China’s new envoy to the Philippines sounded an upbeat note about Beijing’s ties with Manila, saying the past few years under the Duterte administration ushered a “fresh Golden Age” for the two Asian neighbors.
“The best is yet to come,” said Huang Xilian in his remarks upon his arrival in Manila a few minutes after midnight on Tuesday.
Huang, a seasoned career diplomat and an expert on Asian affairs, replaced Zhao Jianhua, who ended his tour of duty in October after five years as Beijing’s top diplomat to Manila.
Born in the southeastern Chinese province of Fujian, Huang is fluent in Fookien – the local language of Filipino-Chinese in the country.
“It is a great honor to be designated as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the People’s Republic of China to the Republic of the Philippines. I feel back at home the moment I set foot in the Philippines,” the 52-year-old diplomat said.
Huang is said to be close to Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and is considered as one of his trusted diplomats.
“Since I was a little child, my families have kept telling me that the Philippines which faces China across the sea is our relative with close kinship and cultural bond,” he said. “Therefore, the natural affinity with the Philippines has grown in my heart.”
Huang’s appointment came amid improving relations between the Philippines and China after years of animosity and tensions due to competing claims in the resource-rich South China Sea.
Unlike former President Benigno Aquino III, who initiated a successful international arbitration case that denigrated China’s massive sea claim in 2016, Duterte sought friendly ties with Beijing in exchange for economic assistance, and normalization of ties, trade and investments.
While the Philippines and China boasted of good overall relations under the Duterte administration, tensions have lingered in the South China Sea due their overlapping claims and Beijing’s aggressive move to assert control over the resource-rich waters.
China has been reported to have restricted the movement of Philippine military and civilian vessels and has challenged Filipino air force planes conducting flights over areas in the waters that are within Philippine territory.
The South China Sea is home to a cluster of islands, reef, shoals and coral outcrops that straddles one of the world’s vital sealanes. It is also claimed parts or in whole by Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei and Taiwan.
Despite some irritants, Huang said the good relations between the two countries in recent years have been generating “more and more tangible benefits for the people, and brought about a closer China-Philippines community of shared future.”
“Good neighbors are a blessing. China and the Philippines enjoy a time honored friendship deeply rooted among the two peoples,” he said.
“Under the leadership of President Xi Jinping and President (Rodrigo) Duterte, China-Philippines relations have gone through a trilogy of turn-around, consolidation and elevation in the past three years, ushering in a fresh Golden Age for the two countries.”
Huang called the Philippines an “important partner” of China in jointly building its massive global infrastructure, called the Belt and Road initiative.
China, he pointed out, is also the Philippines’ top trading partner, the largest source of import, the third largest export market and the second largest tourist origin.
Huang likewise lauded the Philippines for making “impressive achievement” at various areas under Duterte’s leadership as the Philippines “sustains its strong growth momentum, with substantial headway made in the domestic peace and reconciliation process.”
“Filipinos are now more satisfied with their better-off lives,” he said. “Truly delighted for the Philippines’
accomplishment, I have every reason to believe and expect that the country will achieve greater strength and prosperity in the coming years and decades.”
Huang’s previous diplomatic assignments included Indonesia, where he served as China’s Permanent Representative to the Association of South East Asian Nations before his Manila posting, the United States, India, Pakistan and Brunei.
At the Home Office in Bejing, Huang served as a senior official at the Department of Asian Affairs from 2012 to 2018.
He received his Bachelor of Arts degree on Foreign Studies at Beijing University and a Master’s degree with distinction at the University of Manchester, United Kingdom. — BAP, GMA News