Embrace New Opportunities for China-ASEAN Cooperation

Embrace New Opportunities for China-ASEAN Cooperation

Address by H. E. Dai Bingguo

State Councilor of the People's Republic of China

At ASEAN Secretariat

Jakarta, 22 January 2010

Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan,


Dear Friends,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Ten years ago, when the 21st century just began, I visited Indonesia as Minister of the International Department of the Communist Party of China. Today, I am privileged to be back in this nation of thousand islands. It gives me great pleasure to set foot on the land where the well-known Bandung Conference was held and the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence established. It warms my heart to be in a country where my father-in-law worked and lived a few decades ago. I wish to take this opportunity to express my sincere thanks to the Indonesian government and the ASEAN Secretariat for the warm reception and thoughtful arrangements and extend warm greetings to the friendly people of the host country and people of all ASEAN countries.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are now at the end of the first decade of the 21st century. In my view, it has been an extraordinary decade for Indonesia and ASEAN, for Asia and the world, and for China and China-ASEAN relations.

These ten years have seen the hard work of Indonesia and the success of this nation. Indonesia has maintained social stability and national unity, achieved steady economic growth in spite of the international financial crisis and made invaluable contribution to peace, stability and development of the region. In the wake of the unprecedented Indian Ocean tsunami, the Indonesian people, united as one, moved quickly to rebuild the affected areas. Today, a more stable, prosperous and confident Indonesia commands greater influence and has higher standing in Asia and beyond. A worthy member of the G20, Indonesia is playing a greater role in regional and international affairs.

These ten years have seen a more united and stronger ASEAN in steps with globalization. Crises and tribulations have not crushed ASEAN. On the contrary, they were twinned into new motivation for advance and new opportunities for cooperation. Its Charter, which has become effective, identifies the goal of building a political-security community, economic community and socio-cultural community by 2015. ASEAN works actively to boost economic growth in member countries and narrow development gaps among them. It has become a regional organization which is more influential politically, more competitive economically and more attractive in regional cooperation. It has played an important and unique role in safeguarding and promoting regional stability, development and cooperation.

These ten years have seen dynamic development in Asia and continuous rise in its international standing. In a rapidly changing world, Asia has enjoyed strong economic growth, greater political stability as a whole and thriving regional cooperation. This has notably elevated Asia's international standing and attracted more attention from the rest of the world. The past year is a case in point: most countries that stood firm in the financial storm were to be found in Asia. The whole world is talking about the "rise of Asia". The world's major powers are turning their eyes to Asia in the hope of benefiting from its robust growth, as Asia is moving forward faster. We Asians should feel proud.

These ten years have seen major changes and tremendous development and progress throughout the world along with disasters and miseries. We experienced the September 11 incident, the once-in-a-century financial crisis, and an increasing number of global challenges such as climate change, terrorism, energy and resources scarcity and public health security. The world has become smaller. Countries have become more interdependent. We need, more than ever before, to help each other and overcome the difficulties of our times together. We are all in a big ship sailing through a violent storm. None of us can stand alone and survive. In time of crisis, the zero-sum mentality, prevalent during the Cold War period, only harms us all, for it puts one's interest, prosperity and security against that of others. What we need is a new approach of working for harmonious coexistence, sharing interests and responsibilities and seeking mutual benefit. Let us cooperate to build our home on this planet.

What changes have happened in China in these ten years?

China has come a long way in reform and opening-up. Its economy has grown, people's lives improved, and the landscape of the country changed enormously. China's ties, interactions, exchanges and cooperation with the rest of the world have increased notably in breadth and depth. But let me underscore that we are still a developing country. What you have seen in Beijing or Shanghai cannot represent the whole country. China's per capita GDP ranks only the 104th in the world. China has a big population and weak economic foundation. Its development is uneven between urban and rural areas and among regions. It has an unsound industrial structure. And its productivity is not yet developed. These challenges still remain. In our economic and social development, we face many thorny problems seldom seen anywhere else in the world. None of them is easy to solve in a country with 1.3 billion people. Some people are lavishing praises on China and describing my country as a developed one, even equal to the United States. My friends, please do not buy what they say. This is nothing but a myth!

