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International relations

China uses banana diplomacy in Philippines to edge out Japan

Fruit exports to China help the economy but reflect Beijing's growing sway

China bought $496 million worth of bananas from the Philippines last year, up 71% from 2017 (Photo by Kim Ignacio)

DAVAO, Philippines -- At a 1,000-hectare plantation in the deep south of the Philippines, dozens of middle-aged workers sing along to oldies such as "Hotel California" as they prepare freshly picked bananas for export to China.

"In the afternoon, it's like a disco," said Naiall Biol, manager at the farm in Davao del Norte Province. "The loud music helps keep them alert, focused and agile."

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