Will the ‘Golden Period’ in China-Philippines Ties Actually Benefit Both Sides?

Will the ‘Golden Period’ in China-Philippines Ties Actually Benefit Both Sides?
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte wave to the media following a welcome ceremony at Malacanang Palace, Manila, Philippines, Nov. 20, 2018 (AP photo by Bullit Marquez).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curates the week’s top news and expert analysis on China.

Chinese President Xi Jinping returned to Beijing on Wednesday following a two-day state visit to the Philippines, the last leg of an Asia-Pacific tour that also included stops in Papua New Guinea and Brunei. Despite decades of mistrust and maritime disputes between Manila and Beijing, the two countries heralded a new “golden period” in relations last year.

Ahead of Xi’s visit, Philippine observers wondered what gifts the Chinese president might bear as part of his effort to draw the Philippines closer into China’s orbit, but the results were somewhat murky. The two sides signed 29 agreements during Xi’s stay, many pertaining to infrastructure projects, most notably the Philippines-China Industrial Park Development Program, which will be backed by $2 billion in Chinese investment. But Reuters called many of the other agreements “broad or vague,” and only four of them were among 38 Philippine projects earmarked for Chinese investment two years ago. China has also pledged $24 billion in loans for President Rodrigo Duterte’s $180 billion “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program, but most of that support has yet to materialize.

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