We are well aware that it would take several generations' hard work or even longer before we can achieve modernization. We still need to deepen reform, further open up, and learn from and assimilate, in a modest manner, all the fine achievements of other countries, including those of ASEAN countries. We also need to develop long-term mutually-beneficial cooperation with ASEAN and other countries.

Some friends may say, yes you are a developing country, but you are so big, your economy is so large and grows so fast. That is somewhat fearful. Indeed, China is a big country, and with rapid economic growth. When people associate it with the behavior of some big countries in history, it is natural that they may feel a bit worried. But I want to assure you that China is not to be feared. It is a reliable neighbor and friend for you.

Let's look at China's history. Does China have the tradition and culture of aggression and expansion? I have noted many people across the world say "no". China did not seek expansion or hegemony even at the time when it was the most powerful country in the world with 30% of the global GDP a few hundred years ago. Many of you know about Zheng He's voyages to the Western Seas. Leading the most powerful fleet in the world, Zheng He made seven voyages to the Western Seas, bringing there porcelain, silk and tea, rather than bloodshed, plundering or colonialism. They also brought those countries tranquility and wellbeing by helping them fight pirates. To this day, Zheng He is still remembered as an envoy of friendship and peace, and his merits are widely recognized by people of Southeast Asia, including Indonesia.

Let's look at China's reality. China is getting more integrated into the international community. As China develops, it will be more closely linked with the world. It will need closer international cooperation and a peaceful and stable international environment. China's future and destiny has become ever more closely linked with that of the rest of the world. Mutual benefit and common development – this is the most important experience we have gained from our diplomacy over the past 30 years and more since reform and opening-up. It is also the key to our success, which we will always hold firm and never abandon.

Now let's look at China's fundamental policies. Not seeking hegemony is our basic national policy and strategic choice. China wants friendship, not hegemony. It always pursues a good-neighborly and friendly policy towards its neighbors. China stands for equality among all countries, big or small, strong or weak, rich or poor and respects the rights of their people to independently choosing their development paths. We will adhere to mutually-beneficial cooperation and common progress. China's long-term stability, development and prosperity have been proven to be an opportunity for its neighbors, not a challenge, even less a disaster. On the contrary, an unstable and underdeveloped China with 1.3 billion people would become a burden or even bring calamity to its neighbors.

As China does not seek hegemony for itself, nor will it compete for hegemony or seek joint hegemony in this region with other countries. As you know, what we pursue is an independent foreign policy of peace. We do not enter into alliance with any other countries. We are of the view that international issues should be handled by all of us instead of being dominated by one or two countries or a group of countries. The United States is an important partner for East Asian countries as well as for China. We value our relationship with the United States and we have neither the intention nor the ability to push it out. We are willing to see the United States play a constructive role in promoting stability and development in Asia.

In short, we want to be a good friend, good neighbor and good partner of ASEAN and Asian countries for ever. Our intention is transparent and based on good will. If some people still do not quite believe our intention and want to wait and see what China really wants, they may do so. But just keep in mind that if they wait for too long, they may very well miss the opportunity of cooperation with China, which would be totally unworthy.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

What changes have taken place in China-ASEAN relations in the past ten years? Great changes!

First, let me congratulate the launch of the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area as scheduled. This is a major happy event for China-ASEAN family, which shows the significant progress in the ever more extensive and intensive China-ASEAN cooperation in the past ten years.

China and ASEAN countries are connected by the same mountains and rivers. We have always regarded ASEAN countries as reliable good brothers, good neighbors, good friends and good partners and truly want to develop good-neighborliness and friendship with them. China and ASEAN countries have come together in weathering the storms and overcoming the difficulties. Through mutual understanding and support, we surmounted every challenge and achieved major successes.

