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黎弘代表在2016年大湄公河—东盟“中国与东南亚:转型中的政治、经济和文化活动主旨发言
2016/12/30
 

GMS-ASEAN Conference 2016

“China and Southeast Asia: Transnational Nexus of Politics, Economics and Cultures”

 

China and ASEAN Cooperation: Challenges, Opportunities and Ways Forward

Lotus Pang Suan Keaw Hotel, Chiang Mai, Thailand

LI Hong,  14 December 2016

  

Good morning, Dear Colleagues!

I feel a great honor to be invited to the GMS-ASEAN Conference 2016. I would like to thank the Chiang Mai University for giving me the opportunity to share my view on perspective of China-ASEAN relations.

 

Ladies and gentlemen,

China and ASEAN countries are good neighbors. There is a saying in China, “a near neighbor is more helpful than a distant relative”. This proverb provides an important philosophy and guiding principle for China’s neighboring foreign policy. That is, we need to treat the neighbor countries with respect, sincerity and friendship so as to live with harmony. The concept of"Amity, Sincerity, Mutual benefit and Inclusiveness" composed the key essence of that policy. While neighboring foreign policy is in the first and foremost position in our overall foreign policy layout, the relations with ASEAN countries are always on high agenda among the priority list.

 

This year marks the 25th anniversary for China-ASEAN dialogue relations. For the past 25 years, China and ASEAN have hold high the banner of development and cooperation, adhere to mutual respect, understanding, trust and support. The relationship between the two sides has made great strides, accumulated rich experiences, and contributed greatly to the regional peace, stability and prosperity. Among all the ASEAN dialogue partnership, the relations between China and ASEAN is the most substantial, dynamic and fruitful one.  The stable improvement of China-ASEAN ties should first attributed to the political mutual trust efforts by both sides. From the Chinese side, as a foreign country, China was the first to join the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation(TAC) of Southeast Asia. China was the first to clearly support the center role of ASEAN in regional cooperation, the first to establish strategic partnership with ASEAN, the first to publicly expressed willingness to sign the the Protocol on Southeast Asia Nuclear Free Zone Treaty, the first starting FTA negotiation process with ASEAN. These firsts reflected the importance and the status of ASEAN in the overall Chinese foreign policy. It also demonstrated the strong political willingness and determination of China to support a strong ASEAN in regional cooperation and integration.

 

Looking back for the past 25 years, trade and economic cooperation have been the viable stabilizer for the China-ASEAN relation. The bilateral trade volume increased from $8 billion to $472billion, an increase of nearly 60 times in 25 years. China has become the largest trading partner of ASEAN for 7 consecutive years. ASEAN is the third largest trading partner for China for the latest 5 consecutive years. Mutual investment is also developing in a balanced way. The cumulative two-way investment reached $160 billion. Chinese enterprises set up 26 oversea economic and trade cooperation zones in 8 ASEAN countries, which attracted 300 Chinese enterprises and a total investment of $1.77 billion, the output value reaches $9.2 billion. The people and culture exchanges have also been increasingly active. The two-way students reaches to 180 thousand now a days, annual personnel travel from and to reaches 23 million last year. China now is the largest tourist source country for ASEAN. Such data provides vivid evidence for the close ties between our two sides.

 

Ladies and gentlemen,

At present, international situation is undergoing unprecedented complicated changes. Global economy remains sluggish after the start of the global financial crisis in 2007. Non-traditional Security threats such as terrorism, extremism and natural disasters are becoming more serious and pressing. The wave and movement of populism and protectionism in western countries is bringing uncertainty to the world. The Brexit and the presidential election in the US pushed the united kingdom and the united states into divided kingdom and divided states. We all heard of the shocks of crisis in history books. But the crisis this time has been bringing deep and unprecedented bewilderment and puzzlement for the world.

