Speech by H.E. Ambassador Tong Xiaoling at the Forum in Commemoration of the 20th Anniversary Marking Dialogue Relations between China-ASEAN

China-ASEAN Cooperation: A Model of Good-Neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation

By Tong Xiaoling

Ambassador of the People's Republic of China to ASEAN

July 6, 2011 Jakarta


Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure for me to join all of you today at this Forum. On the outset, I would like to extend my appreciation to the International Council of World Affairs of Indonesia, the Chinese People's Institute of Foreign Affairs and the Chinese Embassy in Jakarta for organizing this meaningful and timely Forum with the theme of "Commemorating the 20th Anniversary of China-ASEAN Dialogue Relations". I also join all the previous speakers in commending the fruitful progress of China-ASEAN partnership in the past twenty years and the historical development of China-Indonesia relations over the past sixty years.

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Overview of the China-ASEAN Cooperation

The year 1991 is the turning point in the relations between China and ASEAN. Mr. Qian Qichen, the then Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister attended the opening session of the 24th ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Kuala Lumpur, which started the dialogue process between China and ASEAN. The year 1997 is a watershed in the history of China-ASEAN relations. Despite its own financial difficulties, China decided not to devalue its currency renminbi in order to help other Southeast Asian countries to obtain regional recovery. Hence China and ASEAN established good-neighborly and mutual-trust partnership. In 2003, with the deepening of the all-round cooperation, China and ASEAN elevated their relations to the strategic partnership for peace and prosperity toward the 21st century.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the establishment of China-ASEAN dialogue relations. China applauds the progress achieved in the relationship over the past 20 years. In retrospect, the process of China-ASEAN partnership can be best summarized in the following four aspects.

Firstly, political mutual trust has continued to deepen. Among ASEAN's dialogue partners, China was the first to accede to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia, the first to establish strategic partnership with ASEAN, and the first to express unequivocal support to the Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty. And in the meantime, China has always supported ASEAN integration, ASEAN community building and ASEAN's leading role in East Asia cooperation.

Secondly, mutually beneficial cooperation has continued to expand. China-ASEAN cooperation has branched out to cover more than 20 areas including economy and trade, agriculture and information, and education and people-to-people exchanges. We established 11 ministerial mechanisms and put in place platforms of exchange such as the China-ASEAN Expo, the China-ASEAN Education Exchange Week and the China-ASEAN Youth Camp. Two-way trade soared from less than US$10 billion in 1991 to over US$290 billion in 2010, representing an average annual growth of more than 20%. Last year the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area was completed. China is now ASEAN's largest trading partner, while ASEAN is China's fourth largest trading partner. Our cooperation in mutual investment and finance has made enormous headway and shows a momentum of strong growth.

Thirdly, we have given each other unfailing support over difficult times. We supported each other in jointly addressing the 1997 Asian financial crisis and the most recent international financial crisis. We were with each other in responding to major natural disasters like the Indian Ocean tsunami, the cyclone disaster in Myanmar, and the Wenchuan earthquake in China, and in controlling such communicable diseases as SARS and avian influenza. By working together to overcome these challenges, we have deepened friendship and promoted our common development.

Fourthly, we have worked together to uphold regional peace and stability. China and ASEAN countries hold similar positions on international and regional affairs. And we have supported each other and conducted fruitful cooperation in this area. The growth of China-ASEAN relations has become an important factor for peace and stability in the region. The Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), jointly issued by China and ASEAN countries, is an important contribution to peace and stability in the South China Sea.

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

China is happy to see the all-round development of its relations with ASEAN over the past 20 years. None of this would have been possible without the concerted efforts of the past generations of leaders and successive governments of both sides as well as the extensive support of the people of China and ASEAN countries.

Experiences Obtained Through the Cooperation

In the course of our cooperation, China and ASEAN countries have got to know each other much better and their mutual understanding and mutual trust have been substantially enhanced through dialogues and mutual support. Among the experiences, there are a few important aspects that should be mentioned.

(1) Promoting mutual trust and mutual understanding is the basis to establish the strategic partnership for peace and prosperity.

Ever since China started its dialogues with ASEAN in 1991, it has made tremendous efforts to improve its political relations with ASEAN and its Member States and to promote mutual trust and mutual confidence. Apart from political dialogues at various levels and confidence-building measures, China has strictly observed mutual respect and mutual benefit in its relations with ASEAN. China sincerely supports ASEAN community-building and its centrality in the East Asian cooperation. China maintains that ASEAN plus China (10+1) should serve as the foundation of our cooperation.

It should be noted that in the past 20 years our mutual trust increased and our cooperation strengthened each time when we jointly overcame some crisis, proving "a friend in need is a friend indeed." From 1997 Asian financial crisis to 2008 international financial crisis, from SARS pandemic to a series of most devastating natural disasters, we reached out to each other with timely and generous support and assistance that touched the heart of our people.

(2) Dealing with differences and disputes in a proper manner.

China, like ASEAN, cherishes the principle of diversity in unity and respects ASEAN and its Member States to choose their own development course. In dealing with our differences and disputes, China pursues sincere dialogues and advocates peaceful means for settlement. We are conscious that some of the existing disputes bear on the fundamental interests of the relevant countries and would, if not cautiously handled, seriously jeopardize our cooperation. Therefore, we have been exercising utmost restraint and caution in coping with our differences and disputes. China is sincere in pushing forward the implementation of the DOC and would work together with ASEAN countries in maintaining the peace and stability in the South China Sea.

(3) Leadership role and institutional support are the guarantees of success.

