Loans, planned railways, arms: What China has done for its ‘friends’

Jodesz Gavilan
Loans, planned railways, arms: What China has done for its ‘friends’
The partnerships and deals China has made with various countries are in line with its economic diplomacy

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte reiterated his commitment to forging a stronger relationship with China during his state visit to the Asian giant from October 18 to 21. 

The Philippine leader’s visit came after years of Manila having strained ties with Beijing, stemming from their maritime dispute over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

But Duterte has made it clear that under him, the country is pivoting to China and veering away from the United States, its longtime ally. While ties with the US will not be completely severed, as Duterte clarified, the Philippines will “chart another way” in terms of foreign policy.

Duterte’s state visit to China resulted in cooperation agreements with the Chinese government, business deals, and pledges for developmental assistance amounting to billions of dollars for the Philippines. (READ: What Duterte accomplished in China)

The Philippines is not the first country to cozy up to China as several countries in recent years have established strong ties with the world’s second largest economy.

In some instances, these relationships with China go hand-in-hand with strained ties with the US.

Rappler lists some of these countries and what they have gotten from China so far.

Pakistan’s ‘best and most trusted friend’ 

STRONG RELATIONSHIP. Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) shakes hands with Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain (L) before their meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on September 2, 2015. File photo by Lintao Zhang/AFP

It has been more than 6 decades since China established formal diplomatic relations with Pakistan.     

Since being one of the first countries to have recognized the People’s Republic of China in the early 1950s, the two countries have maintained “friendly and neighborly relations with “mutually beneficial cooperation.”

In fact, in 2011, then Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani described China as the country’s “best and most trusted friend.” A survey conducted by the Pew Research Center found that in 2015, 82% of Pakistanis had a favorable view of China while only 22% favored the US.  

Economic relations between the two countries are also strong as bilateral trade has reached $18 million (P868 million). Meanwhile, trade volume from 2000 to 2015 grew from $5.7 billion (P275 billion) to $100.11 billion (P5 trillion). China and Pakistan have also signed contracts amounting to $150.8 billion (P7.3 trillion) in the past 15 years. 

Also an evidence of “strong relations” is the construction of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which consists of $46-billion worth of energy and infrastructure projects. (FAST FACTS: China’s Belt and Road initiative)

Pakistan hopes that the CPEC will lead to the end of its chronic energy crisis and “transform” the country into a regional economic hub.

The amount of investments by China in Pakistan is huge compared to the assistance package given by the US to Pakistan over the years. Instead of going directly to the government, Minister Ahsan Iqbal even said in 2015 that most of the funds were given to non-governmental sectors and American companies which is “a problem with assistance that comes through the aid mode.” 

Meanwhile, he added, China’s investments would help Asia grow and make Pakistan an economic hub of the region.

In terms of defense, the two countries have conducted military exercises throughout the years. Pakistan is also China’s top destination of weapons. From 2006 to 2010, Pakistan accounted for 35% of China’s arms exports. 

Pakistan’s alliance with China is unlike its relationship with the US. Their strained ties, according to reports, mainly root from their differences regarding anti-terrorism actions. 

In a recent US congressional hearing, American lawmakers demanded cutting off assistance to Pakistan as a way to persuade its government to act against Afghan Taliban groups. This move has been widely criticized by Pakistanis.

Venezuela’s fading friendship with China?

FADING? Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro (R) and Chinese President Xi Jinping walk after reviewing an honor guard during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on January 7, 2015. File photo by Andy Wong/Pool/AFP

The partnership between China and Venezuela mainly peaked during the presidency of Hugo Chavez from 1999 to 2013. 

Bilateral trade between the two countries reached more than $12 billion (P576 billion) in recent years, from only below $200 million (P9.6 billion) in 1999.

China also helped improve Venezuelan technology as part of “mutual benefits.”

In 2009, the Venezuelan Telecommunications Corporation (VTELCA) was inaugurated. The development and construction of the country’s first cellphone factory was supported by China. 

This was in addition to Venezuela’s first geostationary satellite named Venesat-1 which was also developed through the help of the Asian giant. 

The same year, Venezuela launched a railway company partly owned by China. The venture sought to enhance access to the country’s oil-producing and agricultural areas. However, the target output that is the Tinaco-Anaco Railway, the country’s first bullet train, has yet to be produced.

Oil seems to be one of the highlights of the two countries’ relationship, with China and Venezuela signing deals on oil exports and oil sector development.

However, in recent years, just as Venezuela began to face another oil crisis, experts noted that China was no longer loaning money to its ally. 

Meanwhile, ties between Venezuela and the US have been tense. The US slapped restrictions on aid to the Latin American country as it “failed demonstrably” to fulfill its obligations, specifically under international counter-narcotics agreements. 

‘Head of the dragon’ Greece

HEAD OF THE DRAGON. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (L) shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on July 5, 2016. File photo by Ng Han Guan/Pool/AFP

China is depicted by various reports as the “savior” of Greece, a country suffering from an economic tragedy.

According to The Globalist, China is interested in Greece mainly because it is the “attractive entry point” of Chinese investment in the European Union (EU). 

Greece, meanwhile, has accepted China with open arms. In fact, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras hailed the new partnership during his official visit to Beijing and Shanghai last July.

During the visit, Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang said his country will assist Greece in becoming a “stronger force” inside the EU as they enter the second decade of Sino-Greek comprehensive strategic partnership. 

Perhaps the “biggest” advantage seen by China is Greece’s willingness to sell a majority stake of the Piraeus Port Authority (PPA) to Chinese shipping giant COSCO.

Acquisition of this major port, considered as the biggest in the Mediterranean according to the Foundation for Economic and Industrial Research, will add €1.5 billion (P78.9 billion) to the Greek economy until 2052 and help create more than 100,000 jobs.

China also sees Greece as the “head of the dragon in Sino-EU cooperation.

Will the Philippines experience the ups and downs of partnering with China in the near future? –

$1 = P48

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Jodesz Gavilan

Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.