 

Under such complex global and regional situation, China-ASEAN relations also faces challenges comes from both outside and inside. Firstly, our economic cooperation is facing new scenario and cooperation relations is getting more complex. On the one hand, the weak US and European market appetite is making a hard life for export lean economy in ASEAN. On the other hand, China is in a new phase of economic development named new normal. The slowdown and structural changes in China is also significant affecting ASEAN economy. Second, the fragmented trading system has been dividing ASEAN itself in the past number of years and it also gives negative element for the China-ASEAN cooperation. Different attitudes towards TPP and RCEP reflects different economic strategic alternatives for countries. Although the U.S president selected might turn his back to the TPP, but the disputes over the regional trading system will not be over. It will continue to beset us.

Secondly, the territory disputes over South China Sea between China and a few ASEAN countries will also a continuing challenges for China and ASEAN relations.

Thirdly, the way of China’s behavior and the way of reading it would be a lasting challenges for China ASEAN relations. As China is getting more and more powerful both in terms of economy and military, any action taken by China might be exaggerated , amplified, over read, or misinterpreted. Managing public emotion would be a increasing challenges between China and ASEAN.

 

Besides, both China and ASEAN are facing the global challenges like climate change, trans-boundary crimes, terrorism, infectious diseases, financial crisis, rising inequality, and fast demographic shift etc. Managing the regional economic integration and urbanization, preventing social split among our individual countries are also the rising challenges for us.  

 

Opportunities for China-ASEAN relations always exist. In my view following are the major ones:

1. Common task and high priority for development is the foremost opportunity for China and ASEAN relations. Development requires peace and stability and might lead to the cooperation overriding conflicts. The desire for developments might also release the potential for wisdom to remove the obstacles for the bilateral relations between China and ASEAN. In this respect, the establishment of AEC started early this year is providing great momentum and driving force for strengthen our economic relations.

2. China’s economic structural reform and sustained moderated economy growth will continue to be opportunity for ASEAN countries. China’s economic resilience is strong. China has taken tremendous policy and administrative measures to more comprehensive opening up, structural reform and innovation. China has full confidence in maintaining a moderated but still significant economic growth. The huge volume and the magic domestics demands of China will provide enough markets and investment opportunity for ASEAN. 

3. China’s active interests and investment for public products for the world and neighboring countries like the Belt and Road Initiative, the AIIB, the Silk Road Fund etc are providing new opportunity for ASEAN countries and for the relations between the two. China has repeatedly emphasized that the important role of ASEAN for the Belt and Road Initiative. The China-Thailand railway, the China-Lao railway, the high speed railway project between Jakarta and Bandung in Indonesia are all considered as the key components of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative. The Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Mechanism as advocated by China is another institutional leverage for China and ASEAN relations. ASEAN countries will be the first to be benefited over such public products.

 

There might be other opportunities comes from internal or external initiatives, actions like the implementation of the 2030 Sustainable Agenda, the joint action on climate change treaty enforcement etc. As long as there is a will for cooperation, there are ways forward. As long as we hold the spirit of unity and mutual understanding, opportunities will trump the challenges.

                                                                                    

Even for the most serious challenges on South China Sea as emerged middle this year, we have tried to make it landed softly. In October, Philippine President Mr. Rodrigo Duterte paid a breakthrough visit to China. China and Philippine relation is now in the right direction of backing to track. We have returned to the table for dialogue and cooperation. In general, Tension in South China Sea is starting to cool down, China and other claimants are showing more willingness to cooperate, we have more opportunities for pragmatic maritime cooperation like emergency diplomatic hot line communication, the joint intention for maritime disaster relief excises.  

                                                                               

All these show the resilience and vitality of China-ASEAN relations. We are close neighbors that cannot be moved away, in the past and in the future. As we deepen mutual trust, make better communication and properly handle differences and disputes , the future ahead is bright. In the meantime, development remains our priority. Both China and ASEAN are developping countries. We should focus on economic development and people’s welfare, and work together to maintain a peaceful and stable regional environment for it. We should insist cooperative spirit and pursue win-win results, to make China-ASEAN relationship achieve sound and greater development. China will take responsibility as a major country in this region, but we will be a cooperative partner of ASEAN countries,and would never interfere the internal affairs or impose our values and will on others. With the spirit of mutual benefit and reciprocity, China will make best efforts to promote the development of ASEAN countries.

