Premier, State Council. People’s Republic of China
By Li Keqiang
ALL Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) members would agree that among Asean’s many dialogue partnerships, Asean plus China stands out as the most vibrant pair with the most substantial cooperation. China was the first to join the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia, the first to establish a strategic partnership with Asean, and the first to launch FTA negotiations with Asean. Our trade ties have entered a fast-lane of growth, which saw China remain Asean’s largest trading partner for eight consecutive years. Our two-way direct investment reached a cumulative total of nearly $200 billion, and fruitful cooperation has been carried out in other areas as well. China always puts Asean high on its diplomatic agenda in developing ties with its neighbors. As committed good neighbors, good friends and good partners sharing weal and woe, China and Asean are working together to build a community of shared future with common ideals, common prosperity and common responsibility.
China and Asean countries have shown to the world that we are good neighbors sharing mountains and rivers and giving each other help and support; we are trustworthy friends with common visions and aspirations; and we are close partners sharing weal and woe and pursuing win-win cooperation.
China and Asean countries need to follow the trend of peace and development of our times, work closely together to pursue our shared goals, and take our relations to new heights by enhancing cooperation in all areas.
In this connection, let me propose the following:
First, we need to develop a joint vision for China-Asean relations. As we celebrate the 15th anniversary of the China-Asean strategic partnership next year, it is necessary for us to plan for the mid- and long-term development of our relations. China proposes that we formulate a China-Asean Strategic Partnership Vision 2030 and upgrade the “2+7” cooperation framework into a “3+X” cooperation framework. This will be a new cooperation framework underpinned by the three pillars of political and security cooperation, economic cooperation and people-to-people exchange and supported by cooperation in multiple sectors. The vision 2030 should be aligned with the development strategies of both sides and with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development of the United Nations by promoting cooperation on sustainable development. This will expand the global dimension of China-Asean cooperation and build a new paradigm for South-South cooperation. China suggests that our two sides start the drafting and consultation on this new vision as soon as possible to ensure that it can be submitted to the China-Asean Summit next year for deliberation and adoption.
Second, we need to form greater synergy between the Belt and Road Initiative and Asean’s development plans. Asean is a priority region in the pursuit of the Belt and Road Initiative. Following the principle of pursuing shared benefits through consultation and collaboration, China will work with Asean countries to deliver on the outcomes of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, further synergize the Belt and Road Initiative with the Master Plan on Asean Connectivity 2025 and deepen all-round cooperation in business, finance, infrastructure, rules and mechanisms, and human resources. China welcomes the adoption of the Joint Statement on Further Deepening China-Asean Infrastructure Connectivity Cooperation at this meeting, and stands ready to work with Asean to effectively implement the newly revised Strategic Plan for China-Asean Transport Cooperation. Major projects on land, maritime, aviation and cyber connectivity will be vigorously implemented to demonstrate the real difference such cooperation brings. China will launch the China-Asean Environmental Information Sharing Platform to facilitate the development of the big data service platform for ecological and environmental protection among the Belt and Road countries.
Third, we need to steadily advance political and security cooperation. Only with deep roots of political mutual trust can the tree of win-win cooperation grow tall and sturdy. We need to maintain close high-level exchanges, enhance policy communication and dialogue, and deepen political and security cooperation to increase mutual understanding and trust. China will work with Asean to strengthen judiciary cooperation and cooperation in non-traditional security fields such as combating transnational crimes, counter-terrorism and cybersecurity. We are ready to implement the Nanning Statement of the Second China-Asean Justice Forum issued this year and the renewed Memorandum of Understanding Between the People’s Republic of China and Asean on Cooperation in the Field of Non-Traditional Security Issues. We welcome the China-Asean Joint Statement on Comprehensively Strengthening Effective Anti-Corruption Cooperation adopted at this meeting and stand ready to send experts to Asean countries to provide on-site training on cyber-emergency response. We welcome the active participation of ASEAN countries in the first tabletop exercise of China-Asean joint maritime search and rescue to be held in China next year.
Fourth, we need to strengthen the bond of business cooperation. In the past five years, the Chinese economy registered an average annual growth of over 7 percent, contributing 30 percent to global growth and also boosting the economies of Asean countries. In cumulative terms, China’s imports from Asean have surpassed $1 trillion and its direct investment in Asean has reached $36 billion in the same period. This has made China an important export market and source of investment for Asean countries. As the Chinese economy enters a stage of high-quality growth, new drivers are fast emerging. Given its robust strength, strong resilience and huge potential, the Chinese economy can well maintain sound growth for years to come. China is a country of over 1.3 billion people. Its rising household income, expanding middle-income group and increasingly diversified consumption has ensured China’s place as the most promising growth market in the world. China is also a major outward investor with abundant foreign exchange reserves and a growing number of companies which are both willing and able to explore the global market.