China is the first major country outside the region to accede to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia and to forge a strategic partnership for peace and prosperity with ASEAN. China firmly supports ASEAN in playing a leading role in East Asia cooperation and supports the Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty.

Together we have built the biggest Free Trade Area between developing countries. Our bilateral trade jumped to US$231.1 billion in 2008 from US$78.2 billion in 2003, registering an annual growth rate of 24.2%. Today, durian, mangosteen and pitaya from Southeast Asia are on the shelves of Chinese supermarkets. Apple, orange and peach from China are an extra on the dinning table of ASEAN people. All this would have been unimaginable some ten years ago.

We successfully carried out a number of major cooperation projects. For instance, the Suzhou Industrial Park is not only a symbol of China-Singapore friendship and cooperation, but also a model for China's opening-up endeavor. Indonesia Suramadu Bridge built with China's support connects the Madura Island and the most populous Java Island and stands as a bridge of friendship between the two peoples. China-Philippines Agricultural Technology Center jointly built by the two countries is playing a positive role in addressing the food shortage for the local people. Between China and Viet Nam, most extensive and in-depth exchanges and cooperation are carried out on governance, reform and opening-up. The value such exchanges entail is huge and incomparable.

Now, the exchanges between Chinese and ASEAN people are becoming more dynamic, bringing our peoples closer. There are 766 regular flights between major cities in China and ASEAN every week. In the first ten months last year, more than 4 million people from ASEAN countries visited China and 3.7 million Chinese went to Southeast Asia. Singapore-Malaysia-Thailand remains the most popular route for Chinese tourists traveling abroad. A flight ticket can become a rarity especially during holiday seasons. Philippine bands play the beautiful melody in Beijing bars and the famous Indonesian songs Sing Sing So and Ayo Mama are popular among the Chinese public. Chinese music and audio-visual products are also popular with the ASEAN public. There have also been vigorous exchanges between students and young people from our two sides. At present, nearly 6,000 Chinese language volunteers are actively involved in 35 Confucius institutes or classrooms, teaching the Chinese language and culture to over 50,000 Southeast Asian students. Large numbers of Chinese students study in ASEAN countries. They will become the "torch carriers" for China-ASEAN friendship.

China-ASEAN relations have withstood the test of crises and disasters. From the Asian financial crisis in 1997 to the international financial crisis in 2008, China and ASEAN countries have always shared weal and woe and emerged victorious with our mutual understanding and trust deepened. In the wake of the Indian Ocean tsunami, China donated RMB 650 million to ASEAN and other disaster-stricken countries. The Chinese medical team was one of the first international rescue teams that arrived at the disaster areas. After the devastating earthquake in Wenchuan, people from Southeast Asia shared the sorrow with the Chinese people and donated more than RMB 500 million relief fund to the affected people in Sichuan. What's more, Indonesia and Singapore dispatched emergency rescue teams to the earthquake zone. In both the Chinese and Indonesian languages, there is this same idiom: sharing weal and woe. And this idiom gives vivid expression to the mutual support and help we give each other in time of disasters and difficulties.

China-ASEAN cooperation has brought benefit to the two peoples and promoted stability and prosperity in East Asia. It has helped deepen South-South cooperation and made due contribution to attaining the Millennium Development Goals. Today, China-ASEAN relations are at a new historical starting point. We should seize the opportunities, ride the tide, and strive for new progress in our cooperation. To this end, we should treat each other as equals and deepen mutual trust. The farther we go, the more common interests and shared needs we will find between us, and the more closely connected our destiny will be. We should deepen political mutual trust, always view each other as equal and reliable partners and strengthen the political foundation for cooperation. To increase communication with ASEAN on a continuous basis, China will give positive consideration to the establishment of a permanent body to ASEAN. As the first step, we will set up an "ASEAN Affairs Office" in the Chinese Embassy in Indonesia this year.