 

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,

The China-ASEAN relations have developed from the period of growth into the period of maturity. So long as we keep in mind the long term interests for both of us, and work hands by hands, we will definitely move our relations toward even greater development. Looking forward, I would like to share following ideas for your consideration.

 

Firstly, China and ASEAN should further coordinate in development strategy with each other. The “Belt and Road” Initiative could contribute to the ASEAN Community building if we have a good interaction. We should better align development goals and paths, so as to make the pie of common interests even larger. The Initiative is open and inclusive in its nature. It is to be built and shared by the countries along the routes and corridors. It provides China-ASEAN a tangible handle to strengthen the shared future. Academic institutes, civil society and other stakeholders all could find a role in participating and promoting the initiative. I hope the discussion like us here today would also contribute to such objective in concrete manner.

 

Secondly, Exploring new platforms for political and security cooperation is still needed. Political mutual trust between us is the precious treasure gained over the past 25 years, and also a solid base for long term and stable China-ASEAN Strategic Partnership. China is willing to work together with ASEAN countries on increasing high-level exchanges, deepening strategic communication, to enhance political trust. Based on current circumstances, we may explore to combine ASEAN Political Security Community with our non-traditional security functional cooperation, such as counter-terrorism, disaster relief, cyber security, infectious disease prevention and control, and so on. The non-traditional security cooperation could serve the needs of solving practical problem, and only in this way, could China-ASEAN security cooperation develop sustainablely and grow stronger.

 

Thirdly, There are great space for cooperation on unleash the potential of infrastructure investment and production capacity cooperation. China is ready to cooperate with ASEAN on infrastructure,with its technology and capital, and in a step-by-step, long-term oriented and sustainable way. With regard to the production capacity cooperation, we could continue to cooperate on traditional industry, and at the same time, attach more importance to green and high-tech industries, such as clean energy, tele-communication, intelligent manufacturing, e-commerce and so on. We will take companies as the main players in the market and follow international practices. The government will fully play its instructive and assistant role.

 

Fourthly, To manage differences and disputes with wisdom is crucial. There is a saying both in Southeast Asia and China, that the teeth bite tongue sometimes, so do the neighbors. The key point is to choose the right way to handle it. With regard to the South China Sea issue, we should handle it with consideration to maintaining a sound China-ASEAN relationship. With the gradual cooling down of the tension on South China Sea issue, China is ready to work with ASEAN countries to insist the “dual track” approach, to expedite maritime cooperation, promote full and effective implementation of the DOC, and engage in consultations to conclude the Code of Conduct (COC) at an early date, to make the South China Sea a “sea of peace and prosperity”.

 

Fifthly, Expanding sub-regional cooperation in selected direction might bring strong impetus for the overall relations. The Lancang-Mekong Cooperation is a suitable platform for breakthrough at sub-regional level and would finally promote the cooperation between China and some ASEAN countries as a whole. The LMC is targeted at narrowing the gaps among ASEAN members. It is developing in a very rapid way. In a very short time, we held the first leaders’ meeting , identified three cooperation pillars, five key priorities as well as 45 early harvest projects, and agreed upon the establishment of the LMC fund. China will soon put a center for water resources utilization for Lancang-Mekong river. Law enforcement mechanism under LMC framework is also in progress. China is determined to work together with the Mekong countries to focus on the pragmatic cooperation and bring benefits to all the people in the sub-region.

 

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,

Academic institutes, scholars, civil societies like you here could play important role and made great contributions to the development of China-ASEAN ties. We should keep in mind the long term and fundamental interests for our region and our people in our academic research and debate, trying to bring positive energy for public, and provide the insightful and practical suggestions and recommendations for policy consideration. I am sure the GMS-ASEAN conference 2016 is working for such objective and perspective. I wish it a great success!

Thank you all.

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