Two-way exchanges: China-ASEAN dialogue relations | China Unlocked

By Dong Yan

Across the region, diplomats and members of the business community see a bright future for China-ASEAN tourism and cultural exchange.

Chinese tourists in Indonesia
A Chinese tourist receives a warm welcome on Bintan Island, Indonesia.


Chinese Flavor in ASEAN Tourism

Two-way personnel exchanges between the two sides increased from 3.87 million in 2003 to 31 million in 2016. China has become ASEAN’s largest source of overseas tourists.

Among China’s top 15 sources of overseas tourists, six are ASEAN countries. In the summer and autumn seasons of 2016, more than 2,700 flights traveled between China and ASEAN countries every week, and the figure is expected to reach 5,000 this year.

“Tourism helps ASEAN and China understand the culture of one another,” said ASEAN Deputy Secretary-General Mochtan.

“Additionally, tourists can gain a better understanding of biodiversity on their journeys and become more aware of the need for environmental protection.”

The year 2017 marks the ASEAN-China Year of Tourism Cooperation. The two sides will further their tourism cooperation to achieve the goal of 30 million two-way visitors by 2020.

东盟是一个多元化的国际组织,各国在文化、语言、历史等领域各有不同。东盟秘书处设在印尼首都雅加达。(摄影 董彦)
ASEAN, with its secretariat in Jakarta, is a diversified international organization consisting of member states which differ from one another in terms of culture, language and history.

As the rotating chair of ASEAN this year, the Philippines has become increasingly attractive to Chinese tourists. In 2016, China surpassed Japan to become the third largest source of overseas tourists to the Philippines. A total of 680,000 Chinese tourists visited the Philippines, a year-on-year increase of 37.7 percent. It takes only two-to-four hours to fly from Shanghai or Guangzhou to Philippine holiday destinations such as Boracay, Marlay or Cebu.

Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua said that with the development of relations between the two countries, more direct flights will soon become available. In 2017, 1 million Chinese tourists are expected to visit the Philippines.

The Philippines is home to a large number of overseas Chinese, particularly in Laoag. On the screening machines at the airport, bilingual labels note that much of the equipment used there was donated by the Consulate of the People’s Republic of China in Laoag. The Seaview Holiday Inn Laoag, the largest holiday resort in the city, is managed by a Chinese enterprise. The resort is a fusion of Spanish, Philippine and Chinese elements. Services in Chinese are available from the front desk to the dining rooms.

As one of the most popular ASEAN tourist destinations, Indonesia hosted 1.453 million Chinese tourists in 2016. Getting married in Bali, watching sunrise in Borobudur and diving in Manado are no longer the conversation topics of a privileged few in China. More and more Chinese holiday makers are choosing such places as their travel destinations. An increasing number of signs in Chinese can be spotted across Indonesia, aiding Chinese tourists.

According to Sun Weide, Charge d’affaires of the Chinese Embassy in Indonesia, the Indonesian government has taken many initiatives to attract Chinese tourists to Indonesia in recent years. Since a visa waiver for Chinese tourists was implemented in June 2015, Indonesia’s Tourism Ministry has introduced a number of other measures, including opening direct flights from major Chinese cities to Jakarta, Bali and Manado and cooperating with Baidu, Wanda and other Chinese companies in tourism promotion and infrastructure upgrading. Also being improved are various services in Chinese, including road signs, telephone hotlines and tour guides. Stronger protection for the rights and interests of Chinese tourists is also being promoted.


People-to-People Exchanges

There are about 500 Confucius Institutes around the world, offering insight and education into China’s language and culture. Since the Belt and Road Initiative was first proposed, Confucius Institutes in the countries along the route have been an important driving force of the Belt and Road.

The Confucius Institute at Ateneo de Manila University was jointly built by the Sun Yat-sen University of China and the Ateneo de Manila University of the Philippines. Some of the instructors of the institute are from Sun Yat-sen University, while others are volunteers from other Chinese universities. According to institute dean Liang Guanghan, the curriculum of the institute consists of not only Chinese language courses, but also Chinese calligraphy, painting, music and sports. Each instructor has a special skill in traditional Chinese musical instruments. During the summer holiday, the institute organizes “China summer camps” for Philippine students to better experience Chinese culture. In addition, the institute organizes at least three Belt and Road forums each year to promote cooperation within its framework. It also hosts a training program for the employees of both sides to enhance mutual understanding.

Instructors and students at the 10th anniversary of the Confucius Institute at Ateneo de Manila University, the first of its kind in the Philippines, on Oct. 9, 2016.

As a Chinese enterprise that has succeeded in the overseas market, Huawei has 10 industrial facilities in the Philippines, offering 2,000 jobs to the local population. Huawei has always been committed to responsible corporate citizenship, focusing on ICT personnel training as well as eliminating the digital divide. In the Philippines, Huawei has worked with local training institutions, and since 2015, it has selected 11 Philippine students for a 2-week training program in China. The program’s first week focuses on language and culture, while the second week focuses on information and networking technology at Huawei’s headquarters.

“In the Philippines, there are 3.8 million university students, only 12 percent of whom major in science and engineering. There is a shortage of engineers in the Philippines,” said Liu Gaojie, deputy general manager of Huawei Technologies in the Philippines. Huawei attaches great importance to personnel training. The company has built a training center in Manila, which will train 2,000-3,000 engineers for Huawei and its suppliers each year.

“The ASEAN-China Center [ACC] will continue to build more platforms for two-way exchanges that can enhance mutual trust, exchanges and cooperation between China and ASEAN countries,” said Yang Xiuping, Secretary-General of ACC, organizer of the 2017 Chinese Media Trip to ASEAN. “The ACC will continue to play its role as an information and operation center to promote mutually beneficial cooperation in trade, investment, education, culture, tourism, the media and other areas, all of which can aid the sustainable development of ASEAN-China relations.”

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