The millions of chinese citizens have a limited awareness of its nearest tropical neighbor.
Chinese President Xi Jin Ping`s visit to Manila only increases this awareness among chinese tourists and entrepreneurs.
Already, tour operators are looking at Philippine destinations. The near million Chinese tourists in 2017 is expected to rise significantly, boosting foreign tourist arrivals. The challenge is to spread them to areas other than popular destinations.
In turn, the 29 or so agreements signed between the Philippines government and the Chinese government provide the potential for larger cooperation snd investment. Whether they bear fruit or not is up to us.
The irritants, however, are those who want to conflate this relationship with a cultural prejudice against the Chinese or who want to blame the current government for perceived loss of areas in our exclusive economic zone to Chinese authority. The truth is that these areas were taken over by the Chinese due to missteps by the previous government.
A barrier against a neighbor and a lackey of the west we should not be. Likewise, a border dispute should not define our relationship with our neighbors. China is a neighbor with which we have border issues, in the same manner we have disputes with Malaysia over Sabah, and or Taiwan over certain islands. Do we treat Malaysia and Taiwan with the same prejudice?
There are speculations that anti Chinese hysteria is fanned by those who want the Philippines to remain within US foreign policy influence and serve as a barrier against perceived Chinese expansionism. This former pro American perspective is a trait about the Philippines which our ASEAN neighbors do not agree with and are glad we have thrown out.
What these irritants do not understand is that our relationships with many other countries have broadened as a result of a more pragmatic foreign policy.
What this visit shows us is that for the first time we have an independent foreign policy, to deal with our neighbors on our own terms, not the West`s.