The Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines, Huang Xilian gave views on Philippine – China Relation, the disputed territories issue, the Pandemic & Related Topics, in his recent interview.

Q. How do you review China’s economic prospects after the pandemic and its impact on China’s Trade Partners as well as China’s Foreign Investment?

Ambassador: Covid-19 has damaged the global economy and trade and presented the toughest financial outlook in decades. According to the IMF’s (International Monetary Fund) latest World Economic Outlook Update, the world economy is on track to contract sharply by 4.9 percent in 2020.

Global trade contracted by close to 3.5 percent in the first quarter, reflecting weak demand, the collapse in cross-border tourism and supply dislocations related to shutdowns, with productivity and supply chains being hit.

Although China still faces challenges from the global spread of the virus, encouraging signs have emerged as the government strives for the right balance between proper Covid-19 containment and sound socioeconomic development.

Factory activities continued to pick up in May with value-added industrial output soaring 4.4 percent year on year; the decline in fixed-asset investment and retail sales narrowed in the first five months; exports in April-May were stronger than expected. It is expected that output in China will recover significantly in the second quarter and for the rest of the year, serving as the biggest engine of global GDP growth.

China attaches great importance to the trade and economic relations with ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), which became China’s largest trading partner this year. According to Chinese statistics, in the first five months of 2020, trade in goods between China and ASEAN topped $242.4 billion, up by 0.9 percent year on year against all odds, with China still being the largest trading partner of the Philippines. China’s investment in ASEAN increased by 11.7 percent on a yearly basis, among which direct investment by China towards the Philippines increased by 82.5 percent.

In order to maintain the momentum of trade and investment, we are currently discussing the establishment of a “fast track” for the movement of people and a “green corridor” for the flow of goods with concerned parties in order to create a more enabling environment, shore up the confidence and energise the trade and investment recovery.

Q. What’s the latest on Belt & Road Initiative (BRI)? How does the Pandemic affect the progress of the BRI?

Ambassador: Thanks to the active participation and strong support of all parties, the Belt & Road Initiative has kept growing in both depth and substance, evolving into the largest platform for International Cooperation with 200 Countries and International Organisations, and playing an ever more important role in promoting development and prosperity around the world.

Despite headwinds like Covid-19 and a sluggish global economy, Belt & Road Cooperation has pressed ahead and entered into a new phase of high quality cooperation. In the first quarter of this year, trade between China and BRI Partners rose by 3.2 percent, and direct investment by China up by 11.7 percent on a yearly basis.

In the Philippines, with the gradual resumption of work and production in an orderly fashion, China-Philippine connectivity building has continued to make headway. All contracted projects have resumed construction, reaching approximately 80 percent capacity as a whole.

The G-to-G (government-to-government) projects such as the two bridges across the Pasig River and the Chico River Pump Irrigation Project are moving forward steadily, the Philippine-Sino Center for Agricultural Technology-Technical Cooperation Program Phase 3 has resumed 90 percent capacity.

BRI has become a key “cargo lifeline” and “bond of solidarity” during the pandemic with cooperation in public health deepened. Aside from sending a medical expert team to the Philippines, China has provided the Philippines with abundant medical supplies.

China has also assisted the Philippines in purchasing large amounts of anti-epidemic supplies and a large amount of medicine. We have also fully supported the private medical sector of the two countries in deepening cooperation benefiting from wider market access, and encouraged the building of a Huoyan (Fire Eye) molecular laboratory in the Philippines using Chinese testing equipment and reagents.

Despite all these challenges posed by Covid-19, several new industries and business models have been engendered in the course of global response to Covid-19, such as virtual offices, online education and telehealth, making digital transformation another emerging area of BRI cooperation. We will strengthen cooperation with BRI partners, including the Philippines and other ASEAN Members, in 5G, big data, artificial intelligence, and cloud computing, and push forward the building of the digital Silk Road as well as green Silk Road to advance sustainable development, realise transformation and upgrading, and enjoy high-quality development all together.

Q. Regarding some misconceptions among Philippine media about China, what are your priorities for the Philippines?

Ambassador: As China’s Ambassador to the Philippines, my priorities are to level up cooperation between good neighbours and join hands with the Philippines to achieve common progress so as to bring tangible benefits to our two peoples and promote sustained peace and prosperity in our region.

Understanding is the precondition for trust, which in turn lays the foundation for cooperation. For China and the Philippines, the overall cooperation is making steady progress. We are building an increasingly practical and inclusive relationship. We have also seen fruitful outcomes in people-to-people exchanges in recent years.

These are highlights in our overall bilateral relations. Good state-to-state relations hinge upon close people-to-people exchanges and heart-to-heart communication. To establish heart-to-heart communication, we need to engage each other, get to know each other and understand each other. China’s voices could hardly be heard in this country.

But the western media alone will not show you the complete picture of China and China-Philippines relations.

Worse still, some of their biases can be misleading. As a result, misinterpretations and misunderstandings still exist. We have to work together to promote better, deeper and more realistic mutual understanding between our two countries, which is in our mutual interests.

Therefore, I hope our media friends could open an objective and balancing window, presenting to the Philippine people a true and complete picture of China so as to enable the Philippine people to better understand China, promote trust and amity between our two countries, see the tangible benefits that the China-Philippines cooperation brings to the peoples, and nurture a favourable atmosphere for the China-Philippines relationship to grow from strength to strength.