China-Philippines Ties: 14 Bilateral Deals Signed During Marcos’ Visit

The President of the Philippines Ferdinand Marcos Jr landed in Beijing on Tuesday, January 3 for a three-day state visit to China. This is President Marcos’ first visit to China since taking office last year. During his visit, President Marcos will meet with President Xi Jinping, as well as Premier Li Keqiang and Chairman Li Zhanshu of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC). In a regular press briefing, the spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry Wang Wenbin stated that China hoped the visit would “usher in a new ‘golden age’ in bilateral friendship”.

President Marcos has also stated his intention to raise the issue of territorial disputes in the South China Sea “in a bid to settle problems in a friendly manner and seek to resolve those issues to the mutual benefit of the two countries”, according to a news release posted on the Philippine’s Office of the Press Secretary.

The two sides also reportedly signed 14 bilateral agreements on Wednesday, January 4, covering a wide range of industries, including agriculture and tourism.

President Marcos’ state visit to China marks a significant step forward for bilateral relations between China and the Philippines, a relationship that has been marred by territorial disputes over the past few decades.

In this article, we discuss explore China-Philippine bilateral relations, including the trade and investment flows between the two countries and the current bilateral investment and trade treaties, and discuss the significance of the Philippine president’s visit to China.

China-Philippines relations
China and the Philippines established formal diplomatic relations in 1975. Relations between the two countries have been “predominantly warm and cordial” over the years, as expressed by the Office of the Press Secretary. The early decades of the relationship saw the signing of several bilateral agreements and treaties, which included a bilateral investment (BIT) in 1992 and a double taxation agreement (DTA) in 1999.

However, territorial disputes in the South China Sea, which include the disputed sovereignty of the Spratly Islands have plagued bilateral relations over the years. The major flashpoint for this dispute has been the arbitration that the Philippines brought to the United Nations (UN) with regard to China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea. The arbitral tribunal in the Hague ruled in favor of the Philippines with regard to several of its claims in 2016, although China has rejected this ruling.

China and the Philippines have made efforts to resolve these issues on several occasions. These include an agreement for “Shelving disputes and going in for joint development” during a state visit to the Philippines by the then-president of China Jiang Zemin in 1996, a joint statement signed between China and the Philippines in 2000 which sought to “establish a long-term and stable relationship on the basis of good neighborliness, cooperation, mutual trust, and benefit”, and the issuing of a joint statement “reaffirming the commitment of taking further steps to deepen the strategic and cooperative relationship for peace and development between the two countries” during former Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit to the Philippines in 2007.

The dispute over the territory in the South China Sea has nonetheless still not been resolved. Despite this, relations between China and the Philippines have been growing considerably stronger over the last five years, and in particular during the tenure of the former Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. The former President’s state visit to China in 2016 led to investment and credit line pledges that amounted to approximately US$24 billion in business and trade deals.

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