Chinese premier’s Philippines visit to promote cooperation with ASEAN neighbors
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang Sunday left for an official visit to the Philippines, where he will attend an annual meeting with leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), among other programs.
Given the joint efforts of China and ASEAN over the past year to expand their consensus and manage differences, Li will feel greater ease at this year’s East Asia summits, observers say.
During his five-day stay in Philippine capital Manila, Li’s tight schedule will include attendance at the 20th ChinaASEAN (10+1) leaders’ meeting, the 20th ASEAN-China, Japan and South Korea (10+3) leaders’ meeting, as well as the 12th East Asia Summit. The objective of all these events is to boost regional cooperation in East Asia.
As the world economy faces a multitude of challenges with the West leaning toward unilateralism and trade protectionism, East Asian countries however have steadily advanced regional cooperation and maintained strong momentum of regional growth, Ruan Zongze, executive vice president of the China Institute of International Studies, said.
This is Li’s first overseas trip following the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in October.
He will give a briefing on the spirit of the Congress, China’s major country diplomacy in the new era, and China’s policy and stance on East Asian cooperation, Assistant Foreign Minister Chen Xiaodong said at a press conference ahead of the visit.
Li will also propose nearly 30 new initiatives to deepen practical cooperation on interconnectivity, food security, poverty reduction, tourism and anti-corruption, Chen added.
These proposals promote the alignment of the Belt and Road initiative with ASEAN’s development strategies.
Li will also attend the leaders’ meeting on Regional Comprehensive Economic Partner- ship (RCEP), a free trade pact involving the 10 ASEAN members and six other countries – China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.
Given the setback to negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other regional free trade deals, more and more countries are looking at the RCEP, Zhai Kun, a professor of international relations with Peking University, said.
China is promoting the RCEP, which shows its resolve to promote regional cooperation in East Asia, Zhai added.
Li’s visit to the Philippines is the first by a Chinese premier in a decade.
The Philippines is China’s friendly neighbor and an important partner, yet bilateral relations were once overshadowed by a South China Sea arbitration dispute initiated by the previous Philippine government.
The visit is expected to “advance bilateral ties in a new era and promote building a new type of international relations as well as a community of shared future for mankind,” Chen said.