China and ASEAN pursue common development through solidarity and mutual assistance
By Xu Ningning
This year marks the 55th anniversary of the founding of ASEAN. A close neighbor of ASEAN, China has witnessed not only the growth of the organization but also the development of China-ASEAN relations. No matter how the international political landscape changes, China, recognizing the value of good neighbors, will always develop a friendly relationship with ASEAN countries and join hands with them to pursue greater development.
Development in Solidarity
As the ASEAN Summit, the G20 Summit and the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting were held consecutively in mid-November, the world embraced an “Asian Moment.”
The themes of the three major conferences were “Addressing Challenges Together,” “Recover Together, Recover Stronger,” and “Open, Connect and Balance,” respectively. Facing pressing and challenging global issues, Cambodia, Indonesia, and Thailand, the respective presidency holders of the three grand events, focused on the themes and the direction of cooperation and helped to make the meetings productive and fruitful, which demonstrated the growing influence of ASEAN and its great contribution to global development.
Since its establishment, ASEAN has creatively built dialogue mechanisms both within and outside the bloc and explored the “ASEAN Way” featuring dialogue, coordination, cooperation, and mutual non-interference in internal affairs. ASEAN has grown into one of the most successful regional organizations.
ASEAN has been committed to building the ASEAN Community. It designed and implemented the ASEAN Community Blueprint to enhance cohesion within the group. The ASEAN Summit held on November 11 adopted the ASEAN Leaders’ Vision Statement on “ASEAN A.C.T.: Addressing Challenges Together,” in which heads of state stressed joint efforts and solidarity in the face of challenges to facilitate the building of a harmonious, peaceful, stable, and prosperous ASEAN Community.
Connectivity facilitation has been recognized as an important measure to build the ASEAN Community, so the ASEAN Summit adopted the ASEAN Leaders’ Statement on ASEAN Connectivity, and the Chairman’s Statement of the 40th and 41st ASEAN Summits made it clear that ASEAN will strive to further construction of the ASEAN Community and guarantee comprehensive and effective implementation of the ASEAN Community Vision 2025.
On ASEAN’s relations with other countries, the organization established comprehensive strategic partnerships with China, Australia, the United States, and India in the past year. ASEAN has been proactive in multilateral cooperation, signing the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) to join other countries in the opening and development of the world’s largest free trade area. ASEAN attaches great importance to expanding cooperation with countries outside the region, including its dialogue partners, as it seeks a larger role in international affairs.
In the meantime, ASEAN faces multiple challenges. In the ASEAN Leaders’ Statement on the 55th Anniversary of ASEAN issued at this year’s ASEAN Summit, leaders of ASEAN countries summarized the successful experience in cooperation and the development of ASEAN during the past 55 years and reached consensus on ensuring that ASEAN maintains steady economic growth, fosters a stable political situation, and plays an important role on the international stage.
To achieve development goals and blaze a growth path with ASEAN characteristics, ASEAN stands ready to strengthen internal cohesion and focus on the “body-building” of the organization as it strives to win the support and collaboration with other countries and regions.
At the 25th China-ASEAN Summit on November 11, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang noted that “since the establishment of the China-ASEAN dialogue relations in the early 1990s, China and ASEAN have worked together to pursue mutual benefits and win-win cooperation, gaining remarkable achievements and building an example for regional win-win cooperation and common development.” Multiple leaders of ASEAN countries agreed that the ASEAN-China relationship is the most dynamic bilateral relationship among the organization’s dialogue relations that sets an example for regional cooperation.
China has been following a policy of good-neighborliness and friendship. Over the past 31 years since the establishment of China-ASEAN dialogue relations, China has always placed ASEAN in a priority position in its neighborhood diplomacy.
Both sides have opened up markets wider to each other and sought development through cooperation, which has continuously upgraded China’s cooperation with ASEAN as well as its member countries. In November 2021, China and ASEAN held a China-ASEAN Special Summit to Commemorate the 30th Anniversary of China-ASEAN Dialogue Relations and jointly announced the establishment of a China-ASEAN Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.
