Se­cur­ing a strong part­ner­ship

Decade of close co­op­er­a­tion be­tween China and ASEAN paves foun­da­tion for good-neigh­borly re­la­tions for the fu­ture

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COMMENT - RUAN ZONGZE

On Thurs­day, the for­eign min­is­ters of China and mem­ber states of the As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions will hold a spe­cial meet­ing in Bei­jing to cel­e­brate the 10th an­niver­sary of the es­tab­lish­ment of the China-ASEAN strate­gic part­ner­ship. The agenda will fo­cus on how to deepen the bi­lat­eral strate­gic part­ner­ship.

The Asian fi­nan­cial cri­sis of 1997 led China and the mem­bers of ASEAN to re­al­ize the im­por­tance of deep­en­ing co­op­er­a­tion to jointly con­front chal­lenges, and China and ASEAN signed the Joint Dec­la­ra­tion on Strate­gic Part­ner­ship for Peace and Pros­per­ity in 2003 in Bali, In­done­sia.

China is the top trad­ing part­ner of ASEAN, while ASEAN ranks as China’s third-largest trad­ing part­ner. Bi­lat­eral trade has grown from $55 bil­lion in 2002 to more than $400 bil­lion last year, and ac­cord­ing to the Chi­nese Min­istry of Com­merce, the first half of 2013 saw a year-on-year growth of 12.2 per­cent that to­taled more than $210 bil­lion. Also, by the end of June, Chi­nese di­rect in­vest­ment in ASEAN coun­tries to­taled nearly $30 bil­lion, and the mu­tual in­vest­ment is now more than $100 bil­lion.

As Chi­nese For­eign Min­is­ter Wang Yi has pointed out, China and ASEAN are trail­blaz­ers and have set a num­ber of his­tor­i­cal records. China was the first to sign the Treaty of Amity and Co­op­er­a­tion in South­east Asia, the first to es­tab­lish a strate­gic part­ner­ship with ASEAN, and the first to start ne­go­ti­a­tions on a free trade area with ASEAN, which would be the big­gest free trade area in the de­vel­op­ing world. China is also the only coun­try to hold fairs with ASEAN ev­ery year. The two sides have close con­tacts at all lev­els, hav­ing set up 12 min­is­te­rial meet­ing mech­a­nisms and con­ducted mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial co­op­er­a­tion in more than 20 fields.

China at­taches great im­por­tance to its re­la­tions with ASEAN mem­ber states, and it will con­tinue to sup­port ASEAN’s growth, as well as the es­tab­lish­ment of the ASEAN com­mu­nity.

Over the past 10 years, the China-ASEAN strate­gic part­ner­ship has borne fruit and demon­strated re­mark­able re­silience in the face of a se­ries of crises: from the out­break of SARS in China, the In­dian Ocean earth­quake and tsunami, to China’s Wenchuan earth­quake. The past 10 years have laid a solid foun­da­tion for the de­vel­op­ment of bi­lat­eral re­la­tions in the com­ing decade.

To up­grade their strate­gic part­ner­ship, it is im­por­tant for both sides to con­cen­trate on seek­ing new ways of think­ing and so­lu­tions to tackle their dis­agree­ments. In par­tic­u­lar, all par­ties con­cerned should seek to en­hance mu­tual un­der­stand­ing and trust, to con­sol­i­date the po­lit­i­cal foun­da­tion for re­gional co­op­er­a­tion. The East Asia Sum­mit and the in­for­mal eco­nomic lead­ers’ meet­ing of the Asia-Pa­cific Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion fo­rum are sched­uled for Oc­to­ber, and China and ASEAN should use them to en­hance their co­op­er­a­tion.

To up­grade the China-ASEAN FTA, both sides have to fur­ther open their mar­kets to each other and pro­mote the free flows of goods and ser­vices. It is nec­es­sary to set up a fi­nan­cial plat­form for Asia’s in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment and to solve the fi­nanc­ing bot­tle­neck prob­lems in the re­gion.

Aside from eco­nomic co­op­er­a­tion, China and ASEAN should deepen co­op­er­a­tion in a wide range of fi elds. For in­stance, al­though the Asia- Pa­cific re­gion as a whole re­mains sta­ble, some non- tra­di­tional se­cu­rity is­sues per­sist, which are neg­a­tively af­fect­ing the re­gional sit­u­a­tion, eco­nomic growth and peo­ple’s liveli­hoods. The risks of earth­quakes, tsunamis, and ty­phoons com­mand con­certed ef­forts from all par­ties con­cerned.

In re­sponse to the re­lent­less at­tempt of some in­di­vid­ual par­ties in the re­gion and some ex­ter­nal forces to com­pli­cate and es­ca­late the South China Sea dis­putes, China is de­ter­mined to de­fend re­gional peace and sta­bil­ity, and al­ways in­sists on solv­ing the his­tor­i­cal is­sues through ne­go­ti­a­tion and con­sul­ta­tion. By car­ry­ing out con­crete mar­itime co­op­er­a­tion and mak­ing good use of the China-ASEAN Mar­itime Co­op­er­a­tion Fund, China and ASEAN can cre­ate the con­di­tions and at­mos­phere nec­es­sary for solv­ing mar­itime dis­agree­ments through co­op­er­a­tive means.

In early April, China National Off­shore Oil Cor­po­ra­tion and Brunei’s national pe­tro­leum com­pany known as PetroleumBrunei signed a co­op­er­a­tion agree­ment to deepen co­op­er­a­tion in the oil and gas sec­tor. The com­mer­cial move could pos­si­bly fa­cil­i­tate com­mon de­vel­op­ment of the re­source-rich wa­ters and serve as an at­tempt to re­solve the mar­itime ter­ri­to­rial dis­pute.

Equally im­por­tant, China and ASEAN should en­cour­age non­govern­men­tal ex­changes at all lev­els, es­pe­cially peo­ple-to-peo­ple ex­changes, in a bid to en­hance mu­tual un­der­stand­ing and ce­ment the foun­da­tion of pub­lic sup­port for the good-neigh­borly Chi­naASEAN re­la­tions for the next decade.

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