China vents fury at Philippines over Taiwan congratulations

Relations sour further as Beijing accuses Manila of interfering in China’s internal affairs.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning gestures during a news conference [File: Ng Han Guan/AP]

China has summoned the Philippine ambassador after Manila congratulated the winner of Taiwan’s presidential election.

China lashed out on Tuesday, a day after Filipino President Ferdinand Marcos sent Taiwanese President-elect Lai Ching-te a note on his victory in the recent vote. The highly undiplomatic comments from Beijing, which warned Manila “not to play with fire,” will likely deepen the tension between the pair, which have been jousting over contesting territorial claims in the South China Sea.

In a social media post on Monday, Marcos told Lai, a staunch opponent of China and its claims to Taiwan, that he looks forward to cooperating.

“The Chinese side is strongly dissatisfied and resolutely opposes” Marcos’s remarks, Beijing’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Mao Ning said, urging Manila to give “a responsible explanation”.

The Philippines’ Foreign Ministry said that Marcos’s remarks were a way of recognising the Philippines and Taiwan’s “mutual interests”, including the 200,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) on the island.

“The message of President Marcos congratulating the new president was his way of thanking them for hosting our OFWs and holding a successful democratic process. Nevertheless, the Philippines reaffirms its One China Policy,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Violation of ‘one China’ principle

However, Mao said the remarks were still a violation of the “one China” principle, a principle that Beijing says provides the basis of its claim to sovereignty over Taiwan.

The Foreign Ministry spokeswoman also said that Marcos’s remarks were “a serious breach of the political commitments made by the Philippines to the Chinese side, and a gross interference in China’s internal affairs.”

“We are telling the Philippine side not to play with fire on the Taiwan issue … and to stop immediately its wrongful words and deeds on Taiwan-related issues and sending wrong signals to separatist forces for Taiwan independence,” she added.

Beijing does not maintain diplomatic ties with countries that recognise Taiwan and opposes official communications with Taipei by other countries.

Independence-leaning Lai secured an easy victory in Taiwan’s presidential election on Saturday. The president-elect has also offered to hold talks with China, but Beijing has snubbed the invitation.

Other leaders that have also congratulated Lai on his victory include US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Japanese Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa.

Recent months have seen Beijing engaged in tense standoffs with the Philippines in the disputed South China Sea.

China has also been ramping up its military activity around Taiwan. China has vowed to seize the island it considers part of its territory by force if necessary.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies