Marcello Lippi emerged victorious against old foe Sven-Goran Eriksson in a heavyweight coaching clash despite spirited early resistance from the Filipino 'Street Dogs' in Abu Dhabi.
China, runners-up in 1984 and 2004, improved to six points from two games in Group C after beating Kyrgyzstan 2-1 in their opening game.
They should have led after 32 minutes when Wu Xi headed wastefully wide from point-blank range.
But Wu Lei provided the spark five minutes before half-time, turning on the edge of the box and whipping a right-foot shot into the far corner.
His second was even better as he swivelled to slam a Hao Junmin free kick past goalkeeper Michael Falkesgaard on the volley after 66 minutes to effectively finish the tie.
Substitute Yu Dabao added a third with his first touch 10 minutes from time.
Pulverised 8-1 the last time the teams met in 2017, the Philippines gave China more of a game this time, having lost 1-0 to South Korea on their Asian Cup debut earlier this week.
Kevin Ingreso forced a fingertip save from China goalkeeper Yan Junling in first-half stoppage time but Eriksson's faded badly after the break.
A victory for South Korea over Kyrgyzstan later on Friday would guarantee China's progress as they look to improve on a quarter-final finish in 2015.