Things to expect from Marcos Jr.'s China visit: 'Durian diplomacy,' talks on WPS, others | Global News

Things to expect from Marcos Jr.’s China visit: ‘Durian diplomacy,’ talks on WPS, others

By: - Reporter / @BPinlacINQ
/ 05:19 PM December 29, 2022
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is set to fly to China for a state visit from January 3 to 5, 2023, his first in a non-Asean country since assuming office in June. 

President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. met with Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian | FILE PHOTO: President Marcos’ official facebook page

MANILA, Philippines – President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is set to fly to China for a state visit from January 3 to 5, 2023, his first in a non-Asean country since assuming office in June.


It was in November when Malacañang announced that Marcos had accepted Chinese President Xi Jinping’s invitation to visit China early next year despite the Philippines’ ongoing territorial dispute with the Asian giant over the West Philippine Sea.

READ: Marcos Jr. accepts Xi’s invite to visit China 


Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Assistant Secretary Nathaniel Imperial, in a press briefing at the Malacañang on Thursday, said “there is an expectation that the state visit will set the tone of bilateral relations between the two countries in the next five to six years.”

Marcos will be flying out to Beijing early afternoon of Jan. 3 and will be accompanied by First Lady Liza Marcos, former President and House Senior Deputy Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, House Speaker Martin Romualdez, Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo, Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno, Trade and Industry Secretary Alfredo Pascual, Tourism Christina Frasco, Information and Communications Technology Secretary Ivan Uy and “other Cabinet secretaries whose presence may be needed to sign bilateral agreements with their Chinese counterparts.”

Meeting leaders, sealing deals

On Jan. 4 – his first full day in China – Marcos has meetings lined up with Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress Li Zhanshu, Chinese premier Li Keqiang and finally, his Chinese counterpart – President Xi.

Xi, according to Imperial, will be hosting a dinner banquet for the Philippine delegation after his meeting with Marcos.


“The state visit is expected to reaffirm the cordial and neighborly relations between the two countries, ensure continuity in many facets of the bilateral relationships and chart new areas of engagement. It is also expected to build on the growing trade and investment ties between the two economies, as well address security issues of mutual concern,” Imperial said.

He also noted that 10 to 14 bilateral agreements are expected to be sealed by the Philippine delegation during the state visit.

“These agreements represent cooperation in a broad range of areas, which include trade and investments, agriculture, renewable energy, infrastructure, development cooperation, people-to-people ties and maritime security cooperations,” he noted.


Imperial stressed that “China is a very important economic partner of the Philippines, so one of the main focuses of this visit is to really foster stronger economic cooperation.”

“We don’t want to preempt the news about the total investment pledges, but there is a very strong expectation. There’s great interest from Chinese investors in the Philippine economy, especially in Philippine agriculture, renewable energy and nickel processing,” he added.

Aside from these, the Philippine delegation is also expected to pursue a memorandum of understanding with China on digital cooperation and an bilateral agreement on tourism cooperation during the state visit.


Among other points in the agenda of the Philippine delegation in China are securing possible grants, establishing a framework agreement for three priority bridge construction projects and renewing the Philippines’ participation in the Belt and Road Initiative of China, which Imperial said, “complements the infrastructure program of the administration.”

‘Durian diplomacy’

“We expect an agreement on the importation of durian to be finalized,” Imperial said. “The Chinese market has a voracious appetite for durian, so we expect a lot of interest for our durian exports and also possible investments in the durian-producing regions in Mindanao.”

He then said in jest: “So you can call that a form of durian diplomacy, I guess.”

Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian previously said that his country, the biggest importer of the pungent fruit, imported 822,000 tons of durian worth $4.21 billion in 2021. This was 82.4 percent higher than the previous year’s volume.

The total shipment of durian in the Chinese market rose by another 60 percent in the first half of 2022, he added.

READ: Smell of success: PH durian soon exported to China 

West Philippine Sea

Marcos’ upcoming trip to China is against the backdrop of the Philippines’ maritime issues with the Asian giant over the West Philippine Sea.

And although Imperial did not reveal specific details of Marcos’ talking points on the West Philippine Sea, so as not to “preempt or second guess what the President will say,” he said that this was among “important issues affecting our bilateral relations” which Marcos intends to raise in his meeting with Xi.

“In his meetings with Chinese leaders, including President Xi, the President will discuss the full range of our bilateral relations – both the positive aspects of it and the sensitive aspects of our relations, which includes the issue of the West Philippine Sea and China’s activities in the area,” Imperial said.

He then parroted Marcos’ belief that “maritime issues do not define the totality of our bilateral relations with China.”

“But nevertheless, he acknowledges the importance of this issue to our interests and to the Filipino people. So we expect that this issue will be discussed in the President’s meetings with Chinese leaders,” Imperial added.

According to the DFA official, Foreign Affairs Secretary Manalo and his Chinese counterpart Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi are expected to ink an agreement to establish a direct line of communication between both nations “to avoid miscalculation and miscommunication in the West Philippine Sea.”

READ: PH, China seen to establish direct line ‘to avoid miscommunication’ on WPS issues  

No meeting with Filipino community

Since China is currently burdened by a fresh surge of COVID-19 cases, Imperial said Marcos will not be meeting with the Filipino community in the country, which has become a practice of the President in his previous state visits.

READ: China’s cities battle first wave of COVID-19 surge as wider spread looms 

“There will be no meeting between the President and the Filipino community, unfortunately, because of the situation there. It’s too bad, but we have to follow the COVID protocols in China, so there cannot be any big gatherings, which is usually what the President does when he goes overseas, he meets the Filipino community in big gatherings,” he said.

Imperial also noted that precautionary measures are already being undertaken “to ensure that the delegation is not infected and does not bring back to the Philippines the new variants of the virus.”

“We have received assurances from our Chinese host that all arrangements are being made to ensure the safety of the President and his delegation during the visit. A bubble arrangement has been agreed for the Philippine delegation to minimize the risk of exposure to the virus. May mga pagbisita talaga na hindi natin pwedeng i-postpone (There are visits that really cannot be postponed),” he said.

READ: Marcos’ China state visit to push through despite new COVID-19 surge 

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