The relationship between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has grown into the most successful and vibrant model for cooperation in the Asia-Pacific and an exemplary effort in building a community with a shared future for mankind.
Themed “Building the Belt and Road, Strengthening Digital Economy Cooperation,” the 17th China-ASEAN Expo (CAEXPO) was held from Nov. 27 to 30 in Nanning, capital of south China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.
This year’s expo, held both online and offline, set up 5,400 booths in the venue and attracted more than 1,500 enterprises.
A total of 86 investment cooperation projects were signed at the event, with a total value of 263.87 billion yuan ($40.13 billion), up 43.6 percent year on year, the highest in the CAEXPO history.
The enormous vitality of the CAEXPO fully indicated the huge potential for cooperation between China and ASEAN countries.
At the opening ceremony of the 17th China-ASEAN Expo and China-ASEAN Business and Investment Summit, Chinese President Xi Jinping said that “Under the new circumstances, China continues to regard ASEAN as a priority in its neighborhood diplomacy and a key region in high-quality Belt and Road cooperation. China supports ASEAN’s community-building, supports ASEAN centrality in East Asian cooperation, and supports ASEAN in playing a bigger role in building an open and inclusive regional architecture.”
Xi called on China and ASEAN to enhance strategic mutual trust and further synergize development plans, elevate economic and trade cooperation and facilitate an early and full recovery of the regional economy, enhance innovation in science and technology and deepen cooperation on the digital economy, and strengthen cooperation against COVID-19 and enhance capacity building in public health.
Xi’s proposals, which focus on both immediate and long-term needs, sparked heated discussion in ASEAN countries.
The proposals are of important significance for building a closer ASEAN-China community with a shared future and chart the course for the future development of the ASEAN-China relationship, said Aksornsri Phanishsarn, an adviser to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee of Thailand.
China and ASEAN countries, connected by the mountains and rivers, share close affinity and a longstanding friendship. Among ASEAN’s dialogue partners, China has been number one on many fronts. China was the first to join the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia, the first to forge strategic partnership with ASEAN, the first to start free trade area (FTA) negotiations with ASEAN, and the first to give unequivocal support for ASEAN centrality in East Asian regional cooperation.
In 2013, President Xi announced an initiative for China to work with ASEAN countries for a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road and for a closer China-ASEAN community with a shared future.
Seven years on, China and ASEAN enjoy growing connectivity, deepening economic integration, robust business ties, and closer people-to-people exchanges.
Over the past seven years, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has borne fruit in ASEAN countries. China and ASEAN countries are further synergizing the BRI with ASEAN’s development plans and steadily advancing the China-Laos Railway, the China-Thailand Railway, the Jakarta-Bundung Railway and other major projects.
China will work with ASEAN to implement the China-ASEAN Joint Statement on Synergizing the Belt and Road Initiative and the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity 2025. To be specific, more efforts will be made to build the New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor, strengthen cooperation on infrastructure connectivity including railways, highways, ports, airports, power and communications, speed up the development of existing economic corridors and key projects, and continue to develop the China-ASEAN Multimodal Transport Alliance. It is a general trend and an aspiration of the people to forge closer ties between the two parties.
New achievements in economic and trade cooperation are being made by China and ASEAN. Since the establishment of the China-ASEAN FTA 10 years ago, the trade volume between China and ASEAN rose from $292.8 billion in 2010 to $641.5 billion in 2019, and in the first three quarters of 2020, it reached $481.8 billion, up 5 percent from the same period of last year, making ASEAN China’s largest trading partner for the first time.
The economic and trade cooperation between the two sides has significantly promoted their development and prosperity.
The recently signed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership is conducive to enhancing the attractiveness and competitiveness of the region, promoting regional economic recovery, allowing the Asia-Pacific to remain the bellwether in this regard, and further boosting the confidence of both sides in economic and trade cooperation.
The digital economy represents the future direction of global development and an important area for cooperation between China and ASEAN.
This year is designated the China-ASEAN Year of Digital Economy Cooperation. Both sides will work together to seize the opportunities presented by a new round of scientific and technological revolution and industrial transformation, tap into complementarity and pursue mutually beneficial cooperation. China and ASEAN can create more highlights of cooperation in such areas as smart city, 5G, artificial intelligence, e-commerce, big data, blockchain and telemedicine to help nurture new drivers for social and economic development of the two sides.
China has always developed relations with ASEAN countries in accordance with the principle of amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness. As a Chinese saying goes, neighbors wish each other well just as family members do.
As China continues to expand opening-up to the outside world and increasingly fuels a worldwide recovery with its own economic rebound, China-ASEAN cooperation will enjoy still greater prospects.
Next year will mark the 30th anniversary of China-ASEAN dialogue relations. People in the region hope to see that the two sides will join hands to take the China-ASEAN strategic partnership to a higher level and forge a closer China-ASEAN community with a shared future, so as to inject more stability and certainty into the regional situation, inject new momentum into regional development and advance their well-being.