‘Communication is always better than conflict’

City University of Hong Kong research assistant Xuejun Liu presents her study on the Philippine-China subnational relations at the UST St. Raymund de Peñafort building on July 3. Photo by Trisha Tamio /THE FLAME

Strengthening communication to mitigate tensions is better than starting a conflict, a researcher said, as the Philippines and China continue to be embroiled in a longstanding maritime row over the West Philippine Sea.

City University of Hong Kong research assistant Xuejun Liu said countries should uphold mutual trust through people-to-people relationships instead of state-to-state relations as conflicts could only be resolved if citizens understand their individual identities and beliefs.

“Nowadays, disputes are not new; they [have existed] for a long time. And so, what we can do is just to have a good solution to deal with them, make time [and] have some cooperation,” Liu said during a presentation of her study on the Philippine-China subnational government relations on Wednesday, July 3.

Quoting one of the interviewees for her research, Liu said “communication is always better than conflicts” in terms of the role of the Philippine and Chinese governments.

The role has been “underestimated” and overpowered by their maritime dispute for several years, she added.

China has been at odds with various Asia-Pacific countries, including the Philippines, over maritime claims in the South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea. Its coast guard has repeatedly used water cannons and has resorted to dangerous maneuvers to block Philippine resupply missions in the area.

Last month, a Filipino sailor lost a finger after the Chinese coast guard rammed into a vessel that was about to deliver supplies to Philippine Navy troops at the Ayungin Shoal.  President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. has described China’s actions as “illegal” and “deliberate.”

“If the bilateral relations on the national level are better than some other channels to mitigate such [a] tension, although it’s hard, I think the local governments may have such [an action] to do this,” Liu said.

According to Liu’s study, the Philippines and China have forged multiple partnership agreements, equivalent to a total of 38 sister cities across the provincial, municipal and city levels as of 2020.

However, the researcher noted that while the Philippines has greater autonomy than China, it lacks a local-level global foreign affairs office to deal with matters on systematic relationships and destabilization. In contrast, China has a “comprehensive” institutionalized policy on establishing solutions for such issues, she added.

“Although there are 38 sister-city relations today between China and the Philippines, at least two-thirds of them are just on paper. They [are] just signed—the mayors just signed the agreement and that’s it. Nothing happened, it’s a big problem actually,” Liu said.

Aside from forming partnerships, Far Eastern University Institute of Arts and Sciences Associate Dean Francis Esteban said citizens must also take up distinctive roles in easing the tension between the conflicting countries. 

“[U]nderstanding how we as individual actors perceive our understanding of Chinese people should be different from understanding them as a state… Of course, they have their identities and beliefs as well,” he said.

The lecture titled “China’s Subnational Government Relations: Theoretical Development and Empirical Practice” was held at the UST St. Raymund de Peñafort building on July 3.

The UST Department of Political Science organized the event with the Philippine Association for Chinese Studies, an association of scholars that aims to promote cooperation between the Philippines and China. F – Rachelle Anne Mirasol 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Related Posts

Contact Us