"Our giant neighbor has coped with tremendous challenges before."
Some 1.6-million Chinese tourists have visited the Philippines in 2019. Another one-million Chinese are in the country as POGO (Philippine offshore gaming operation) players or gamblers. Their presence artificially jacked the prices up of condos, houses, and real estate in districts where POGOs thrive—Pasay, Makati, Mandaluyong, Quezon City, and Taguig.
In 2019, China registered its lowest economic growth in 27 years—a paltry 5.8 percent; 6 percent at best. The World Bank, however, thinks Chinese GDP will grow by 6.1 percent in 2019.
The Philippines is also expected to grow its 2019 GDP (output of goods and services for the year) by 5.8 percent; 6 percent at best. The PH GDP growth will be the lowest in 10 years, since the 1.1 percent of 2009.
2019 was a milestone year, a year of celebration. Of course, what would have been a glorious year was marred by three things: One, the devastating Typhoon “Lekima” (“Hanna” in the Philippines) on Aug. 4, 2019 which killed 55 people and caused $9.26 billion in damage; two, the Hong Kong protests that began on June 9, are still continuing with even greater vigor and already have caused an unheard of recession; and three, the trade war with the United States which threatens an already modest global growth.
China has coped with even more tremendous challenges before, so there is no question Beijing can grapple, successfully, with these three modes of defiance—defiance by nature, defiance by Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters, and defiance by America.
“In recent months, our hearts have been concerned about the situation in Hong Kong,” conceded President Xi, stressing, “Hong Kong's prosperity and stability is the wish of Hong Kong compatriots and the expectation of people of our motherland.”
In 2019, China made history. It marked 20 years of Macao’s return to the motherland (proving the success of “One Country, Two Systems”), 40 years after Deng Xiaping opened up China to the world, 40 years after Beijing established relations with the United States, and 70 years since the founding of the People’s Republic of China under communist rule. It was a year to tout past and present achievements, stir up nationalist and patriotic sentiment, rally the people to a common cause and a shared vision, and to tell the world that the Age of China has finally arrived. At the same time, President Xi has been able to build a cult following around himself, someone better and greater than Mao himself. Xi has become the most powerful leader China has ever had.
In the West Philippine Sea, China has asserted its dominance and its claim that it owns more than 90 percent of the 3.5-million sq.km. of waters vital to up to 40 percent or at least $3 trillion of world trade. The sea is rich with fisheries and is believed to contain huge reserves of oil, gas, and minerals.
In July 2016, the Philippines won a unanimous arbitral award from the Permanent Court of Arbitration which concluded that there was "no legal basis for China to claim historic rights over the nine-dash line.” The tribunal also criticized China's land reclamation projects and its construction of artificial islands in the Spratly Islands, saying that it had caused "severe harm to the coral reef environment." It also characterized Taiping Island and other features of the Spratly Islands as "rocks" under UNCLOS, and therefore are not entitled to a 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone. China, however, rejected the ruling, calling it "ill-founded."
In his New Year message, President Xi recited China’s achievements in 2019.
• China is on track to eradicate poverty by this year. In 1990, 750-million Chinese were earning daily less than $2 (in purchasing power parity), the threshold of extreme poverty. In 2017, the number of Chinese poor had fallen to just 700,000. In 2019 alone, President Xi said, 10-million people were lifted out of poverty in 340 impoverished counties.
• In 2019, Chinese GDP exceeded 100 trillion yuan (US$14.365 trillion), enabling China to have a yearly per capita income of $10,000, 200x the 1949 $50 per capita income. Chinese life expectancy has more than doubled, from 36 years in 1949 to 76 today.
• On Oct. 1, 2019, marking its 70th anniversary, China displayed its military prowess and hardware—intercontinental ballistic missiles, hypersonic weapons and stealth drones.
“The armed forces have taken on a new look of a strong army in the new era. We held a grand military parade on National Day, celebrated the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the Navy and the Air Force, and also hosted the 7th Military World Games,” said President Xi.
• In December 2019, China launched its first locally made aircraft carrier.
•Technological breakthroughs: Says President Xi: “Our lunar probe Chang'e-4, for the first time in human history, landed on the far side of the moon; the Long March-5 Y3 rocket was successfully launched; the Xuelong 2 icebreaker set sail on its maiden voyage to the Antarctic; the construction of the global network of the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System is sprinting towards the finish line; the commercial application of 5G technology is accelerating; the Beijing Daxing International Airport ‘phoenix spread its wings’… all these achievements are the result of the efforts and sweat of those who strive in the new era, and they demonstrate extraordinary Chinese splendor and Chinese strength.”
In 2018, half of global patents were filed by China.
• In the year of 2019, China continued to open its arms wide to embrace the world. We hosted the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, the Beijing International Horticultural Exhibition, the Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations, and the second China International Import Expo, showcasing a civilized, open and inclusive China to the rest of the world.”
• China now has diplomatic ties with 180 countries. “We have friends in every corner of the world,” said Xi.
In 2020, Xi vowed to “finish building a moderately prosperous society in all respects and realize the first centenary goal. 2020 will also be a year of decisive victory for the elimination of poverty.”