Beijing envoy urges positive ties with Manila despite South China Sea tensions

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 July, 2014, 6:42pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 July, 2014, 2:42am


China's ambassador to the Philippines says economic ties between the two countries are at disappointing levels and both must work to advance their common prosperity.

Southeast Asian nations including the Philippines and Vietnam are embroiled in territorial rows with China over the South China Sea.

Beijing claims most of its waters, including some of the world's busiest shipping lanes, as an integral part of China.

Relations between China and Japan have also been strained by disputed islands in the East China Sea.

Ambassador Zhao Jianhua did not refer to the territorial dispute, but called the share of Chinese investment in the Philippines as "disappointing", with Philippine companies investing more in China than the other way around.

He told a business audience that the Philippines gets only 1.4 per cent of China's outbound direct investment to 10 Southeast Asian countries.

"It is imperative and essential that the two countries focus on things that can unite us, focus on things that can promote common prosperity," he said in a speech to the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Zhao also said that 426,000 tourists from China visited the country last year, a 70 per cent increase on a year earlier, "despite the difficulties we're having".

But he compared that with four million Chinese tourists who go to Malaysia yearly and three million to Thailand. If the country can attract one million or two million Chinese tourists, it would be a huge boost to the local tourism industry, he said.

Mainland China is the Philippines' third-largest trading partner, with two-way trade of US$14.62 billion last year.