Philippines’ Marcos wants China ties to ‘shift to higher gear’ under his presidency

Philippines president-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr on Wednesday said his country’s relations with China will expand and shift to a higher gear under his administration, and Beijing had assured him of its support for his “independent foreign policy”.

Marcos, who won last week’s Philippines election by a landslide, said he held “very substantial” talks by phone on Wednesday with China President Xi Jin ping, who agreed to hold more comprehensive discussions of issues.

The 64-year-old son and namesake of the notorious former Philippines dictator said Xi also acknowledged his late father’s role in opening diplomatic relations between the two countries. “The way forward is to expand our relationship not only diplomatic, not only trade, but also in culture, even in education, even in knowledge, even in health to address whatever minor disagreements that we have right now,” Marcos said in a statement.

“I told him, we must not allow what conflicts or difficulties we have now between our two countries to become historically important.”

The Philippines and China have had a rocky relationship in recent years over Beijing’s vast territorial claims and actions of its coast guard and fishing fleets in the South China Sea,through which at least $3.4 trillion of annual trade passes.

Their phone conversation focused on bilateral ties and regional development, the Chinese embassy in Manila said in a separate statement. Marcos won the presidency with nearly 59% of the votes last week.

He will take office late in June. Many analysts expect Marcos to seek stronger ties with Beijing, continuing outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte’s policy of rapprochement, while maintaining close relations with defence ally and former colonial power the United States.

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