a legacy of a thousandyears of amicable exchanges between our two peoples. Exchanges between Chinese and Filipinos date back to at least the Tang Dynasty (7th Century), evidenced by archeological findings in the Philippines. In the long history of well over 1000 years, interactions have continued without interruptions, and without single conflict. This is quite unique in the history of exchanges between different nations.
Ever since the establishment of diplomatic relations 37 years ago, exchanges and cooperation have been intensified and expanded to all walks of life bringing about tangible benefits to the two countries and peoples.
The two sides are important trade and economic cooperation partners. Two-way trade has grown steadily, hitting the historic high of US$ 32.2 billion last year. In the first 10 months of 2012, bilateral trade volume has already reached $30 billion, a 15 percent year on year. The number of Chinese mainland tourists traveling to the Philippines has surpassed 215,814 in the first 10 months of 2012.
Dynamic exchanges in the fields of culture, education and sports have also been witnessed. The launching of the “Years of China-Philippine Friendly Exchanges 2012-2013” has further prompted bilateral interactions. More than 30 mainstream Philippine secondary schools have included Chinese language in their optional curriculum. Three Confucius Institutes have provided access for the Philippine people to know about China. Interactions between institutions of higher education have been active as well.
During President Aquino’s official visit to China in 2011, the two sides reached broad consensus on further strengthening China-Philippines friendship and cooperation in various fields, pointing out the direction for the future development of the bilateral relations.
We are ready to work with the Philippine side to make efforts to promote cooperation and implement the aforementioned consensus in an early realization of the development goals set by leaders of the two countries.
2. How does China view the situation in Asia and the gradual increase of the US’ presence in East and Southeast Asia?
The past twenty years since the end of the Cold War has seen peace, stability, win-win cooperation, fast development and continuous emergence of Asia. Asia now stands at a new historical starting point.
With sustained robust economic growth, Asia is one of the regions with the greatest development vibrancy and potential. According to authoritative international economic organizations, Asia’s economic growth this year will be more than two percentage points higher than the global average. By the year 2050, Asia’s GDP will account for half of the world’s total.
Asia has maintained overall peace and stability. Disputes are under control, and all parties concerned are looking for peaceful solutions through negotiation.
With a rising standing in global architecture, Asia has attracted attention across the world. Asian countries are happy about and proud of the achievements the region has made. They want to sustain the good momentum of peace, development and cooperation in the region. This is the shared aspiration of people across the region and a development trend that cannot be stopped.
China advocates a peaceful, stable and inclusive Asia-Pacific, and hopes all relevant countries could play a constructive role in the regional affairs. China would like to see the adjustment of the US’ Asia-Pacific strategy develop in such a way that is more in line with the trend of the times featuring peace, development and cooperation and the common aspiration of countries in the region.
3. The Philippines is poised to become an economic powerhouse in Southeast Asia. How does this play into China’s economic and foreign policy?
China is glad to see the economic development of our neighboring countries. The recently concluded 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) reaffirmed that China will continue to promote friendship and partnership with its neighbors, consolidate friendly relations and deepen mutually beneficial cooperation with them, and ensure that China’s development will bring more benefits to our neighbors.
China mainland and Hong Kong together are the largest export market of the Philippines, as they account for 20.4 percent of total exports in the first three quarters of 2012.
Better business environment attract more investors. We wish to see more and more Chinese entrepreneurs invest in the Philippines, benefiting the livelihood of the Philippine people.
4. What are some key industries that the Philippines should develop, in the context of ASEAN+3? Given that services will be fully integrated the moment that the Philippines consents to ASEAN+3, how does China intend to support the Philippines’ transition into this new economy?
On 1 January, 2010, the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area was completely built. It’s the largest FTA by population and the third largest global trade group in terms of trade volume. China is currently the largest trade partner of ASEAN; ASEAN is the third largest trade partner of China. The trade between ASEAN and China mainly focus on electrical and electronic products, fuel and fuel products, plastics, rubber and vegetable oils. Electrical and electronic products accounted for more than one-third of ASEAN exports to China while machinery and equipment is close to one-fifth of the total.