From the inception of our contacts, the leaders of both sides have played a crucial role in promoting our dialogues and cooperation. When mutual trust was still delicate, strong leadership from both sides would not only provide the vision and guidance but also give impetus to the cooperation.

For two decades, multi-layered mechanisms of cooperation have been gradually built up between ASEAN and its partners, each with a different mandate. ASEAN has played a central role in consolidating the process of East Asian integration in an incremental, open and inclusive manner while institutional framework has proven necessary and sustainable.

On China's part, we have also pushed forward cooperation between our coastal regions, western provinces and provinces bordering with ASEAN countries. China-ASEAN Expo has run for 8 consecutive years and will serve as one of the key links between China and ASEAN. Down the road, we are expecting more initiatives from our local regions. This year, China-ASEAN Center will be established. We hope that the Center will provide another useful venue to deepen our contacts and cooperation. In taking stock of what we have instituted, we see an instrumental and flexible framework to have taken shape, which encourages initiatives and opportunities for cooperation.

(4) Economic and trade development is the driving force of cooperation.

China-ASEAN cooperation in essence is a south-south partnership, which means that development remains the first priority for both sides.

In the past thirty years, China has made rapid economic progress and would like to join ASEAN's efforts in narrowing the development gap in the Southeast Asian region. In all the areas we work on, less developed countries and regions are always given favorable consideration and support.

The rapid development of economic and trade relations between China and ASEAN provides increasing opportunities for our people. What we have got from our economic cooperation is not simply the growing wealth, expanding market and increasing job opportunities, but more importantly, an emerging interdependent family identity. As ASEAN's partner, China believes that China's economic prosperity depends on a prosperous economic community of ASEAN. It is with this conviction that China attaches importance to ASEAN development needs and concerns.

(5) Cultural exchanges and people's contacts are the social foundation for China-ASEAN cooperation.

Since I assumed the post as Ambassador to ASEAN, I made trips to Yunnan, Guangxi and some other Chinese provinces. I was deeply impressed by their enthusiasm and expectation about China-ASEAN cooperation. I traveled to some ASEAN member countries as well. At each place I felt at home right way. I realize that without our people's understanding and support China-ASEAN cooperation will not sustain, because after all they are the ones who will determine whether we can be friendly neighbors and whether our cooperation will bear fruit.

On China's side, more social groups, NGOs, volunteers are participating in China-ASEAN cooperation. In this regard, we hope the China-ASEAN Center will provide more opportunities for people's contacts.

Future Development of China-ASEAN relations

Last October, the 13th China-ASEAN Summit adopted the second Plan of Action (2011-2015), which charters the course of China-ASEAN relations in the years to come. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao proposed a series of cooperation objectives including realizing 15 million mutual visits, US$ 500 billion of two-way trade volume by 2015. These proposals were well received by ASEAN leaders.

China will work with ASEAN to fully implement the second POA and continue to maintain, develop and strengthen our bilateral relations in the following areas:

--Celebrating the 20th anniversary of our dialogue relations. There will be a host of commemorative activities this year, including exchange of congratulatory messages between leaders, media, youth and cultural exchanges. The most important one is the Commemorative Summit to be held in November in Bali, Indonesia. I believe these activities will help strengthen communication between our governments, media organizations, businesses and academia, enhance the mutual understanding and friendship of our people and push forward our practical cooperation.

--Enhancing connectivity. Connectivity within ASEAN and between China and ASEAN is important to narrowing regional development gap, raising regional competitiveness and speeding up the East Asian integration process. We see a broad space of cooperation in both hardware development such as infrastructure, and software development such as institutional arrangement and personnel exchange.

China will make good use of the US$15 billion that China provided to ASEAN, as well as the China-ASEAN Investment Cooperation Fund and the China-ASEAN Inter-Bank Association to promote substantive progress in connectivity between the two sides.

--China-ASEAN FTA. The establishment of the China-ASEAN FTA is a major event in China-ASEAN relations, and it is a common task for both sides to further advance and improve the FTA. As we move the FTA forward, we need to enable more enterprises to know about and practice FTA policies, and enable enterprises, the private sectors in particular, to become the main players in FTA development. We also need to further simplify customs clearance procedures and advance trade facilitation. We will properly address the problems that may emerge in line with the principle of mutual benefit and friendly consultation.

--Social, people-to-people and cultural exchanges. It is important that the two sides enhance people-to-people exchanges to strengthen public support for good-neighborly relations and make people-to-people exchanges an important contributor to China-ASEAN connectivity. We need to vigorously promote exchanges and mutual visits of the press, youth and friendship organizations of the two sides. We need to work hard to achieve the Double 100,000 Goal of Students Mobility in 2020 and 15 million mutual visits by 2015. China will continue to send young volunteers to ASEAN countries to provide service in the teaching of the Chinese language, and in public health and agricultural science and technology.

--East Asia cooperation.China appreciates ASEAN's driving-force role in promoting regional cooperation. We hope and believe that ASEAN will follow the right direction of regional cooperation, safeguard the common interests of East Asian countries and uphold peace, development, prosperity and solidarity that East Asian countries now enjoy as a result of so many years of cooperation. China will continue to support ASEAN's centrality in East Asia cooperation.

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

In conclusion, I would like to express again my gratitude to the organizers of the forum for giving me this opportunity to speak. It is my sincere hope and firm belief that under Indonesia's chairmanship and with the concerted efforts from both sides, the China-ASEAN strategic partnership will move to a new high in the next twenty years.

I thank you for your kind attention.

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