Wang Qishan calls for ‘strategic’ relations with Manila in diplomatic debut
China’s new vice-president meets Philippine foreign secretary in Beijing
Xi Jinping’s trusted ally Wang Qishan made his diplomatic debut as vice-president on Friday, calling for a “strategic” approach to relations during a meeting with Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano in Beijing.
It was his first meeting with a foreign dignitary since he returned to the political spotlight during China’s annual legislative sessions that finished on Tuesday. Lawmakers endorsed him as vice-president during the meetings, and controversially revised the constitution to remove term limits on the presidency and vice-presidency.
Wang’s meeting with Cateyano confirmed a South China Morning Post report that Wang, who is known for his “firefighting” skills and ability to handle tough tasks, will take charge of foreign relations.
The 69-year-old former anti-graft tsar stepped down from the powerful Politburo Standing Committee in October, in line with the Communist Party’s unwritten rule on the retirement age.
Analysts have said Wang was likely to play an important role in diplomacy, a departure from the usually ceremonial role of Chinese vice-presidents in the past.
Meeting the top Philippine diplomat on Friday, Wang said China saw the country as a good neighbour, and that the two sides should view their relations from a “strategic and long-term perspective”.
“We should comprehensively implement the consensus of our two countries’ presidents, step up communication between our senior officials, deepen our pragmatic cooperation, deal with our disagreements appropriately to enhance our friendship, and build a closer China-Asean community
with a common destiny,” Wang was quoted as saying by state broadcaster CCTV.
The Philippines won a landmark case against China in 2016, when an international tribunal invalidated Beijing’s claim to sovereignty over most of the South China Sea.
But Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has since set aside the long-standing dispute and has instead been courting Beijing in exchange for billions of dollars in trade and investment.
Wang’s return to the top hierarchy comes as Beijing looks to shift gear on diplomacy to cope with a more hawkish US administration under President Donald Trump and also as Beijing is becoming more assertive.