By Liu Yang
This year we celebrate the China-ASEAN Year of Media Exchanges. Amid all the friendly exchanges that happen regularly between China and ASEAN, the media has played an important role as a bridge and bond between the people on both sides. As China-ASEAN relations have entered a period of maturity, how will the two sides better cooperate to achieve win-win results? How will the media in the 11 countries deepen their cooperation?
For answers to such questions, China Report ASEAN conducted an exclusive interview with Yang Xiuping, first Chinese resident ambassador to ASEAN and former secretary-general of the ASEAN-China Centre (ACC).
China Report ASEAN: The 21st China-ASEAN Summit adopted China-ASEAN Strategic Partnership Vision 2030 in November 2018, marking the beginning of a period of maturity of China- ASEAN relations. What is your assessment of this relationship?
Yang Xiuping: The development of China and ASEAN member states, as well as their relations, is now at a new starting point. The two sides have carried out comprehensive, multi-tiered, and wide-ranging cooperation in education, culture, tourism, science and technology and other fields. Two-way tourist flow between China and ASEAN increased from 30 million in 2016 to 50 million in 2017, setting a record. In 2018, more than 200,000 students studied in each other’s countries. China has set up six cultural centers, 33 Confucius Institutes and 35 Confucius Classrooms in ASEAN countries. The China- ASEAN relationship has become one of the most dynamic and meaningful relationships for ASEAN and its dialogue partners, contributing to the common improvement of wellbeing of more than 2 billion people throughout China and ASEAN.
In 2018, President Xi Jinping made a visit to Brunei and the Philippines. Premier Li Keqiang attended the East Asia leaders’ meetings and visited Singapore. These high-level visits charted a course for the development of China-ASEAN relations, which have shifted from a period of growth to a period of maturity featuring quality improvement with the following features:
First, the goal has been clearly identified. During his visit to Indonesia in 2013, President Xi suggested building a closer China-ASEAN community of shared future by fostering trust and goodneighborly ties, working for win-win cooperation, standing together and assisting each other, enhancing mutual understanding and friendship and being open and inclusive. During his visit to the ASEAN Secretariat in May 2018, Premier Li declared China’s commitment to remain ASEAN’s partner for common development, peace, greater openness and win-win progress, entrepreneurship and innovation, and inclusiveness and mutual learning. The bright prospects of China- ASEAN relations have become increasingly evident. The China- ASEAN community of shared future is one arm of China’s drive to build a community of shared future for mankind in its own neighborhood, which has proved highly complementary with other regional integration initiatives such as the ASEAN Community and the East Asia Economic Community. Cooperation between China and ASEAN is likely to remain stable and long-lasting as it generates greater contributions to the prosperity and stability of the region and the world.
Second, a clear roadmap has been drawn. China has synergized its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) with the development strategies of ASEAN and its member states. China-ASEAN cooperation will be carried out in various realms supported by the three pillars of political-security cooperation, economic cooperation and people-to-people exchanges. Vision 2030 will guide regional, sub-regional and bilateral cooperation between China and ASEAN and all its member states. The multi-dimensional cooperation framework will provide strong support for the development of China-ASEAN relations.
Third, the foundation has become solid. Since China and ASEAN became dialogue partners in 1991 and strategic partners in 2003, bilateral cooperation has produced increasingly frequent practical outcomes. The continued expansion of economic and trade exchanges and personnel exchanges has contributed to increasing mutual understanding and friendship among people across the region.
China Report ASEAN: ASEAN is a priority area and important partner of BRI international cooperation. How can we improve cooperation in the future?
Yang: In recent years, China and ASEAN countries have made good progress in BRI cooperation. The two sides have achieved closer connectivity in policy, infrastructure, trade, finance and people-to-people ties. Since 2009, China has been ASEAN’s largest trading partner, while ASEAN has remained China’s third largest trading partner since 2011. The two sides have actively promoted major cooperation projects such as the Jakarta-Bandung High- Speed Railway, China-Laos Railway, China-Thailand Railway and joint economic and trade cooperation zones, lifting China- ASEAN cooperation to new heights. I think the two sides can strengthen cooperation by building more pillars for synergy of development strategies, connectivity, trade, people-topeople exchanges and other sectors.
The two sides should ensure that the region is an early beneficiary of outcomes of the first Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation. The top-level design of cooperation in various fields should be constantly optimized with emphasis on the key areas. Construction of key projects of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road should be managed properly to reap more benefits to more people. The blueprint of Vision 2030 will create a new pattern of China-ASEAN strategic partnership at a higher level and steer the future direction of cooperation and development in the region. Under its guidance, the two sides will become partners in common development, peace, greater openness, win-win progress, entrepreneurship and innovation, and inclusiveness and mutual learning as all parties build a closer community of shared future.