All these will create new opportunities for China-Asean business cooperation and give a new impetus to our common development. China does not seek trade surpluses. We will import more competitive goods from Asean countries. We hope that all Asean countries will ratify the protocol on upgrading China-ASEAN Free Trade Area as soon as possible. We are ready to complete the negotiations on the product specific rules of origin with the Asean side at an early date to deliver the benefits of the upgraded FTA to our companies and people in the near future. China will work with Asean countries to actively advance RCEP negotiations, further promote trade and investment liberalization and facilitation in the region, and lay the foundation for the building of an East Asia economic community. Next year, China will continue to provide grant assistance to Asean. We are ready to conclude the memorandum of understanding between China and Asean on helping Cambodia and Myanmar to establish animal disease control and prevention laboratories at an early date.
China’s advanced industrial capacity as well as cost-effective equipment are well-suited to the development needs of Asean countries. China stands ready to work with ASEAN countries to implement the Joint Statement Between China and Asean on Production Capacity Cooperation issued last year, including jointly building trade and industrial cooperation parks and facilitating the launch of major projects of international industrial capacity cooperation. We should together develop better integrated industrial, value and logistics chains that will help boost growth and deliver more widely shared benefits. China is keen to enhance financial cooperation with Asean countries in the course of the renminbi’s internationalization, expand the scale of local currency settlement, facilitate the development of local currency bond markets, and promote the use of local currency in regional investment and trade. China will set up a China-Asean Inter-bank Association Special Loan equivalent to RMB10 billion to support our cooperation projects.
Fifth, we need to raise the level of people-to-people exchange and cooperation. Tourism is one of the areas with the greatest consensus, best foundation and biggest potential for cooperation. China will implement the Joint Statement Between China and Asean on Tourism Cooperation to be issued at this meeting, host the first China-Asean tourism ministers’ meeting, and take our tourism cooperation to a new level. During this year’s China-Asean Education Cooperation Week, we adopted the Plan of Action for China-Asean Education Cooperation (2017-2020), which set the direction for the next stage of our education cooperation. In the next three years, China will provide Asean countries with no less than 20,000 government scholarships. We proposed the China-Asean Human Resource Development Program, and will invite 3,000 Asean visitors to China for study programs in 2018. Furthermore, the two sides will enhance cooperation on capacity-building in areas including economy and trade, agriculture, science and technology, education, culture, health, public administration and transport.
China has been pursuing a strategy of innovation-driven growth, which involves vigorous actions on promoting Internet plus, national big data strategy and Made in China 2025. Asean has also given strategic priority to digital innovation and identified innovation-driven growth as its priority task. This promises unprecedented opportunities for innovation cooperation between the two sides. China supports designating 2018 as the China-Asean Innovation Year. We will host a series of events such as the Forum on China-Asean Technology Transfer and Collaborative Innovation and the China-Asean Youth Innovation and Entrepreneurship Competition. In the next five years, China will invite 500 young Asean scientists to visit China for short-term scientific research, provide 1,200 training opportunities for Asean professionals in science, technology and management, and launch 10 joint laboratories. Fast progress in scientific and technological innovation cooperation will lead the way for all-round cooperation on innovation building a China-ASEAN community of shared future.
A peaceful South China Sea
Peace and stability in the South China Sea is closely linked to the development and prosperity of regional countries. Countries in the region stand to benefit the most from a peaceful South China Sea, yet they will also bear the brunt of instability. China conducts most of its trade through the South China Sea. We want peace and stability there more than any other country. China’s commitment to the goal of upholding peace and stability in the South China Sea will not change, nor will we change our policy of peacefully resolving disputes over territory and maritime rights and interests through consultation and negotiation with countries directly concerned. China looks forward to working with Asean countries in the constructive spirit of friendly consultation to continue to fully and effectively implement the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and actively advance consultations on the COC. The COC framework, agreed upon by all relevant parties, represents our common understanding on the main elements of the COC and is an important initial outcome of the COC consultation.
China proposes that the commencement of the next-step consultation on the text of the COC be officially declared at this meeting. We hope the parties could increase their mutual understanding and trust through COC consultation and strive to conclude COC on the basis of consensus at an early date to make it an anchor of peace and stability in the South China Sea. China welcomes the adoption of the Declaration for a Decade of Coastal and Marine Environmental Protection (2017-2027). Under the framework of DOC implementation and COC consultation, we are ready to conduct practical cooperation with Asean countries in the South China Sea in such areas as maritime search and rescue and marine environmental protection, and support relevant projects with the China-Asean Maritime Cooperation Fund and the China-Asean Cooperation Fund.
There is a saying in the Philippines, “A broom is sturdy because its strands are tightly bound together. (Matibay ang walis, palibhasa’y magkabigkis.)” I am convinced that so long as China and Asean stand more firmly together and work hand in hand to pursue common progress, we will create broad prospects for building a China-Asean community of shared future.
This article was excerpted from a speech delivered by Li Keqiang, Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China at the 20th China-Asean Summit, November 13, 2017, in Manila.