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25th China ASEAN Summit

by S. Jack Heffernan Ph.D

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Friday attended the 25th China-ASEAN Summit, during which he called for enhancing cooperation with ASEAN countries, and jointly maintaining regional peace and stability.

Li said that in November last year, the two sides held a special summit to commemorate the 30th anniversary of China-ASEAN dialogue relations and formally inaugurated a comprehensive strategic partnership.

At that summit, Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed jointly building a peaceful, safe and secure, prosperous, beautiful and amicable home, he recalled.

The regional and international environments are undergoing profound and complex changes with rising uncertainties and destabilizing factors, he said.

He said that China and ASEAN are comprehensive strategic partners with a shared future, and have stood together through thick and thin. “Picking sides should not have to be our choice. Openness and cooperation are the viable way in meeting our common challenges.”

China, he said, will continue to take ASEAN as a high priority in its neighborhood diplomacy, and will all along support ASEAN’s community-building as well as ASEAN centrality in East Asian cooperation, he said.

China stands ready to work with ASEAN to stay focused on development and cooperation, and build a closer China-ASEAN community with a shared future, he added.

To this end, Li made a series of proposals.

Both sides need to forge a stronger consensus on development cooperation and better synergize their development strategies, he said, calling for improving the quality and efficiency of their practical cooperation.

China will set up a special loan on China-ASEAN common development to intensify cooperation on post-pandemic recovery, he said.

Calling for bolstering the drivers for development, Li said both sides need to further tap the potentials of cooperation.

Trade between China and ASEAN has grown against the odds of COVID-19 in the past three years, he said, adding that they have become each other’s largest trading partner.

Since the two sides have jointly announced the official launch of negotiations on a new round of upgrade of their free trade area, Li called on China and ASEAN to use this opportunity to raise the quality and level of trade and investment cooperation.

The Chinese premier also urged China and ASEAN to consolidate the underlying support for development, including accelerating the establishment of the China-ASEAN Public Health Research and Development Collaborating Center.

Over the past two decades, by committing to the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), China and ASEAN countries have gradually identified an effective pathway for enhancing trust and managing differences, gained good experience of dialogue, cooperation, and joint governance, and maintained overall peace and stability in the South China Sea, Li said.

China welcomes the release of the Joint Statement on the 20th Anniversary of the DOC at this meeting and highly commends the positive progress made in the Code of Conduct(COC) consultations, he said.

He said “we have full confidence, wisdom and capacity to take the key to the South China Sea issue firmly in our own hands.”

China stands ready to work with ASEAN countries to properly handle the South China Sea issue in keeping with the international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and on the basis of mutual respect, he said.

“Together, we could serve as the defender of peace, builder of friendship and champion of cooperation in the South China Sea,” Li said.

Li said that China will keep to its foreign policy goals of upholding world peace and promoting common development, remain committed to an independent foreign policy of peace, to peaceful development and to the fundamental national policy of opening-up, and work to grow friendship and cooperation with all countries.

On this platform, China has proposed more than 160 important cooperation initiatives in the last 10 years, and more than 99.5 percent of them have been implemented, Li said.

Noting that China-ASEAN relationship benefits both sides, Li said China and ASEAN are good neighbors who will always be there for each other, good friends that can be counted on, and good partners that no one can set apart.

He expressed his confidence in the future of this relationship, saying he is sure that the friendship and cooperation will enjoy broader prospects, and the region will see an even brighter future.

Leaders of ASEAN countries attending the meeting said that China’s sustainable development has made important contribution to the common prosperity of the region.

Over the past more than three decades, ASEAN-China relations have produced fruitful results on the basis of mutual respect and win-win cooperation, becoming the most dynamic relationship among ASEAN dialogue partners and setting a good example of regional cooperation, they said, adding that the relations have made important contribution to regional and world stability and prosperity.

ASEAN highly appreciates China’s continued support for ASEAN centrality and unity, and thanks China’s tremendous help in fighting the pandemic, they said.

ASEAN is ready to further tap cooperation potential with China, upgrade the ASEAN-China free trade area, and expand cooperation in digital economy, infrastructure, information and communications, ecological and environmental protection, food security, education and culture, and other areas, so as to push forward the ASEAN-China comprehensive strategic partnership, they said.

ASEAN is committed to the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), commends the progress made in the consultations on the COC in the South China Sea, and looks forward to the early conclusion of an effective and substantive COC consistent with international law, they said.

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