Breaking the Ice to Warm Relations: Ramos-Fu Track II Meeting and Beyond
by Lucio Blanco Pitlo III / October 17, 2016 / Originally Posted at China US Focus
Track II diplomacy has been credited with creating openings for improving relations when official state-to-state interactions are frozen or constrained. As unofficial and private representatives, Track II participants are freer to discuss and explore various issues, scenarios, and options that are important in assessing the interests, priorities, and preferred solutions of both sides. These discussions may then be passed on to official channels for appropriate scrutiny and consideration. States seeking to relieve tensions or establish resolutions to disputes may resort to this approach and its outcome may shape the next steps that both sides can undertake. Track II diplomacy’s results remain mixed, but it takes only one successful attempt to provide concrete and specific agenda items for formal talks. It is within this lens that the Ramos-Fu August 2016 meeting in Hong Kong could be appreciated.
In an effort to improve relations, manage disputes, and explore areas open for cooperation, the new Philippine (PH) government dispatched a delegation in August 2016 led by former PH President Fidel Ramos to meet with their Chinese counterparts in Hong Kong. The informal meeting is important for several reasons: 1) it was the first major PH step to signal intentions to engage China (PRC) post-arbitration award; 2) PH sent a balanced delegation representing a diverse viewpoints regarding the PRC; 3) The PRC delegation consisted of high level members who had prior experience/continuing linkages with PH; 4) Hong Kong’s (HK) choice of venue reflected the informality of the meeting while promoting mid-way compromise, and; 5) focused on pragmatic, non-controversial issues indicating an interest to work on matters of mutual concern and benefit.