The year 2020 was defined by challenges and uncertainty for many around the world, but for China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), it was also defined by resilience and deepening cooperation.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic and rising protectionism and unilateralism around the globe, the ties between the two sides have remained strong with comprehensive cooperation on epidemic control, booming trade and further well-rounded exchanges.
"The China-ASEAN relationship 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," Chinese President Xi Jinping said when addressing the opening ceremony of the 17th China-ASEAN Expo and China-ASEAN Business and Investment Summit on Nov. 27.
Following are the timeline and quotable quotes of major events of China-ASEAN cooperation through the year.
-- The Special ASEAN-China Foreign Ministers' Meeting on Coronavirus Disease was held in Lao capital Vientiane, where the two sides discussed coordinating efforts in fighting against the COVID-19 outbreak.
-- Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi: "We firmly believe that China-ASEAN relations will be elevated to a new high in the joint fight against the epidemic, and the building of a China-ASEAN community of shared future will make solid progress after the test of the epidemic."
-- A team of medical experts sent by the Chinese government arrived in Phnom Penh, capital of Cambodia to help the country fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
-- Cambodian Health Minister Mam Bunheng: "A friend in need is a friend indeed. We highly value China for coming to help us immediately when we are in difficult time."
-- A team of Chinese medical experts flew to Lao capital Vientiane to help the country contain the spread of COVID-19, less than five days after Laos announced its first two confirmed cases.
-- Chinese Ambassador to Laos Jiang Zaidong: China would not forget Laos' donation of money and anti-epidemic materials to China in the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak, and that Laos hosted the Special ASEAN-China Foreign Ministers' Meeting on Coronavirus Disease in February.
-- A medical expert team sent by the Chinese government arrived in Manila, the Philippines to assist and advise the country in its ongoing efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Philippines . Photo by Yan Changhui
-- Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian: "Virus respects no borders... During the time of crisis, the Chinese government and people feel keenly for the health and safety of the Filipino people."
-- A Chinese medical team arrived in Yangon, Myanmar to help the country in the battle against COVID-19.
Myanmar . Photo by Guo Dongni
-- Myanmar Union Minister for Health and Sports Myint Htwe: "The arrival of the team could be a helping hand for our country as well as a booster for bilateral friendship."
-- The virtual Special ASEAN, China, Japan and South Korea (ASEAN Plus Three) Summit on COVID-19 Response was held. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, who attended the summit via video link in Beijing, stressed joint efforts for an early victory against COVID-19 in East Asia.
-- Chinese Premier Li Keqiang: "We must act with greater synergy and common purpose, and articulate our determination to work together in closer coordination and cooperation and make a collective response to the epidemic."
-- A team of medical experts sent by the Chinese government arrived in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to help the country fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
-- Head of Chinese anti-COVID-19 Medical Consultant Expert Team Li Jun: "We must work together to fight infectious disease. A country is safe only when every other country is safe... No country could detach itself from an interconnected world."
-- The opening ceremony for the China-ASEAN digital economy cooperation year was held. Both sides pledged to expand cooperation in 5G, the internet of things, artificial intelligence, industrial internet and digital epidemic prevention.
-- Chinese Premier Li Keqiang: The COVID-19 pandemic has made the importance of digital economy further highlighted in restoring economic and social development, creating more jobs and improving people's well-being.
-- ASEAN has overtaken the European Union to become China's biggest trade partner. Data from China's General Administration of Customs (GAC) showed that ASEAN accounted for 14.7 percent of China's total foreign trade in the first half of 2020.
-- GAC spokesman Li Kuiwen: The expansion was partly buoyed by growing farm produce trade with ASEAN members under the upgraded protocol of the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area, which came into effect in October 2019.
-- The third Lancang-Mekong Cooperation (LMC) leaders' meeting was held via video link, mapping out the blueprint for future cooperation. China proposed synergizing the LMC with the New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor, which traverses western China and connects Southeast Asia with the Eurasian continent.
-- Chinese Premier Li Keqiang: "Greater synergy between the LMC and the Corridor will make trade routes more convenient and enable the leveraging of more resources from western and southwestern China and the ASEAN members, and thus channel more inputs to the Mekong countries."
-- The 53rd ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting and related meetings were held via video link, with the ministers reaffirming multilateral cooperation and agreeing to further strengthen cooperation in economic recovery in the post-COVID-19 era.
-- Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi: China is willing to work with ASEAN countries to actively promote exchanges and cooperation in the post-pandemic period, face up to global and regional challenges together, and foster a closer China-ASEAN community with a shared future.
-- Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited Cambodia, Malaysia, Laos and Thailand, and paid a transit visit to Singapore. China and these countries agreed to strengthen cooperation in combating COVID-19 and promoting economic recovery in the post-pandemic era.
-- Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi: "We have exchanged views and reached a series of consensus on major issues, such as jointly responding to the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic and the evolving international situation, deepening bilateral relations, maintaining regional peace and stability, and improving the global governance system."
-- The ASEAN-China Young Leaders Scholarship 2020 was launched, aiming to enhance people-to-people exchanges between the two sides.
-- ASEAN's Deputy Secretary-General for the Socio-Cultural Community Kung Phoak: "This (the scholarship program) certainly reflects the resilience of ASEAN-China relations and signifies our shared determination in ensuring the continued development of our region, particularly as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic and seek to build a better future."
-- The 23rd China-ASEAN leaders' meeting was held via video link. China raised proposals to progress cooperation with the ASEAN in areas such as public health, economy and trade, digital economy and sustainable development.
-- Chinese Premier Li Keqiang: "China will actively consider ASEAN countries' requirements for COVID-19 vaccines and take practical steps to promote the availability and affordability of the vaccine."
-- The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement was signed among its 15 participating countries, launching the world's largest free-trade bloc. Participating countries include the 10 member countries of ASEAN and China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.
-- Chinese Premier Li Keqiang: "The signing of the RCEP is not only a landmark achievement of East Asian regional cooperation, but also a victory of multilateralism and free trade."
-- The 17th China-ASEAN Expo and China-ASEAN Business and Investment Summit were held in Nanning, capital city of south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, highlighting booming digital economy cooperation and the implementation of the RCEP.
Photo by Huang Jiaqi
-- Chinese President Xi Jinping: "The China-ASEAN relationship 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."
-- The 11th China-ASEAN Defense Ministers' Informal Meeting was held via video link, where China and ASEAN pledged joint efforts to safeguard regional peace and stability.
-- Chinese State Councilor and Defense Minister Wei Fenghe: The Chinese military is willing to deepen pragmatic cooperation with military forces of ASEAN countries to cope with various security risks and challenges.