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China and ASEAN will remain committed to mutual assistance and joint development

Post Time:2022-11-25 14:54:07

Xu Ningning, Executive President of China-ASEAN Business Council

November 23, 2022

China and the ASEAN region live side by side. 2022 marks the 55th anniversary of ASEAN’s founding. Either the development of ASEAN over the past 55 years or the long-term development of China-ASEAN relations has confirmed an important historical inspiration that is “good-neighborliness is an invaluable asset”. No matter how the international situation changes, China and ASEAN countries will remain committed to good-neighborliness, mutual assistance and joint development.

ASEAN benefits from continued solidarity and development

In mid-November 2022, the 40th and 41st ASEAN Summits and the East Asia Cooperation Summit, the G20 Leaders’ Summit, and the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meetings (APEC Summit) were held in Cambodia, Indonesia and Thailand respectively, attracting global attention and being called the “International Diplomatic Season in Southeast Asia”. Of which, the APEC summit is the first in-person meeting since 2018. 2022 ASEAN Summit theme is Addressing Challenges Together’, the G20 theme is Recover Together, Recover Stronger, and the theme of the 2022 APEC Summit is Open, Connect, Balance. Against the background of today’s grim international situation, the three ASEAN countries holding the rotating chairs of above summits successfully grasped the themes and designed cooperation directions, so that these summits generally achieved its expected objectives and demonstrated ASEAN’s international status and significant contributions.

Since its inception, ASEAN has creatively established internal and external cooperation mechanisms and formed its characteristic cooperation and development - the “ASEAN way”, that is, dialogue, agreement, cooperation and non-interference in each other’s internal affairs. ASEAN is a successful model among the many regional international organizations in the world today.

Within ASEAN, efforts are being made to build the ASEAN Community, and a blueprint for the development of the Community is being developed and implemented, and efforts are being made to enhance intra-ASEAN cohesion. The ASEAN Summit held on November 11, 2022 issued the ASEAN Leaders’ Vision Statement on Addressing Challenges Together, in which leaders unanimously emphasized the spirit of joint efforts and solidarity to address challenges, with a view to further promoting the establishment of a harmonious, peaceful, stable and prosperous ASEAN Community. Promoting connectivity and cooperation is an important instrument for the construction of the ASEAN Community. the ASEAN Summit also issued the Statement of ASEAN Leaders on the ASEAN Connectivity Post-2025 Agenda. The Chairman’s Statement of the 40th and 41st ASEAN Summits underscored the commitment to maintaining the momentum of ASEAN Community building and ensuring the full and effective implementation of the ASEAN Community’s Post-2025 Vision.

In terms of foreign relations, ASEAN has established comprehensive strategic partnerships with China, Australia, the United States and India in the past year. It is actively carrying out foreign cooperation and maintaining a central role in regional affairs through conference mechanisms such as the “10+1”, “10+3” and the East Asia Summit. It is implementing the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) signed with China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, which is the world’s largest free trade area, and promoting cooperation with ASEAN countries that have implemented free trade agreements to upgrade free trade agreements; It is developing cooperative relations with countries and regions, including dialogue partners, and is seeking to play an increasingly important role in international affairs. As of November 2022, 39 non-ASEAN countries have acceded to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia.

ASEAN’s development also faces many internal and external challenges. The theme of the 2022 ASEAN Summit is ASEAN: Addressing Challenges Together, and the summit issued the “ASEAN Leaders’ Statement on the 55th Anniversary of the Founding of ASEAN, in which ASEAN leaders summarized the successful experience of cooperation and development in the past 55 years, further gathered consensus, and strived to build ASEAN into a region with sustained economic growth, political stability and an important role in the international arena. ASEAN realizes that to achieve its own development goals and meet challenges, on the one hand, it needs to strengthen internal synergy and strengthen its healthy development; On the other hand, it is necessary to extensively seek the active support and cooperation of external countries and regions to create a pathway with ASEAN characteristics.


China and ASEAN need mutual assistance

At the 25th China-ASEAN Summit on November 11, 2022, Premier Li Keqiang said that since the launch of dialogue relations in the early 1990s, China and ASEAN have worked hand in hand, supported each other, comprehensively promoted mutually beneficial cooperation, and continuously achieved fruitful results, setting a model of win-win regional cooperation and common development. ASEAN leaders said that ASEAN-China relations are the most dynamic pair of ASEAN dialogue partners and set a model for regional cooperation.

