By Melo Acuña

British author Martin Jacques MELO ACUÑA

British author Martin Jacques said relations between the Philippines and China greatly improved under President Rodrigo Duterte, and would be to the former’s advantage.

In an interview, the 73-year-old author of the best-selling “When China Rules the World” said most Asean countries were pro-active in dealing with China, recognizing the country of 1.3 billion as an economic power.

“The Philippines was dragging its feet in its dealings with China during the time of then President Aquino thereby making its growth rate mediocre,” he said after his lecture sponsored by the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines at Sofitel Philippine Plaza Hotel. 

He said the Philippines was used as proxy for the United States on issues affecting the region.

Asked why most Filipinos doubt China’s sincerity in its dealings with the Philippines, Jacques said he was aware of the people’s attachment to the United States for historical and cultural reasons, and given over four million Filipino Americans, who send the biggest share of foreign remittances to the Philippines. 

However, other Asean countries have moved closer to China and while Singapore was known to have been pro-American, it was becoming more neutral, he said.

China, he noted, has become a significant trade partner of the Philippines and major source of tourist arrivals.

“The relations between Asean and China have been troubled by issues about the South China Sea and the formulation of the Code of Conduct would help,” he said. 

Jacques said Washington was behind the push for freedom of navigation and overflight over the South China Sea.

China however will not restrict the movement of cargo within the South China Sea as it is dependent on the sea lanes for fuel requirements from the Middle East, he said.

“What is the US Seventh Fleet doing in the South China Sea anyway,” Jacques said.

In his presentation before miners, Jacques said that in 2013, China only had 2 companies in the top 20 Internet users. In 2018, while the United States had 11, China already had nine companies including Alibaba, Tencent, Ant Financial, Baidu, and Xiaomi.

China’s Belt and Road Initiative has already made its mark in a number of Asian, Central Asian, South Asian, African and European nations, he also said.