Moving forward side by side
[Li Min/China Daily]
China-ASEAN friendship continues to go from strength to strength
The foreign ministers' meetings on East Asian cooperation will be held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, the first such in-person meetings since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. As an important part of this series of meetings, the China-ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting has been highly anticipated.
The year 2022 marks the first year of the China-ASEAN comprehensive strategic partnership. Based on the progress of friendly cooperation between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, bilateral relations have been developing rapidly.
Even amid the difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the two sides have maintained close high-level exchanges. Chinese President Xi Jinping had in-depth strategic communication with leaders of ASEAN countries in various ways. Some of the ASEAN leaders attended the opening ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympic Games earlier this year, and Indonesian President Joko Widodo has just paid a successful visit to China. The foreign ministers of a group of ASEAN countries also visited China in the first half of this year, and last month, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited five ASEAN countries and delivered an important policy speech at the ASEAN Secretariat. In addition, the Communist Party of China has also been deepening cooperation with political parties in ASEAN countries through multilateral and bilateral exchanges.
Both sides have worked together to jointly cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. At the critical moment of China's anti-pandemic battle, ASEAN countries backed Chinese people up without any hesitation. When the pandemic broke out in Southeast Asia, China shared its anti-pandemic experiences and provided vaccine assistance to ASEAN countries, helping them build a barrier against the virus. Our joint efforts have set a good example for global anti-pandemic cooperation.
Bilateral economic and trade cooperation has reached new heights. China and ASEAN have become each other's largest trading partner, with the bilateral trade volume 100 times higher than that of 30 years ago and the cumulative direct investment exceeding $310 billion. The China-Laos Railway has opened to traffic, and progress has been made in a number of joint Belt and Road infrastructure projects such as the Jakarta-Bandung High-speed Railway, the China-Thailand Railway, the "Two Countries, Twin Parks" between China and Malaysia, and between China and Indonesia.
The cooperation on security between the two sides is progressing well. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration on the Conduct of the Parties in the South China Sea. With the joint efforts of all parties, the declaration has been fully and effectively implemented, and consultations on a code of conduct in the South China Sea are being actively promoted. The maritime situation has remained generally stable. Our exchanges on military security have deepened, and cooperation in combating non-conventional security threats such as terrorism, climate change, cybersecurity, transnational crimes, and disaster prevention and mitigation, has yielded fruitful results.
China-ASEAN ties have entered a fast track of development and are being strengthened at an accelerated pace. The two sides are moving steadily toward the goal of building a peaceful, safe and secure, prosperous, beautiful and amicable home together. China has always followed a path of peaceful development and a win-win strategy of opening-up, seeks an amicable, secure and prosperous neighborhood, and follows a neighborhood policy featuring amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness. China is willing to champion open regionalism together with ASEAN, deepen the comprehensive strategic partnership, and ensure the stable and everlasting friendly cooperation between China and ASEAN.
China and ASEAN have deepened political mutual trust. The two sides adhere to high-level strategic guidance and inject strong impetus into promoting a meaningful, substantive and mutually beneficial China-ASEAN comprehensive strategic partnership and building a closer China-ASEAN community with a shared future. We practice open regionalism and safeguard true multilateralism. China will continue to support ASEAN's centrality in regional cooperation, ASEAN Community building, the ASEAN-centered regional cooperation architecture, and enhance regional unity and coordination. China firmly opposes any country bringing Cold War mentality, geographical conflicts and bloc confrontation into the region.
The two sides will seek common development. China will continue to firmly pursue the open development strategy and promote regional economic integration. Both sides should make continuous efforts to boost the region's economic recovery in the post-pandemic era, enhance the resilience of regional production and supply chains, and ensure smooth cross-border trade. We should accelerate the launch of version 3.0 of China-ASEAN Free Trade Area, fully implement and timely promote the upgrading of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. Scientific and technological innovation cooperation should be continuously promoted to stimulate new momentum for the region's development. The two sides should increase investment in digital infrastructure and digital transformation in the region, deepen our practical cooperation in e-commerce, and strengthen digital connectivity, as well as actively cooperate in developing a low-carbon, circular and green regional economy, and jointly build a cooperation platform of clean energy science and technology.
Both sides should strengthen people-to-people and cultural cooperation. The leap-forward development of bilateral relations cannot be achieved without the strong support of more than 2 billion people in 11 countries. Before the COVID-19 outbreak, the annual personnel exchanges and visits between China and ASEAN had reached 60 million. At present, the two sides should strengthen planning and preparation for resuming personnel exchanges as soon as the pandemic is brought under control, and promote closer interaction and exchanges in culture, tourism, think tanks, media, women, sports, local affairs and other fields. We should give full play to China-ASEAN cooperation funds, deliberately organize key people-to-people and cultural exchange projects such as ASEAN-China Young Leaders Scholarship, ASEAN-China Friendship and Cooperation Short Video Contest, and Youth Voice for ASEAN-China Cooperation Writing Competition, and further enhance mutual understanding and affinity between the people of both sides.
Standing at a new historical starting point, the Chinese side is willing to work with ASEAN countries to uphold peace, independence, development and inclusiveness, renew the firm commitment to open regionalism, build a peaceful, safe and secure, prosperous, beautiful and amicable home together, and write a new chapter of regional cooperation and development.
The author is Chinese Ambassador to ASEAN. The author contributed this article to China Watch, a think tank powered by China Daily.