Vice-Foreign Minister Fu Ying will arrive in Manila today for talks on the territorial dispute over Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea, amid rising tension between Beijing and Tokyo over another dispute in the East China Sea.
The high-level dialogue between Beijing and Manila over the shoal - known in China as Huangyan Island - comes after Beijing expressed its intention to ease tensions. Philippine President Benigno Aquino said he had high hopes China's new leaders, who would take over next month, would improve bilateral ties.
Analysts said Fu's visit and Aquino's positive remark suggested some progress had been made in cooling down tensions.
"There must have been some consensus and progress reached between the lower-level diplomats before such high-level talks were arranged," said Professor Zhang Mingliang , an expert on South China Sea affairs at Jinan University.
Professor Fan Hongwei , an expert on Southeast Asian affairs at Xiamen University, said the talks, coming amid rising tension between Beijing and Tokyo over the Diaoyu Islands - known as the Senkakus in Japan - "suggested that both China and the Philippines want to avoid a similar stand-off".
"Both Beijing and the Philippines, and also other nations in the region with territorial disputes, don't want the disputes to spark bigger conflicts because they are closely observing the Diaoyus row," Fan said.
Fu, a former Chinese ambassador to Manila, will arrive in the Philippine capital today for the 18th Foreign Ministry Consultations, the Philippines' Department of Foreign Affairs said.
Tensions over Beijing and Manila's competing claims to parts of the South China Sea escalated in April when Chinese maritime surveillance vessels arrived in the disputed waters near Luzon to protect Chinese fishermen in the area.
Various disputes in the South China Sea also involve Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei.