Friday, April 12, 2024 | 14:48 WIB

What Does Marcos’ Visit to China Mean for the ASEAN Region?

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Jakarta, IO – A foreign policy that is adaptable is pragmatic and is guided by the fundamental principle of international politics: “There are no permanent friends or permanent foes, but only permanent interests.” ASEAN countries are reevaluating the direction and tactics of their foreign policy in light of the Ukrainian crisis and global financial crisis evoked by the pandemic and Ukraine tragedy. Against such a backdrop, President of the Republic of the Philippines Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos Jr. paid a recent three-day state visit to China at the request of Chinese President Xi Jinping. As president, Marcos was making his first trip to China, as well as his first official trip outside of the ASEAN. As a result of his father’s rehabilitation of bilateral ties with China, Marcos Jr. is renowned for bringing up his family’s history with Beijing. Marcos was also the first head of state from a foreign country to be hosted by China in 2023. It is clear that China and the Philippines place a high value on bilateral ties. Most importantly, recent Western public opinion-driven “tension” between China and the Philippines imploded on itself. 

This visit illustrates two ideas. As the spirit of friendship and engine driving the growth of bilateral ties, China and the Philippines will first continue to promote their mutually advantageous and win-win cooperation. Second, differences in the South China Sea will be managed and regulated in order to avoid them from impeding practical cooperation or igniting a crisis that could threaten the region’s peace and stability. 

However, President Marcos’s visit has profound geo-political implications for the ASEAN members as their current geopolitical environment is not immediately affected by the war, its strategic condition is. The Philippines has historically employed a flexible foreign policy, as have the other founding nations of ASEAN, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand. Even amid the ongoing geo-political crisis, Southeast Asian nations prefer to avoid the China-U.S. rivalry and avoid taking a side in the conflict between the two superpowers. The fact that Marcos Jr. visited the two nations showed how much he preferred to conduct foreign policy the “ASEAN way.” However, it is unclear to what extent the ASEAN government can adapt its foreign policy when national interests are at stake. 

Revisiting China-Philippines Relations 

In order to strengthen diplomatic ties between China and the Philippines, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.’s first state visit to China from January 4 to 5 was a “very significant” step. Since the signing of a Joint Communiqué between Marcos Sr. and the late Premier Zhou Enlai in June 1975, bilateral relations between the two countries have improved. President Marcos Jr. is making his first state visit in 2023. Additionally, it improves ties between the Philippines and China. Because it celebrates the ongoing cooperation between the two countries since President Marcos Sr. established formal diplomatic ties with China in 1975. During their meeting, over ten significant bilateral agreements between the two nations were signed. 

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