China has been the first country to support ASEAN on many cooperation events. The China-ASEAN Free Trade Area (FTA) is the first of its kind that China has established with foreign countries, as well as the first FTA that ASEAN has built with a foreign country. China was the first country to sign the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia and the first to build a Strategic Partnership and Comprehensive Strategic Partnership with ASEAN. China also led ratification and implementation of the ASEAN-led RCEP. Such pioneering actions have demonstrated the vitality of cooperation brought by both side’s relentless efforts.
It should also be noted that China was the first country to support ASEAN centrality in regional cooperation. Thanks to China’s strong support, ASEAN continues to enjoy steady economic growth, greater influence in regional cooperation, and a growing role in international affairs. The Position Paper of the People’s Republic of China on Supporting ASEAN Centrality in the Evolving Regional Architecture issued in August stated that China, as ASEAN’s close neighbor and Comprehensive Strategic Partner, wishes to see a united, independent, strong, and growing ASEAN.
The sincere and steadfast willingness to cooperate is rooted in the strong belief that good neighbors are invaluable. No matter how the political landscape changes, China will never amend its policy of good-neighborliness and friendship with ASEAN.
To build a closer China-ASEAN community with a shared future, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang offered four suggestions at the 25th China-ASEAN Summit: foster further consensus on cooperation and development, enhance development drivers, consolidate support for development, and strengthen coordination on governance of multilateral development.
Consolidating Bilateral Cooperation
Bilateral cooperation, the basis of multilateral cooperation, has been consolidated continuously alongside the development of the China-ASEAN friendship.
As Chinese President Xi Jinping attended the 17th G20 Summit in Bali, China and Indonesia released the Joint Statement between the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of Indonesia on November 16 and reached new consensus on enhancing the China-Indonesia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership and building a China-Indonesia community with a shared future.
Both sides formulated the Plan of Action for Strengthening the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of Indonesia (2022-2026) to make systematic planning and arrangements on bilateral cooperation in multiple fields for the next five years. Both countries also signed a series of cooperation plans and agreements on expanding and deepening bilateral economic and trade cooperation within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative and the Global Maritime Fulcrum.
From November 17 to 19, President Xi attended the 29th APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting and made a state visit to Thailand. It was also Xi’s first visit to Thailand as a head of state. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha of the Kingdom of Thailand welcomed and saw off President Xi at the airport.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of establishment of the China-Thailand Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, so on November 19, China and Thailand issued Joint Statement between the People’s Republic of China and the Kingdom of Thailand on Working towards a China-Thailand Community with a Shared Future for Enhanced Stability, Prosperity and Sustainability.
From November 8 to 11, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visited Cambodia after an invitation. The Joint Communiqué between the Royal Government of the Kingdom of Cambodia and the Government of the People’s Republic of China issued on November 11 stated that both sides agreed to seek an updated action plan based on the Action Plan on Building Cambodia-China Community of Shared Future signed in 2019 with highlights including strengthening high-level strategic engagement and promoting high-quality Belt and Road cooperation through greater developmental strategy synergy.
From October 30 to November 1, Nguyen Phu Trong, general secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) Central Committee, visited China. The two countries issued a joint statement on continuing to promote and deepen the China-Vietnam comprehensive strategic partnership.
Both sides agreed to uphold the principle of “long-term stability, future-oriented thinking, friendly neighborliness, and comprehensive cooperation” as well as the spirit of “good neighbors, good friends, good comrades, good partners” to promote the long-term, healthy and stable development of the China-Vietnam comprehensive strategic partnership in the new era.
The two heads of state witnessed the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on jointly building the Belt and Road Initiative and the “Two Corridors and One Economic Circle” as well as a series of cooperation documents covering fields including production capacity, energy, cross-border economic cooperation zones, e-commerce, human resources, economics and trade, finance, culture, health, media, social sciences, and frontier defense.
ASEAN’s 55 years of growth coupled with 31 years of development of the China-ASEAN friendship have inspired both sides to cherish cooperation achievements, deepen neighborhood relations featuring harmony, everlasting friendship, and win-win cooperation, and make more contributions to regional stability and prosperity, world economic growth, and the progress of human civilization.
Xu Ningning is executive director of China-ASEAN Business Council (CABC).