China-ASEAN: A model of good-neighborliness and friendly co-op

By Tong Xiaoling
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, July 3, 2011
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Overview of the China-ASEAN cooperation

The year 1991 is the turning point in the relations between China and ASEAN. Mr. Qian Qichen, the then Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister attended the opening session of the 24th ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Kuala Lumpur, which started dialogue process between China and ASEAN. The year 1997 is the watershed in the history of China and ASEAN relations. Despite its own financial difficulties, China decided not to devalue its currency renminbi in order to help other Southeast Asian countries to obtain regional recovery. Hence China and ASEAN established good-neighborly and mutual-trust partnership. In 2003, with the deepening of the all-round cooperation, China and ASEAN established strategic partnership for peace and prosperity toward the 21st century.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the establishment of China-ASEAN dialogue relations. China applauds the progress made in China-ASEAN relations over the past 20 years. In retrospect, the process of China-ASEAN partnership can be best summarized in the following four aspects.

Firstly, political mutual trust has continued to deepen. Among ASEAN's dialogue partners, China was the first to accede to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia, the first to establish strategic partnership with ASEAN, and the first to express unequivocal support to the Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty. In the meantime, China has always supported ASEAN integration and ASEAN's leading role in East Asia cooperation.

Secondly, mutually beneficial cooperation has continued to expand. China-ASEAN cooperation has branched out to cover more than 20 areas including economy and trade, agriculture and information. The two sides established 11 ministerial-level meeting mechanisms and put in place platforms of exchange such as the China-ASEAN Expo, the China-ASEAN Education Exchange Week and the China-ASEAN Youth Camp. Two-way trade soared from less than US$10 billion in 1991 to over US$290 billion in 2010. The building of the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area is now completed. China is now ASEAN's largest trading partner, while ASEAN is China's fourth largest trading partner. Cooperation in mutual investment and finance has made enormous headway and shows a momentum of strong growth.

Thirdly, China and ASEAN have given each other unfailing support over difficult times. Our two sides supported each other in jointly addressing the 1997 Asian financial crisis and the most recent international financial crisis. We were with each other in responding to major natural disasters like the Indian Ocean tsunami, the cyclone disaster in Myanmar, and the Wenchuan earthquake in China, and in controlling such communicable diseases as SARS and avian influenza. By working together to overcome these challenges, we have deepened friendship and promoted our development.

Fourthly, both sides have worked together to uphold regional peace and stability. China and ASEAN countries hold similar positions on international and regional affairs. And we have supported each other and conducted fruitful cooperation in this area. The growth of China-ASEAN relations has become an important factor for peace and stability in the region. The Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), jointly issued by China and ASEAN countries, is an important contribution to peace and stability in the South China Sea.

China is happy to see the all-round development of its relations with ASEAN over the past 20 years. None of this would have been possible without the concerted efforts of the past generations of leaders and successive governments of both sides as well as the extensive support of the people of China and ASEAN countries.

Experiences obtained through the cooperation

In the course of China-ASEAN cooperation, China and ASEAN countries have got to know each other much better and our mutual understanding and mutual trust have substantially enhanced through dialogues and mutual support. There are a few important experiences that are worth of reflection: (1) promoting mutual trust and mutual understanding is the basis to establish the strategic partnership for peace and prosperity; (2)dealing with differences and disputes in a proper manner; (3)leadership role and institutional support are the guarantees of success; (4)economic and trade development is the driving force of cooperation; (5)cultural exchanges and people's contacts are the social foundation for China-ASEAN cooperation.

Future development of China-ASEAN relations

Last October, the 13th China-ASEAN Summit adopted the second Five-Year Action Plan, which charters the course of China-ASEAN relations in the years to come. China will work with ASEAN to fully implement the second five-year Action Plan and continue to maintain, develop and strengthen our bilateral relations. Major focus will be laid on the following aspects:

Celebration of the 20th anniversary of the dialogue relations. There will be a host of commemorative activities in 2011, including exchange of congratulatory messages between leaders and media, youth and cultural exchanges. The most important one is the Commemorative Summit to be held in November, 2011 in Indonesia.

Enhancement of connectivity. The two sides will increase connectivity within ASEAN and between China and ASEAN through the existing mechanisms under ASEAN integration initiative and China-ASEAN (10+1) framework.

Improvement of China-ASEAN FTA. Both sides will further advance and improve the FTA by enabling more enterprises to know about and practice FTA policies and helping enterprises, the private sectors in particular, to become the main players in FTA development. There is also the need to further simplify customs clearance procedures and advance trade facilitation.

Strengthening of social, people-to-people and cultural exchanges. The two sides will work hard to achieve the Double 100,000 Goal of Students Mobility in 2020 and 15 million mutual visits by 2015. China will continue to send young volunteers to ASEAN countries to provide service in the teaching of the Chinese language, and in public health and agricultural science and technology.

Promotion of East Asia cooperation. China is committed to the East Asia cooperation process and will continue to support ASEAN's leading role in East Asia cooperation.

It is my sincere hope and firm belief that with the concerted efforts from both China and ASEAN, China-ASEAN strategic partnership will move to a new high in the next twenty years.

The author is the ambassador of China to ASEAN.

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