Chinese and Philippine foreign ministers to meet

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi will arrive in the Philippines today for a two-day visit to discuss trade and health

wangyi

Photo: Manman Dejeto/Rappler

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi will arrive in the Philippines today for a two-day visit to discuss trade and health cooperation with his Filipino counterpart, Teodor Locsin.

The visit marks the final leg of a South Asian tour by Yi, with China seeking to strengthen its influence in the region ahead of an imminent policy shift as US President-elect Joe Biden is expected to turn to Southeast Asia to counter China’s growing impact.

Yi’s visit comes amidst efforts by two Chinese pharmaceutical firms, Sinopharm and Sinovac Biotech, to receive emergency approval of their COVID-19 vaccines. The companies have experienced mixed results: although the Seychelles began vaccinating its population using Sinopharm shipments supplied by China, a recent Brazilian study found Sinovac’s vaccine to be only 50.4% effective.

As Yi seeks to shore up Chinese support, expect further investment in Filipino infrastructure projects under China’s Belt and Road Initiative. In return, Filipino approval and Chinese shipments of Sinopharm’s vaccine may arrive sooner than initially anticipated, strengthening another Chinese diplomatic link in the face of a reassertion of U.S. power in the region. Still, Biden’s administration could prove an attractive alternative if Manila’s BRI projects or vaccine orders fall short of popular expectations.

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