Adhering to a foreign policy of good-neighborliness and friendship, China has been regarding ASEAN as its one of diplomatic priorities over the past 31 years, supported Southeast Asian countries in surviving the severe financial crisis in 1997, pursued common development through cooperation in a mutually open market, put forward positive suggestions on deepening cooperation every year, and continuously promoted the quality and upgrading of cooperation with ASEAN and its member states in light of the development of the situation, including the upgrading of the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area and the Lancang-Mekong River cooperation. China has also put forward and implemented major initiatives to jointly build the Maritime Silk Road, broaden the vision and scope of cooperation, inject new impetus and stimulate new vitality into the cooperation and development of the two sides, and strengthen the sustainability of cooperation and development. This sincere willingness to cooperate comes from the traditional Chinese culture of “good-neighborliness is an invaluable asset”, and is not shaken by the vicissitudes of ever-changing situation, nor is it abandoned due to internal and external interference.

The year 2022 marks the 25th anniversary of the 1997 Asian financial crisis, since which people have deeply appreciated the true meaning of “A friend in need is a friend indeed”. The writer has been committed to promoting China-ASEAN business cooperation since 1991 and witnessed a series of measures implemented by China to help Southeast Asia out of the crisis.

In 2003, China and ASEAN’s ten member countries released the Joint Declaration on China-ASEAN Strategic Partnership for Peace and Prosperity, ensued by the 2005-2010 Plan of Action to Implement the Joint Declaration. As new plans of action are formulated every five years, the two sides are currently implementing the 2021-2025 Plan of Action plan for continuous improvement and deepened cooperation. In November 2021, China and ASEAN held the China-ASEAN Special Summit to Commemorate the 30th Anniversary of China-ASEAN Dialogue Relations and formally announced the establishment of a comprehensive strategic partnership. At the summit, President Xi Jinping made five proposals regarding the future relations between China and ASEAN, that is, to build a peaceful, safe and secure, prosperous, beautiful and amicable home together.

As we all know, there are many “firsts” in the important cooperation between China and ASEAN. China-ASEAN Free Trade Area is the first FTA established by China with external parties, so is the case with ASEAN; China is the first country to join the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia, the first country to establish a strategic partnership with ASEAN as an external party, the first to establish a comprehensive strategic partnership, and the first to approve the implementation of the ASEAN-led RCEP agreement. “First” means daring to take the lead and carrying out continuous innovation efforts to foster cooperation vitality. Following these “firsts” of China, ASEAN has also welcome the “second” and “third” with countries such as South Korea, Japan, India and the United States and so on, which undoubtedly plays a supportive role in the development and growth of ASEAN.

One thing must be noted that China is the first country in the world to express its support for ASEAN’s leading role in regional cooperation. In recent years, ASEAN’s economic growth and stability, its growing position in regional cooperation, and its increasingly important role in international affairs are related to this unwavering support from China as a friendly neighbor. The August 2022 Position Paper of China on Supporting ASEAN Centrality states that, as ASEAN’s close neighbor and comprehensive strategic partner, China wants to see a united, independent, strong, and developing ASEAN.

To transform the concept “A good neighbor is more valuable than gold” into a living reality, we need to uphold harmony, mutual understanding and prudence in our deeds; we need to entertain respect for each other’s needs and demands while providing more positivity; we need to offer help to solve each other’s problems and relieve worries so that we can develop hand-in-hand based on mutual caring. The good-neighborly relationship between China and ASEAN is a precise reflection of this concept. Into the third year of the pandemic, the two sides have collaborated to fight against the virus, overcome the difficulties together and continued to forge ahead. Especially since this year, the relationship has registered a higher level of strategic cooperation, a stronger momentum of common development, extraordinary fruitful results in connectivity, more positive progress in security cooperation, and increasingly strong ties of people-to-people exchanges.

China and ASEAN have been each other’s largest trading partners over the past three years. In the first ten months of 2022, ASEAN, the EU and the US are the top three trading partners of China, with China-ASEAN trade seeing the fastest growth at 13.8% year-on-year, China-EU trade growing by 6.3% year-on-year, and China-US trade increasing by 5.1% year-on-year; China’s trade with ASEAN accounted for 15.2% of the country’s total foreign trade, a year-on-year increase in terms of the proportion. Among the ten ASEAN countries, Vietnam is China’s largest trading partner, and in the first ten months of 2022, 238 runs of China-Vietnam cross-border trains have been operated, with a year-on-year increase of over 178%. At the 2022 China-ASEAN Leaders’ Meeting, leaders from both sides agreed to initiate the formal launch of China-ASEAN Free Trade Area upgrading negotiations.

From January to September 2022, Chinese enterprises’ non-financial direct investment in countries along the Belt and Road totaled RMB 103.4 billion, up 7.4% year-on-year, with six ASEAN countries ranking among the top ten, namely Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia.