Mechanism of ASEAN+3 began in 1997. Now it has become the most dynamic cooperation mechanism in East Asia, and has boosted ASEAN’s economic integration. In the context of ASEAN+3, the Philippines could focus on industries like tourism, culture and telecommunication etc. The Chinese side is also willing to cooperate with the Philippines in sectors such as agriculture, infrastructure, new energy and renewable energy, mining, energy saving, environment protection and tourism. We also wish to see the Philippines lower the tariffs to facilitate exportation and develop complementary products for the purpose of optimization and upgrading of industrial structure.
5. What are some of the things Filipinos could learn from China?
The world is diversified and colorful. Every country has its own national realities and has to find a path of development that best suits its own characteristics. In China’s case, it is the world’s largest developing country with a history of 5,000 years and 1.3 billion people. These are the parameters that China should take into consideration in making policies.
We have drawn on strengths of others and adapted it to China’s national conditions, but we cannot copy the social system and experience of other countries. Over the past 30-odd years, China has found its own way that accords with the country’s situation and was well proven successful by the huge achievements made by the country. We call it Socialism with Chinese characteristics. China attaches importance on scientific development to secure sustainable development with heavy investment in education, science and technology. A core objective is to improve people’s lives. This approach puts people first and stresses comprehensive, coordinated and sustainable development. It is a basic guideline for China’s future development.
China owes its remarkable growth over the past three decades to reform and opening-up policies. China’s reform has been comprehensive, including economic, political and social reforms. Its opening up has been all dimensional and boosted cooperation between China and the rest of the world, bringing about benefits to all parties.
6. What is your best memory in the Philippines?
It has been almost one year since I arrived in Manila. Many memorable experiences touch the bottom of my heart.
Here I would like to share with you a story of “stone”, which I was told by a local Filipino guide, when I visited the famous Intramuros. He told me that the Chinese had been doing business with the Filipinos here since centuries ago. They shipped silk, tea and ceramics from China, using heavy stones at the bottom of the boats for ballasts. As they set back to China, the stones were left behind. “Many a little makes a mickle”. Eventually those became the foundation stones of the roads and homes of locals. Year after year, these stones were laid on each other, later to be known as “Piedra de China” or paving stones of China. My guide said with emotion, “Over the centuries, the Chinese people have come here only for trade and friendship. They are our friends indeed.”
I have been deeply impressed by the good feelings and amity between our two peoples. In my contacts with the local people, with young students in particular, this impression has been reinforced.
I have had chance to visit some schools and universities including DLSU. I experienced the Philippine-style hospitality and friendship toward China. I was deeply moved by the warm welcome of students and teachers, by their enthusiasm to learn Chinese, and most importantly by their willingness to contribute to the cultural exchanges and good neighborly relationships between China and the Philippines.
These sweet experiences give me more confidence about the future of China- Philippines relations, since people-to-people exchanges are the foundations of all bilateral relations. Although there are some difficulties at present, I am quite optimistic that we will eventually overcome the hardship as along as we keep solidifying the foundations of our relations and enlarge the platform of our cooperation.
7. DLSU is reviving its Chinese studies program. Do you think this is something worth pursuing? What are some of the things DLSU needs to consider in establishing its program?
I am very glad to see that DLSU is restoring its China Studies Program. As the ancient Chinese saying goes, amity between people holds the key to sound relations between states. Understanding is the basis for peoples’ amity. I appreciate the vision and efforts of DLSU. The revival of China Studies at DLSU will definitely help facilitate the mutual understandings between the Chinese and Philippine peoples. I appreciate your vision and efforts in this regard.
I believe Chinese studies are multi-faceted. To know a country, especially in the case of China, you have to learn the history, the culture, the society, the current domestic and external policies and above all the people as well as their way of thinking and acts. You should also have a personal touch by visiting China, because after all seeing is believing. I sincerely wish you a great success in the Chinese studies.