Chinese, US ambassadors to PH meet for the first time

Published December 9, 2022, 7:39 PM

by Joseph Pedrajas

The ambassadors of the world’s two superpowers—China and the United States—who are posted in the Philippines held their first-ever one-on-one meeting as the two countries seek to increase their diplomatic ties with the country.

Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian on Friday met with his US counterpart, MaryKay Carlson, in Huang’s workplace.

The two diplomats, in separate social media posts, made almost similar pronouncements in talking about their meeting.

Photo courtesy of US Ambassador to the PH MaryKay Carlson

“Appreciated the call by US Ambassador MaryKay Loss Carlson. We had the opportunity to exchange views on our two countries’ respective relations with the Philippines,” said Huang in a Facebook post.

“Appreciated the opportunity to meet with PRC (People’s Republic of China) Ambassador Huang Xilian to discuss our respective priorities in the Philippines,” said Carlson in a Twitter post.

It is not clear what specific topics the two envoys talked about; but Kanishka Gangopadhyay, the spokesman of the US Embassy in Manila, said “the meeting was the latest in a series of initial courtesy calls Ambassador Carlson has had with other Ambassadors.”

“This is the first time that Ambassador Carlson and Ambassador Xilian have had the chance to meet individually,” Gangopadhyay said.

Huang has been in the Philippines longer than Carlson. The Chinese envoy arrived in Manila in December 2019 while the latter came in July 2022.

But since the assumption to office of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. in July, their respective governments have been developing closer ties with the country.

This came as some world leaders warned of a volatile condition in the Indo-Pacific region, where the two countries have high stakes: US economy mainly depends on the movements in the South China Sea while China is having competing claims against other Asian countries over the waters that it has been reclaiming over the past years.

China and the US have different approach in terms of boosting alliance with the Philippines, which is part of the Indo-Pacific.

China is increasing its agricultural ties with the country—along with infrastructure, energy and people-to-people cooperation—as Marcos is pushing for food and energy security.

Meanwhile, the US has strengthened its military alliance, among others, with the country by identifying more military bases and conducting more joint maritime patrols and exercises as the President vowed to defend the Philippine territory.