China’s Endeavors for Promoting Cooperation
China has always shown a dedication to pushing forward bilateral and multilateral maritime cooperation with ASEAN countries. In recent years, China and other coastal states have reached bilateral cooperation agreements in various fields. For example, China and Malaysia signed the Marine Science and Technology Cooperation Agreement in 2009, which covers a variety of issues, such as ocean policy, ocean management, environmental protection, scientific research and survey, disaster prevention and mitigation, and data exchanges. In 2012, the foreign ministers of China and Indonesia signed the Memorandum of Understanding on Maritime Cooperation and established a fund, which China invested 1 billion yuan to stimulate, for bilateral maritime cooperation. During Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s official visit to Vietnam in October 2013, the two countries agreed to establish a joint working group for maritime development, under the framework of government-level border negotiation delegations.
In terms of multilateral cooperation, as the largest coastal state of the South China Sea, China has the responsibility to provide public goods and promote maritime cooperation in the region. In November 2011, while attending the 14th CHINA-ASEAN Summit in Indonesia, then Premier Wen Jiabao announced China’s pledge to invest the CHINA-ASEAN Maritime Cooperation Fund, which is dedicated to boosting cooperation on maritime scientific research and environmental protection, navigation safety and search and rescue, and the fight against transnational crimes. The fund has received more than 3 billion yuan from China and has played a positive role in promoting cooperation among relevant parties in the South China Sea.
Under cooperation mechanisms such as APEC, the East Asian Leaders’
Meetings, and the CHINA-ASEAN cooperation framework, China has established multiple platforms for dialogue and cooperation. Examples include the Seminar on Marine Environmental Protection, the Ocean Cooperation Forum, the CHINA-ASEAN Marine Cooperation Center, and the East Asian Ocean Cooperative Platform. The Chinese government has also implemented the Framework Plan for International Cooperation for the South China Sea and its Adjacent Oceans.
Since the launch of the Belt and Road Initiative in 2013 by President Xi Jinping, China has continuously enriched the content of maritime cooperation under the framework of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. On June 20, 2017, China issued the Vision for Maritime Cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative, to synchronize development plans and promote joint actions among countries along the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. In this document, green development, ocean-based prosperity, maritime security, innovative growth and collaborative governance were raised as five priorities of future maritime cooperation. It is also mentioned that a CHINAASEAN cooperation mechanism for marine environmental protection will be established.14 In coordination with Chinese governmental efforts, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the Silk Road Fund are also prepared to support relevant cooperation projects.
Meanwhile, China is urging all ASEAN nations to consider the prospect of a new cooperation mechanism. On March 25, 2017, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin delivered a keynote speech entitled “Steadily Promote Cooperation among South China Sea Coastal States” at the South China Sea session of the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Meeting.15 In that speech, he pointed out that “now is the right time to launch cooperation among South China Sea coastal States”. He said that the South China Sea coastal states should “draw upon the successful experience of other regions, and
without prejudice to the parties’ respective claims, work together to initiate and establish a relevant cooperation framework.” Such a framework can bring relevant states together in practical and institutionalized cooperation in fields such as disaster prevention and reduction, maritime search and rescue, protection of marine environment and biodiversity, marine scientific research and navigation safety. It is clear that the establishment of a South China Sea cooperation mechanism has been on the agenda of the Chinese government for quite some time.