As the tough-talking Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte embarks on an ice-breaking tour to China on Tuesday (18 October), Beijing hopes that its ties with Manila will now restore the "mutual" trust between the two countries, the Chinese state newspaper has said in its editorial on Tuesday (18 October).
China and the Philippines have remained divided following the recent tensions over the South China Sea dispute, where Manila, under the previous government, filed a case against Beijing for breaching its territory. The UN-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled in favour of the Philippines, rejecting China's sweeping nine-dash line claims in the hotly contested waters.
"After years of estrangement, the bad blood between Beijing and Manila have finally begun to give place to good faith," the editorial in Xinhua newspaper said.
The article added that the Duterte's tour "also serves as an encouraging sign of the president's pluck and pragmatism on foreign relations and international disputes". It also noted how Duterte has "avoided his predecessor's idiosyncrasies" of engaging in a row with China unnecessarily, but instead opted for a peaceful resolution. It called the Filipino president approach as being "largely in line with Beijing's stance".
The Filipino president has said that his trip to China will help him understand China better, adding that China "deserves" the kind of respect that it is enjoying now.
"There is no sense in going to war. There is no sense fighting over a body of water," Duterte said. "It is better to talk than war. We want to talk about friendship, we want to talk about cooperation and most of all, we want to talk about business. War would lead us to nowhere."
Welcoming the shift in tone, China's Commerce Ministry spokesman Shen Danyang said Beijing will boost trade links with Manila and continue to work strengthening bilateral cooperation that would benefit the citizens of both the nations.
During his visit, if Duterte demonstrates his "good faith" towards China, the two countries will enjoy longstanding friendship "to heal the wounds of the past few years and steer their friendship back to the right course," Xinhua editorial said.
China is reported to be looking forward to Duterte's visit. It is confident of progress in relationship that no "foreign force" can come in between the two, warns Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
Duterte's trip is said to have taken the international community by surprise as Manila has always been a strong ally of the US in the Asia Pacific region. But in the recent times, Duterte has been tilting away from Washington in favour of closer ties with China.
However, the Filipinos are reportedly doubtful about the new alliance as an opinion poll has revealed that many people have favoured the US over China, despite Duterte's recent anti-America tirade, especially against President Barack Obama, Reuters report said.
Although a Social Weather Station poll from 24 to 27 September showed that trust in both the countries have declined since the last survey in June, a majority of the Filipino people have still voted for US. About 55% said they had "little trust" in China while 11% said they doubt the US.