Duterte in China: Philippine president holds talks with Xi

Mr Duterte has brought a large trade entourage with him to China
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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has met his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in Beijing as they look to boost trade and build closer ties.

Mr Duterte arrived in Beijing on Tuesday for a four-day visit.

China and the Philippines are involved in a bitter territorial dispute over islands in the South China Sea.

But the visit is seen as a pivot by the Philippines towards China and Russia and away from the US, its former colonial ruler and long-time ally.

Mr Duterte attended a welcome ceremony at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People.

He and President Xi will preside over several trade deals. He will also be meeting Premier Li Keqiang and National People’s Congress chairman Zhang Dejiang, and attend a state banquet.

The relationship between China and the Philippines had worsened in recent years as both claim the Spratly Islands and Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea.

The dispute reached a peak in July when an international tribunal sided with Manila and rejected Beijing’s claims.

Though he maintained a blustery position towards Beijing during his presidential campaign, Mr Duterte sounded a note of reconciliation shortly after taking power.

At the same time, Mr Duterte has said he would end joint-military exercises with the US, admonished the US for criticising him over his brutal war against drugs that has been linked with thousands of extrajudicial killings, and said US President Barack Obama could “go to hell”.

In interviews with Chinese media ahead of his visit, he spoke of mending relations and the need for help from Beijing. He has said he does not intend to bring up the South China Sea issue during his visit.

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“It is a defining moment of my presidency to open frontiers of friendship and cooperation,” he told state broadcaster CCTV, adding that he wanted to “totally erase” the “dark spots” in their relationship.

In response China has hailed his trip as “a new starting-point” for bilateral relations.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying told reporters earlier this week: “We are ready and willing to reach out to the Philippine people for friendship and cooperation.”

What does Duterte want from China?

Mango and pineapple sales

A vendor peels a mango as she sells assorted fruit in the streets of Manila on March 6, 2010.

China is the Philippines’ second-largest trading partner, with the latter supplying mostly electronic products but looking to diversify with more food exports for instance. Earlier this year, angry Chinese netizens called for a boycott of Filipino mangoes amid tensions over South China Sea claims.


Tourists holding Chinese national flags use mobile phones to take photos at Tiananmen Square during National Day celebrations in Beijing, China, 1 October 2016.

The tensions also prompted Beijing to issue a travel advisory against the Philippines in 2014. Since then Chinese holidaymakers have flocked to elsewhere in South East Asia; the hope is that they come back when Beijing lifts the advisory, which it has promised.

Weapons and boats

In this 29 March 2014 file photo, a Chinese Coast Guard ship attempts to block a Philippine government vessel as the latter tries to enter the Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea to relieve Philippine troops and resupply provisions.

In a pre-visit interview with Chinese cable station Phoenix TV, Mr Duterte complained of inadequate military support from the US and said he planned to buy Chinese weapons and boats as part of a military equipment overhaul. “If China does not help us in this endeavour, we will find it hard,” he said.

Silence and support

Filipino men place their hands over their heads as they are rounded up during a police operation as part of the continuing

Mr Duterte’s controversial war on drugs has attracted accusations of human rights violations by the West including the United States. But Beijing – no stranger to such criticism – has kept quiet, and has even pledged to support Mr Duterte.

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Source: BBC News 

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