Monday, May 28, 2018

Ties that bind Philippines, China

Lilian Mellejor,

Image from article, with caption: Wu Jiewei, the Deputy Dean, School of Foreign Languages and a professor of Peking University lectures on the New Opportunities and Challenges in the People-to-People Exchanges between China and the Philippines at the 2018 Seminar for Information Officers and Journalists from the Philippines in Beijing, China

BEIJING -- If porcelain and silk were historically known as the major products for barter trading between the Philippines and China, the sweet potato or “kamote” to Filipinos is the unknown crop that also binds the two countries.

This was revealed on Sunday, May 27, by Wu Jiewei, the Deputy Dean of the School of Foreign Languages and professor of the Southeast Asian Cultural Studies Department of Peking University during the 2018 Seminar for Information Officers and Journalists from the Philippines at the Xijiao Hotel here.

Wu, who conducted extensive research on the ties that bind China and the Philippines, said kamote along with tobacco were introduced into China during the galleon trade between the East and West coasts of the Pacific from Manila to Acapulco, Mexico in the 16th century.

The introduction of kamote came in late 1500 to Fujian province by an overseas Chinese from Changle, Fujian province who was trading in Luzon. He discovered that the local kamote was drought-tolerant, high-yield and typhoon-resistant.

Wu explained that kamote had a big impact on China because it fed a lot of people at the time when the Ming Dynasty experienced abnormal weather conditions and famine due to food shortage. People relied on kamote to satisfy their hunger, and since then, Wu said, kamote was cultivated across China as a major crop.

Besides kamote, Wu said during the galleon trade era, the silver dollars brought into China through the Philippines were about 200 million pesos.

A large amount of silver dollar input was beneficial to the Chinese social and economic development, he said.

“The long-standing and well-established friendly exchange between China and Philippines generates huge influence on the economic and cultural development of both countries,” Wu said.

During his visits to the Philippines to conduct research, Wu said there had been proof that China and the Philippines first built their relationship through trading.

He said the Chinese merchants participated in two kinds of markets: the traditional area market, providing merchandise to Luzon’s indigenous peoples; and the contemporary world market, which was to provide merchandise to the Spanish who transported and sold them to the American and European markets.

“The trade volume of the latter (contemporary world market) was huge. Hence Luzon and its surrounding islands became a significant part of the world market,” he added.

Progress in relations

Based on his research, Wu said the China-Philippines friendly exchanges achieved a big development after the Ming Dynasty.

He cited the progress in the social economy, particularly the improvement in quality and output of raw silk and silk fabrics that earned a high reputation abroad.

He said this provided better conditions for Sino-Philippine trade. Wu also underscored the start of the maritime prohibition in 1567 that legalized the smuggling trade and the port which pushed the development of the Sino-Philippine trade.

Wu also cited the galleon trade operated by the Spanish colonizers who came to the Philippines.

China was used by the colonizers as the link to trade products from the Philippines to Mexico and Latin America.

As a result, many activities took place to strengthen China-Philippine relations such as the people-to-people exchanges.

Wu said these activities included the construction of the Chinese Garden in Luneta, medical help, cultural exchanges, visits of state officials, sports, tourism, and education, among others.


Amid the row on the South China Sea or the West Philippine Sea, Wu was optimistic that China-Philippines relations would still gain more ground through people-to-people exchanges.

This could be done through the Sino-Filipino youth exchange visit camp; increased scholarship quota by the Chinese government for the short-term projects, which are newly added for Filipino youth students; establishing the “Sino-Philippine Friendship Contribution Award” as an effective way for combining government diplomacy and public diplomacy [JB emphasis]; enhancing the communication with the mainstream media of Philippines; and improving the mutual understanding of both countries in various forms.

Wu underscored the importance of solving high concerns and problems quietly through diplomatic channels. “In this way, in addition to the disputes, the bilateral economic and trade cooperation, non-governmental exchanges, and other aspects of information can also be accessible to the public,” he said. (PNA)

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