Xi, Duterte bond over basketball

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte at the opening ceremony of the Fiba Basketball World Cup 2019 in Beijing on Aug 30, 2019.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte at the opening ceremony of the Fiba Basketball World Cup 2019 in Beijing on Aug 30, 2019. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Basketball turned out to be a common language that brought two leaders closer together as President Xi Jinping and his Philippine counterpart, Rodrigo Duterte, attended the opening ceremony of the Fiba Basketball World Cup 2019 in Beijing on Friday night (Aug 30).

The two presidents watched a cultural performance shortly after Mr Xi announced the opening of the basketball tournament.

The event came as Mr Duterte is on a five-day visit to China that started on Wednesday.

This is his fifth visit to China since he took office in 2016, with the last one taking place four months ago when he attended the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing.

When they met each other on Thursday, Mr Xi called Mr Duterte an "old friend", and told him that bilateral ties have seen a turnaround, consolidated, lifted and have continuously achieved tangible outcomes over the past three years.

Basketball is an extremely popular sport in the Philippines, played at both the amateur and professional levels.

As part of the schedule for his China visit, Mr Duterte - accompanied by Vice-President Wang Qishan - will watch the match between the Philippine and Italian teams to be held in Foshan, Guangdong province, on Saturday night.

Before the opening ceremony, Mr Xi also met Mr Horacio Muratore, president of the International Basketball Federation, or Fiba.

Mr Xi said that China attaches great importance to the development of basketball, a sport that continues to grow in popularity in the country. He added that the nation has been actively involved in basketball and supports Fiba, and its efforts to promote the sport worldwide.

 
 
 

Mr Xi told Mr Muratore that great achievements have been made in sports in the nation since the People's Republic of China was founded 70 years ago.

Saying sound development of sports represents both part of a nation's strength and also a part of the healthy and happy lives of the people, Mr Xi added that China is striving to build itself into a global sports power.

The nation stands ready to continue to develop cooperation with Fiba so as to popularise and improve the development level of basketball in China, Mr Xi said.

Mr Muratore thanked Mr Xi for China's long-term support for Fiba and appreciated it for its outstanding preparations for the hosting of the event.

Fiba considers cooperation with China as highly important, Mr Muratore said, and it is willing to make contributions to promoting basketball activities in China.

Also on Friday, Premier Li Ke­qiang met Mr Duterte at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.