Opinion / Wang Hui

Duterte's visit offers chance to turn new page

By Wang Hui (China Daily) Updated: 2016-10-20 08:00

Duterte's visit offers chance to turn new page

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (L) speaks during an interview with Xinhua News Agency in Manila, the Philippines, Oct 13, 2016. [Photo/Xinhua]

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is leading a big delegation to China this week. Even before he embarked on his first trip outside of Southeast Asia as president, Duterte sent many positive signals that have raised hopes the new Philippine leader can repair his country's ties with China, which were strained under the previous government led by Benigno Aquino III.

In his interviews with Chinese media ahead of his Beijing trip, Duterte expressed his desire to improve ties with China and strengthen cooperation with China in a wide range of fields. He also said the just concluded joint military drills between his country and the United States in the South China Sea will be the last while he is in office.

Such words and gestures can help turn a new page in relationship between Beijing and Manila and ratchet down tensions in the disputed waters, which will in turn contribute to peace and stability in the region.

If such desirable momentum can be maintained, people should not be surprised if Beijing and Manila reach a consensus on resolving their maritime disputes through bilateral talks and negotiations very soon. Such a prospect is also sought by China as the South China Sea disputes have become a major man-made obstacle standing in the way of deepening mutual trust and cooperation between China and its neighbors in Southeast Asia.

Yet, some in the world arena are unhappy about the warming relations between Manila and Beijing. Their narrow-mindedness leads them to think Manila is backing down from its South China Sea position and distancing itself from Washington and its security alliance with the US because it wants economic benefits from Beijing.

A Financial Times report on Oct 12 presents a typical view of such kind. Quoting some analysts, the London-based newspaper said Duterte has unrealistic expectations about what China will give him, and he has lessened his leverage with Beijing by publicly repudiating the US.

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