China Report ASEAN: The year 2019 is the China-ASEAN Year of Media Exchanges. How do you think our media cooperation can become more pragmatic and meaningful?
Yang: The media is an important bridge and link to promote people-to-people ties and mutual understanding. China Report ASEAN has set a good example. As a nationallevel foreign communication platform for the ASEAN region launched in 2016, it has actively reported on the political, economic, cultural and other exchanges and cooperation between China and ASEAN countries. It has organized media journeys for ASEAN reporters to travel to the eastern, central and western regions of China to report on China’s latest developments. It has evolved into a generator of opportunity and a platform for closer media exchanges and cooperation between China and ASEAN member states. Media exchanges between the two sides have produced practical outcomes, enriching the China- ASEAN strategic partnership.
In these new circumstances, the media of the two sides should make more concerted efforts to contribute to mutual understanding and friendship between people by creating a better atmosphere of public opinion for the development of China-ASEAN relations.
First, we must spread positive energy through friendly cooperation. Both sides should acquire an accurate understanding of new trends in China-ASEAN relations, continue to report objectively and fairly on economic and social development, promptly disseminate information on friendly cooperation and guide the public in participating in and supporting more practical cooperation.
Second, we should foster a long-term mechanism for communication and cooperation. Based on the China-ASEAN Media Cooperation Forum, the two sides can explore new mechanisms and measures for more stable and smooth channels for exchange and cooperation.
Third, we can optimize implementation of new technologies and expand channels of cooperation. Considering the fruitful results of the China-ASEAN Year of Innovation in 2018, the two sides should promote the application and cooperation of new media technologies and promote in-depth and lasting development of media exchanges and cooperation.
China Report ASEAN: In 2018, the first China-ASEAN Media Cooperation Forum (CAMCF) was held. What was your original goal when organizing such a forum? What are your expectations for its future?
Yang: The China-ASEAN Media Cooperation Forum is a Track 1.5 meeting between government officials and former officials and media practitioners. The purpose of CAMCF is to implement the consensus reached at the 2017 China-ASEAN Member States Information Ministerial Meeting, further enhance cooperation and exchanges between mainstream media organizations on both sides and explore new opportunities for development of China-ASEAN relations.
The first CAMCF held in Wuxi, Jiangsu Province in May 2018 was a resounding success. The theme of the forum was “Innovate Media Cooperation for a Shared Future.” Participants attended sessions on the media development trends in ASEAN and China, the role of the media in building a closer community, the application of big data in information dissemination and many other topics. In the forum’s wake, all participating parties expressed the hope that it become a regular brand event of China-ASEAN exchanges.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. The second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation is also happening. And this is the China- ASEAN Year of Media Exchanges as well. I’m sure the CAMCF of 2019 will continue to serve as a platform for practical cooperation between the mainstream media outlets of China and ASEAN countries. I hope the forum this year will involve innovation in its theme, content and format, to focus more on the themes of the era and the future trends of China-ASEAN media exchanges and cooperation. I hope that the media of both sides can seize the opportunities of the year to contribute more to the development of China-ASEAN relations.
China Report ASEAN: As the first Chinese resident ambassador to ASEAN and former secretary-general of ACC, what are your suggestions for the development of China- ASEAN cooperation in the future?
Yang: In my diplomatic career of nearly 40 years, I have witnessed great changes in the world, tremendous achievements by China in reform and opening-up and the tremendous contribution that China has made to the world. Over the next 15 years, the Chinese market will further expand and development will become more comprehensive. China is expected to import more than US$24 trillion in goods and attract more than US$2 trillion of foreign direct investment. China’s outbound investment will reach US$2 trillion. These numbers evidence China’s important contribution to the peace and prosperity of Asia-Pacific region and the whole world.
China has always attached great importance to its relations with ASEAN, making it a priority in its neighborhood diplomacy and construction of the Belt and Road. In recent years, I have personally been working on China-ASEAN exchanges and cooperation. What impressed me most was the growing awareness of the importance of China-ASEAN relations and growing eagerness to participate in China-ASEAN cooperation. Many Chinese provinces and municipalities, especially in the central, western and northeastern regions, now consider ASEAN the priority for foreign exchanges and cooperation. An increasing number of Chinese universities and enterprises have expressed intentions to further strengthen exchanges and cooperation with ASEAN countries.
A solid foundation has been laid for stronger China- ASEAN relations. Cooperation on construction of the Belt and Road has opened more areas for exchanges and cooperation. I firmly believe that our joint efforts will ensure the sustained and steady progress of the China-ASEAN strategic partnership, which will produce benefits for the people of both sides and contribute to world development and prosperity.