No speeches, toasts; only good food, wine, music in state banquet at golden hall

CHINESE TREAT Some of the food served during the state banquet are shown in this photo lifted from the Facebook page of Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez.
CHINESE TREAT Some of the food served during the state banquet are shown in this photo lifted from the Facebook page of Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez.

BEIJING—Chinese President Xi Jinping sure knows how to entertain his guests.

At the state banquet he threw on Thursday for visiting President Duterte and his large delegation, there were no speeches, no toasts—just good food, wine and music, including such meaningful melodies like “Missing You” and “Spring Breeze.”

The banquet, with around a hundred guests, mostly top-level officials and businessmen from the Philippines, was held at the Golden Hall of the Great Hall of the People on the western edge of Tiananmen Square in Beijing.

Wined and dined

The tables and chairs were all clad in red, standing out against the golden pillars and chandeliers of the Golden Hall.

Xi served Mr. Duterte and his entourage minced chicken and bean curd soup, braised seafood with scallion, shrimp with banana, greens with termite mushroom and salt-baked codfish.

They washed all that down with wine produced in Shandong by Chateau Changyu, China’s oldest and largest wine maker. Chosen for the occasion were Changyu 2011 red and white.

For dessert, the guests had a mix of pastries, fruits and ice cream.

It was at the banquet that Mr. Duterte got to meet Chinese professional basketball player Yao Ming, who played in the NBA from 2002 to 2011.

As the guests dined, they were serenaded by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) band, which played 10 titles from a carefully curated mix of Chinese and Filipino music.

First to be played was the upbeat “Rising Higher Step by Step” from China, celebrating the Asian giant’s rise as an economic and military power in Asia.

Fraught with danger

Next came “Tinikling” from the Philippines, perhaps to remind the Filipinos, as they engage the Chinese, of the lines from Sylvia La Torre’s 1950s eponymous song: “At sa tinikling na tigib ng panganib/Ang hindi maingat iya’y naiipit.”

Roughly translated, the lines mean there’s danger between tinikling’s clashing bamboo poles. If you’re not careful, you could break your legs.

President Duterte is aligning himself with China, which has interests in the South China Sea that clash with those of the United States. Get it?

‘Springtime’ in relations

In opening remarks to his talks with Xi earlier on Thursday, Mr. Duterte spoke about a “springtime” in relations between the Philippines and China—referring to a thaw after a tussle over territory in the South China Sea put Filipino-Chinese friendship on ice.

A UN-backed arbitral court in The Hague ruled in July in favor of the Philippines in the dispute, but Mr. Duterte preferred not to mention it during his talks with Xi.

Instead, both leaders agreed to bilateral talks to settle the dispute.

And with that, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin could tell reporters, “Bilateral relations have fully recovered.”

And so at the banquet, the PLA band played “Spring Breeze.” And as if the Chinese were telling their Filipino guests that they remained fond of them despite the dispute, the band played “Missing You.”

And as confirmation that the Philippines is cool again, the Chinese sent Mr. Duterte home with $24 billion in investment commitments.

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