FAST FACTS: Philippines-China presidential visits

Katerina Francisco
FAST FACTS: Philippines-China presidential visits
President Rodrigo Duterte will be the 7th Philippine leader to visit China since diplomatic relations between the two countries were formally established in 1975

MANILA, Philippines – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte begins his 4-day state visit to China, as part of his pivot to forge stronger ties with the Asian superpower.  

Accompanied by a delegation of businessmen, Duterte’s visit is expected to focus on trade and wooing Chinese investments. The visit, however, comes at a time when Duterte moves away from the Philippines’ longtime ally, the United States, and moves closer to China, despite the two countries’ row on disputed South China Sea territories. (READ: Duterte faces Asia’s Goliath: What PH stands to gain or lose in China)

Duterte will be the 7th Philippine president to visit China since diplomatic relations between the two countries were formally established on June 9, 1975.

But prior to this, two Philippine presidents had visited China, according to the Official Gazette. Former president Manuel Quezon made a private visit from December 8 to 15, 1936, and an official visit on January 23, 1937.

Former president Jose P. Laurel also made a stop in China en route to Japan, from June 6 to 9, 1945.

Official visits are undertaken by heads of government at the invitation of a foreign government’s head or high-ranking official. State visits involve more ceremonial activities, and are the highest form of diplomatic interaction between the Philippines and foreign nations.

Beginning 1975, all succeeding Philippine presidents made trips to China, with former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo racking up the most number of visits.

Presidents who visited China since 1935 

Ferdinand Marcos

  • state visit, June 7-11, 1975 

Corazon Aquino

  • official visit, April 14, 1988

Fidel Ramos

  • state visit, April 25 to May 1, 1993 

Joseph Estrada

  • state visit, May 16-20, 2000 

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo

  • APEC Leaders Meeting Summit, October 19-22, 2001
  • state visit, October 29-31, 2001
  • state visit, September 1-3, 2004
  • official visit, October 27-31, 2006
  • Boao Forum for Asia Conference, April 19-21, 2007
  • state visit, June 7-8, 2007
  • working visit – Special Olympics, October 2-3, 2007
  • official visit – Beijing Olympics, August 7-9, 2008
  • working visit, October 23-27, 2008
  • Philippine Day at the Shanghai World Expo, June 8-9, 2010

Benigno Aquino III

  • state visit, August 30-September 3, 2011
  • APEC CEO summit, November 9, 2014
  • APEC Economic Leaders Meeting, November 10-11, 2014

Chinese presidents and premiers who visited the Philippines 

  • Premier Zhao Ziyang: August 6, 1981
  • Premier Li Peng: December 13, 1990
  • President Jiang Zemin: November 23, 1996
  • Premier Zhu Rongji: November 26, 1999
  • President Hu Jintao: April 26-28, 2005
  • Premier Wen Jiabao: January 15-16, 2007 
  • President Xi Jinping: November 17-19, 2015

Bilateral agreements

So far, it is Arroyo who has inked the most number of bilateral agreements with Beijing, according to a 2008 Newsbreak story “Arroyo Gov’t Pleasing China since Day 1.”

  • Ferdinand Marcos: 8 agreements in almost 11 years
  • Corazon Aquino: 3 agreements in 6 years
  • Fidel Ramos: 3 agreements in 6 years
  • Joseph Estrada: 8 agreements in 2 and a half years
  • Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo: 65 agreements in 7 years

But the friendly mood between the two countries soured under the presidency of Benigno Aquino III, when China began getting aggressive in enforcing its expansive claims in the South China Sea. Chinese vessels were seen in disputed waters, encroaching on the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

In 2013, the Philippines brought China to court, becoming the first country to legally challenge China’s claims. (READ: FAST FACTS: South China Sea dispute)

In 2016, under the term of the new president Duterte, the Philippines won a favorable ruling from an international tribunal.

Duterte, however, is breaking away from his predecessor’s more combative stance against China, with his public pronouncements of wanting to forge closer ties with Beijing. –

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