In recent years, the scale of RMB settlement in economic and trade between the two sides has increased significantly, making great contributions to regional financial stability. In 2021, cross-border RMB receipts and payments between China and ASEAN countries totaled 4,814.79 billion yuan, an increase of 16% year-on-year. Compared with less than 500 billion yuan in 2012, it was a nearly 10-fold increase in 10 years.

The entry into force of the RCEP agreement on January 1, 2022 has opened up a wider space and injected new vitality into China-ASEAN economic and trade cooperation. In the first ten months of 2022, China’s imports and exports to the other 14 RCEP member countries grew by 8.4%.

At the 25th China-ASEAN Leaders’ Meeting, Premier Li Keqiang made four proposals for building a closer China-ASEAN community of shared future: first, to further foster consensus on development cooperation; second, to continuously enhance development momentum; third, to keep consolidating development foundations; and fourth, to strengthen collaboration in multilateral development governance.


Bilateral collaboration as a basis for multilateral cooperation continues to consolidate and develop

In the China-ASEAN friendly relations, bilateral collaboration has been consolidated and developed as a basis for multilateral cooperation.

In 2022, on the occasion of President Xi Jinping’s trip to Bali, Indonesia to attend the 17th G20 Leaders’ Summit, China and Indonesia issued a Joint Statement on November 16, in which the two countries reached a new and important consensus on strengthening the China-Indonesia comprehensive strategic partnership and building a China-Indonesia community of shared future. In order to further deepen this comprehensive strategic partnership and promote the construction of the China-Indonesia community of shared future, the two sides formulated the Plan of Action for Strengthening the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between China and Indonesia (2022-2026) to systematically deploy the exchanges and cooperation between the two countries in various fields in the next five years. Furthermore, the two sides signed a cooperation plan under the framework of the linking of the “Belt and Road” Initiative and the “Global Maritime Axis”, and an agreement on expanding and deepening bilateral economic and trade cooperation.

From November 17 to 19, 2022, President Xi Jinping visited Thailand to attend the 29th APEC Leaders’ Informal Meeting and paid a visit to Thailand for the first time as the President of PRC and was warmly welcome by Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha at the airport as this year also marks the 10th anniversary of the establishment of a comprehensive strategic partnership between China and Thailand. During the visit, the two governments signed the China-Thailand Joint Action Plan for Strategic Cooperation (2022-2026) and the China-Thailand Cooperation Plan for Jointly Promoting the Construction of the Belt and Road Initiative, and the theme of the November 19 Joint Statement issued by the two countries was “Building a China-Thailand Community with a Shared Future for Enhanced Stability, Prosperity and Sustainability”.

From November 8 to 11, 2022, Premier Li Keqiang was invited to Cambodia for an official visit. In the Joint Communiqué issued by the two countries on November 11, it was pointed out that the two sides, on the basis of the implementation of the Action Plan 2019-2023 on Building China-Cambodia Community of Shared Future, actively negotiate to sign a new action plan that focuses on strengthening high-level strategic communication, accelerating the effective matchmaking of development strategies, and enhancing high-quality cooperation in the BRI construction.

From October 30 to November 1, 2022, Nguyen Phu Trong, General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam Central Committee, was invited to visit China. The Joint Statement on Further Strengthening and Deepening China-Vietnam Comprehensive Strategic Partnership issued by the two sides pointed out that the two countries should uphold the policy of “long-term stability, future-orientation, good neighborliness and comprehensive cooperation” and work in the spirit of “good neighbor, good friend, good comrade and good partner” to promote the long-term healthy and stable development of the comprehensive strategic partnership in the new era. The two sides agreed to continue to link up their development strategies and speed up the negotiation and signing of a cooperation plan concerning the linking of the “Belt and Road” Initiative and the “Two Corridors, One Circle” framework. The two countries agreed to continue to abide by the important consensus reached between the leaders of the two parties and the Agreement on the Basic Principles Guiding the Settlement of Maritime Issues between China and Vietnam. The two leaders witnessed the signing of the memorandum of cooperation on the joint construction of BRI and “Two Corridors, One Circle” as well as cooperation documents in the fields of production capacity, energy, cross-border economic cooperation zone, e-commerce, human resources, business and trade, finance, culture, health, media, social science, border defense, and so forth.

Pivoting on the past 55 years of ASEAN’s growth and the 31 years of unforgettable development of China-ASEAN good-neighborly relations that go hand in hand, we should cherish the fruits of cooperation and work together to deepen the neighborly relations of harmony, everlasting friendship and win-win cooperation, so as to contribute to regional stability and prosperity, world economic growth and the progress of human civilization.

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