PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte heads to China next week seeking billions of dollars in investments and buckets of respect, as he pivots angrily away from traditional ally the United States.
Chinese President Xi Jinping is set to give Duterte a warm welcome, after the latter threatened to end a decades-long alliance with the United States and gave Beijing a timely boost in its quest for more control over the strategically vital South China Sea.
Duterte, 71, has said he is trying to wean the Philippines off an unhealthy reliance on its former colonial ruler, although he has signaled the shift is also due to his outrage at US criticism of his deadly war on crime. He is bringing along a delegation of hundreds of businessmen, including many of the Philippines’ most powerful tycoons, in a bid to capitalize on the warming of relations that have taken place due to his efforts to placate Beijing on the South China Sea row.
China claims nearly all of the strategically vital sea, even waters approaching the Philippines and other Southeast Asian nations, and has in recent years built artificial islands in the disputed areas that are capable of hosting military bases.
Duterte has also signalled he wants to go to Beijing to enjoy some respect, following relentless criticism from the West about alleged extrajudicial killings in his war on crime.
“Eventually I might, in my term, break up with America. I would rather go to Russia or to China. Even if we do not agree with their ideology, they have respect for the people. Respect is important,” Duterte said this month.
He also said he hoped to visit Russia soon after China.