China to PH: Let’s be 'flexible, intelligent,' like the monkey

NEW BEGINNING. Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua decribes Philippines-China relations in 2015 as 'stable and developing.

' File photo by Jay Directo/AFP

MANILA, Philippines – China made an indirect call to the Philippines to be "flexible and intelligent" like the monkey, as depicted in Chinese astrology, to enjoy a “vigorous” 2016.

Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua made the statement at the Chinese New Year reception he hosted for Philippine officials, including Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, and members of the diplomatic corps at the Makati Shangri-La Hotel on Tuesday night, February 2.

“In the Chinese Zodiac, the monkey symbolizes vitality, flexibility, and intelligence. If you use your intelligence, show some flexibility, you will have a vigorous Chinese New Year,” Zhao said, referring to the Year of the Monkey under the Chinese calendar which begins on February 8.

He added: “The same goes to the bilateral relations between China and the Philippines. Despite the challenges and difficulties, our overall relations remained stable and developing in 2015.”

Bilateral ties between the two countries have been strained by their dispute in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea), culminating in the historic case filed by the Philippines against China which was heard by the United Nations-backed arbitral tribunal in The Hague, the Netherlands last year. (READ: Philippines: China to build a ‘Berlin Wall of the Sea'

China wants a bilateral resolution of the row, even as it continued to mark its claim the disputed area. (READ: CLOSE UP PHOTOS: China’s artificial islands in West PH Sea

China has also asserted its right to flights over the South China Sea amid protests by other claimant countries, including Vietnam.

With this backdrop, the Chinese envoy expressed confidence in achieving improved bilateral cooperation with the Philippines.

“The new year marks a new beginning. I sincerely hope and believe that through our joint efforts, we will continue to make new progress and open a new chapter of win-win cooperation,” Zhao said.

No more confusion

The Chinese envoy said the two countries should nurture their 40 years of diplomatic relations through this “win-win cooperation.” 

“As Confucius said: ‘At the age of 40, one should no longer be confused.’ China and the Philippines should not be confused by the current and temporary difficulties,” Zhao said.

“We are close neighbors, we cannot move away from each other. We are partners, we can benefit more if we can use the great potentials for win-win cooperation. We are friends sharing over a thousand years of friendship and amicable exchanges. We do have some differences and disputes, but China is committed to peaceful settlement through dialogue and negotiation with the Philippines,” he added. 

Zhao also said China welcomed the decision of the Philippines to become a founding member of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), China's multilateral development bank.

“We are glad that the Philippines has become a founding member of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. The AIIB offers great opportunities for our cooperation in the sector of infrastructure, it will inject a greater vitality in our current and future bilateral relations,” he said.

The Philippines' entry into the AIIB is seen as Manila's renewed effort to befriend Beijing via “economic diplomacy” despite the South China Sea dispute. (READ: Philippines and China: Rivals at sea, friends in trade?)

Zhao noted that the 40th year of Philippines-China bilateral ties in 2015 was highlighted by the Manila visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping in November for the Asia-Pacific Economic Leaders’ Summit.

He also said that China remains among the Philippines’s top trading partners, with two-way trade reaching $41.46 billion in the first 11 months of 2015, a 2.3% increase over the same period in the previous year.

More than 400,000 Chinese tourists traveled to the Philippines in 2015, he added. –