Yang Xiuping: Youth Carrying Forward China-ASEAN Friendship | Cover Story

By Wang Fengjuan

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The year 2016 marks the 25th anniversary of the establishment of dialogue relations between China and ASEAN, as well as the ASEAN-China Year of Educational Exchange. As an important exchange platform for young students, the First China-ASEAN Youth Summit was held at Peking University in Beijing on Dec. 2, 2016. Secretary General of the ASEAN-China Center (ACC) Yang Xiuping attended the opening ceremony and spoke about China-ASEAN education cooperation in an interview with China Report ASEAN.

China Report ASEAN: What educational programs has the ACC launched this year?

Yang Xiuping: In the field of education, the ACC has played an active role as a bridge to facilitate exchanges and cooperation between governments, educational institutions and students of China and ASEAN member states. We have built many cooperation platforms like the Southeast Asia-China Education Research Network, the ASEAN-China Technical and Vocational Education and Training Alliance and the ASEAN-China Network for Cooperation and Exchanges among Engineering and Technology Universities.

We have also established the ASEAN-China Language and Culture Center and the ASEAN-China Chinese Language and Culture Education Base with our partners. The ACC has helped more than 400 vocational education institutions in China and ASEAN countries with the signing of memorandums of cooperation. We have also published books on Chinese and ASEAN education systems, and sponsored the preparation of a handbook for ASEAN students in Beijing.

In 2016, the ACC sponsored and hosted eight events in collaboration with partners like the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization. We organized the Logo Design Competition for the ASEAN-China Year of Educational Exchange, and we were deeply involved in the 9th China-ASEAN Education Cooperation Week in Guiyang this year.

Youth exchange is one of the ACC’s highlights in the field of education in 2016. This year we held the ASEAN-China Forum of Youth and Humanities jointly with Jilin University, as well as the ASEAN-China Youth Leadership Summit with Guangxi Normal University. We also held the Third Beijing ASEAN Students’ Games and the ASEAN-China Students’ Day. We organized the First ASEAN-China Youth Summer Camp, with 33 students studying Chinese and experiencing Chinese culture. The ACC also sponsored the participation of Chinese students in summer programs organized by the ASEAN-Korea Center, supported the First China Model ASEAN Meeting, and joined the Second ASEAN-China Youth Exchange Visit to Siem Reap, Cambodia. In the middle of this December, the ASEAN-China Cultural Exchange Day and the New Year’s Gala for Students in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Region will be held by the ACC at Tianjin University.

In order to promote the understanding of China-ASEAN relations among people of both sides, especially students, the ACC launched and organized the ASEAN Ambassador Lecture Series. Since 2012, we have invited ambassadors of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam to give lectures at Chinese universities located in Beijing, Nanjing, Lanzhou and other cities. These talks have been warmly welcomed by teachers and students.

China Report ASEAN: How does the ACC plan to improve youth exchanges in the future?

Yang Xiuping: According to Chinese Premier Li Keqiang when he spoke at the 19th China-ASEAN Summit this September, China has proposed an upgraded version of the China-ASEAN Double 100,000 Students Plan to bring student exchanges to 300,000 person-times by 2025, and to meet this goal, China will set up the China-ASEAN Maritime Silk Road Scholarships program, benefiting 1,000 ASEAN students next year.

Premier Li also said that a China-ASEAN Action Plan on Education Cooperation (2016-2020) could be finalized as quickly as possible, and the ACC will play an even greater role in enhancing people-to-people interactions.

Education is part of youth exchanges. The ACC will boost cooperation in culture and humanities through interactions in education to further enhance mutual trust between China and ASEAN countries. Next year is the ASEAN-China Year of Tourism Cooperation. We will build platforms for exchanges under this theme and carry out a variety of events.

China Report ASEAN: Youth exchanges play an active role in strengthening people-to-people ties. What do you expect from young people in promoting China-ASEAN relations?

Yang Xiuping: Young people are the future of any country. They are an important force who inherit past traditions and break new ground for the future. The development of China-ASEAN relations needs active participation of young people from both sides. Exchange of ideas among young people nurtures future leadership with a global vision and spirit of inclusiveness. It also helps promote friendship and mutual understanding, consolidating the foundation of China-ASEAN relations.

Youth is a golden period in one’s lifetime, full of vitality and passion for innovation. I hope young students cherish their time at university and strive to become successful under the guidance of their teachers. They are expected to make contributions to the bright future of China and ASEAN with their rich knowledge, healthy personality and perseverance.

At present, both China and ASEAN countries are at crucial stages of development, and China-ASEAN relations are facing a number of opportunities for improvement. The China-ASEAN Youth Summit is an event for intellectual exchange and idea sharing. It is my sincere hope that young students from China and ASEAN countries play their role as trailblazers, pioneers and devotees who can shoulder their historic responsibilities and carry forward the cause of promoting China-ASEAN friendly relations.

Youth is a golden period in one’s lifetime, full of vitality and passion for innovation. They are expected to make contributions to the bright future of China and ASEAN with their rich knowledge, healthy personality and perseverance.

China Report ASEAN: What do China and ASEAN countries need to do to achieve win-win cooperation under current conditions?

Yang Xiuping: Under new global conditions, China and ASEAN should strengthen strategic coordination and further expand their common interests in accordance with China’s 13th Five-Year Plan and the ASEAN Community Vision 2025.

First, upgrading the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area is an opportunity to promote bilateral trade in goods, services and technologies, improving economic cooperation in terms of both quality and efficiency.

Second, both sides should look to expand cooperation in production capacity to achieve industrial transformation and upgrading. China has strong financial and technological capacity, while ASEAN is in an important period in its industrialization and urbanization. Enhancing production capacity cooperation can give full play to the complementary advantages of both sides, creating more job opportunities at the same time.

Third, enhancing connectivity through major projects would be welcomed. Organizations like the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Silk Road Fund need to provide cooperation in various fields with strong financial support.

Fourth, both sides should look to push forward the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation initiative and other sub-regional cooperation efforts. Lancang-Mekong Cooperation is aimed at narrowing development gaps among ASEAN member states. China and ASEAN need to open up new prospects for cooperation in the key priority areas of connectivity, production capacity, cross-border economic cooperation, water resources, agriculture and poverty reduction, and actively promote the implementation of early harvest projects.

Fifth, people-to-people exchanges should be a new pillar for cooperation. This year is the ASEAN-China Year of Educational Exchange. Next year marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of ASEAN, as well as the ASEAN-China Year of Tourism Cooperation. The two sides may further enhance people-to-people ties with a wide range of events and activities under these themes.

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