We should pursue mutual benefit and common development. The development of China and ASEAN has provided each other with more opportunities. The China-ASEAN FTA is a mutually beneficial systematic arrangement made by the two sides with the long-term development in mind. It serves the fundamental and long-term interests of both sides. The establishment and implementation of the FTA brings both sides more opportunities, a bigger market and better conditions for resource allocation. It is a testament to our win-win cooperation and common development. It goes without saying that in the course of developing the FTA, all parties need to make corresponding adjustments. Such adjustments will eventually help us enhance competitiveness and achieve greater and better development. In advancing this process, China will keep in close touch with ASEAN, give firm and well thought out support to the smooth growth of this newborn, our FTA, properly handle and resolve specific issues that may arise and work relentlessly toward the goal of mutual benefit and common development.

We should work together to overcome challenges. It is almost certain that we will be facing more and more regional and global challenges. We should carry on our good tradition of solidarity and mutual support, step up cooperation on climate change, food security and natural disasters and preserve peace for our homeland. We shall always unite as one big family in face of disasters.

We should seek common ground and properly handle differences. China and ASEAN have far more common interests than differences. We must expand our common interests and minimize our differences. It takes patience, time and wisdom to resolve issues between China and some ASEAN countries. Pending a solution, we must not complicate or even aggravate the issues, for it would consequently affect our overall cooperation. Even if our generation cannot fundamentally solve the problems, we should have faith in the wisdom and capability of future generations. They will find satisfactory solutions.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

How has the East Asia regional cooperation progressed in the past decade?

The East Asia regional cooperation was catalyzed by the 1997 Asian financial crisis. Since then, we have seen the creation and growth of 10+1, 10+3, East Asia Summit and China-Japan-ROK cooperation which have become highlights of Asian regional cooperation. We have issued two joint statements on East Asia cooperation, identified step by step the direction for the cooperation and set the long-term goal of building an East Asia community. We have deepened practical cooperation, worked actively to create the FTA, established the regional foreign exchange reserve pool and conducted fruitful cooperation in energy, environmental protection, disaster mitigation and relief, social development, culture and non-traditional security. We have initiated the concept of mutual respect, openness, inclusiveness and common development for cooperation, and extended a helping hand to each other in difficult times. All this has helped cement the popular basis for peace, prosperity and stability in East Asia. Today, countries in East Asia enjoy a more solid economic foundation and share a stronger desire for cooperation. Our cooperation mechanisms have become more mature and the vista for cooperation has become wider.

Over the past ten years, China and ASEAN have shared the historical mission of promoting East Asia regional cooperation. Its progress should be attributed to ASEAN's leading role.

We are pleased to see that there are now good opportunities for the deepening, development and innovation of East Asia cooperation.

In my view, to deepen East Asia cooperation, we should take gradual steps, start from the easy tasks, take account of each other's comfort level, manage well the rhythm of and reduce obstacles to cooperation.

To deepen East Asia cooperation, we should stick to the existing mechanisms. ASEAN, 10+1, 10+3, China-Japan-ROK cooperation, East Asia Summit, etc. are mutually reinforcing. Meanwhile, we should explore new models of cooperation with a view to promoting regional peace and development.

To deepen East Asia cooperation, we should be open and inclusive. East Asia cannot develop in isolation from the world. It is important to be open and practical, and actively absorb other regions' cooperation and development experience. We should remain open to other regional cooperation mechanisms while deepening 10+3 cooperation. We welcome countries outside this region to play a positive and constructive role in promoting East Asia cooperation.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We have stepped into the second decade of the 21st century and I believe it will be an even brighter decade full of fresh progress for Indonesia, ASEAN, Asia and beyond. Ties between China and Indonesia and between China and ASEAN will grow closer. I want to say in particular that we can see the light of Asia's rise on the horizon. A dream long kept alive by the Asians is coming true. Presented with such a historical opportunity, the Chinese people are ready to join hands with our brothers and sisters in Southeast Asian nations and write a brilliant chapter of China-ASEAN relations by heralding the rise of Asia and promoting the integration of the region. We can be pretty sure that Asia's development will make fresh and greater contribution to human civilization and progress.

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