Building a Promising and Dynamic China-ASEAN Relationship
2013-08-02 20:02

Remarks by Foreign Minister Wang Yi at Opening Session of the

High-Level Forum on the 10th Anniversary of

ASEAN-China Strategic Partnership

Bangkok, 2 August 2013

Your Excellency Dr. Surapong Tovichakchaikul, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs,

Dear Colleagues,

Dear Friends,

I am so glad to meet you here in the beautiful city of Bangkok. On behalf of the Chinese side, I wish to extend my warm congratulations on the opening of this Forum and my sincere greetings to the ASEAN participants. I also wish to thank Thailand for hosting the Forum and the great job it has done as the country coordinator of ASEAN-China relations. In particular, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Surapong has worked so hard to boost ASEAN's ties with China. I propose that we give him a big applause!

This is my second visit to Thailand and third visit to an ASEAN country since I became China's foreign minister over four months ago. According to my schedule, I will accompany Chinese leaders to Southeast Asia on at least two visits in the remaining four months of this year. A few days ago, a colleague of mine, who is in charge of China's relations with other regions and countries, asked me, "Don't you think you are paying too many visits to Southeast Asia?" I said, "I understand what you mean. But I don't think I have paid too many visits to Southeast Asia." I have the following four reasons.

First, China and ASEAN are a big family and it is natural for family members to visit one another frequently. Second, relations with ASEAN have always topped China's diplomatic agenda, so it is natural for me to visit ASEAN more often. Third, this year marks the 10th anniversary of China-ASEAN strategic partnership. Our relations now stand at a key stage of building on past achievements to make new progress. It is natural for us to place greater priority on growing those relations. The last reason is a personal one. Like all of you, I have been personally involved in growing China-ASEAN relations, and those relations mean a lot to me. And we have every reason to be proud of what we have achieved in this common cause.

Over the past 10 years, China and ASEAN have worked closely and moved ahead of others. China is the first non-ASEAN country to accede to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia, and it is the first to build a strategic partnership with ASEAN. China is the first to launch FTA negotiations with ASEAN; together, we have established the world's largest FTA between developing countries.

Over the past 10 years, China-ASEAN trade has grown fast. Last year, two way trade reached 400 billion US dollars, a six-time increase, and China has become the largest trading partner of ASEAN. Our mutual investment is more than 100 billion US dollars, up by four times.

Over the past 10 years, China-ASEAN exchanges have greatly expanded. The number of mutual visits made by our peoples last year reached 15 million, up by four times, including 7.3 million visits by Chinese tourists, up by 2.6 times. China is the second largest source of inbound tourists for ASEAN. Every week there are over 1,000 flights between China and ASEAN, which are a lot more than the number of flights between China and Japan or between China and the Republic of Korea.

More importantly, China and ASEAN have stood together over the years and supported each other when we faced difficulties and challenges. This has strengthened our brotherly friendship.

We still remember what happened when SARS hit China in early 2003. People saw on TV empty tourist sites and restaurants in China. Some people doubted whether the Chinese government could quickly bring the situation under control. Still some predicted a bleak future for China's economic development.

As China was facing such difficulty, our brothers in ASEAN did not sit back. They reached out to China with a helping hand. Thailand hosted a special meeting on SARS in Bangkok which was attended by China and ASEAN leaders. At the meeting, ASEAN expressed full confidence in China's ability to handle the situation, thus giving China an invaluable support in time of need.

We also remember when a massive earthquake struck Wenchuan of China's Sichuan Province in 2008, people in ASEAN countries, from royal families to men in streets, from governments to business communities, extended a helping hand by donating 500 million yuan. When they learned that tents were needed in the disaster areas, people rushed to buy and send them to China. So much so that tents were quickly sold out in many ASEAN countries.

Support has always been mutual. I am sure that ASEAN friends also remember those worst hours of the Asian financial crisis. Despite its great difficulties at home, China pledged not to devalue the RMB, thus sending a strong message of confidence for a stable and growing Asian economy. When the Indian Ocean Tsunami occurred, Chinese doctors were the earliest to reach the hit area and they worked round the clock to save lives. In many ASEAN countries, Chinese technicians have worked together with local partners under harsh conditions to build bridges, power grids and roads, trying to make life better for the local people. In remote rural schools, Chinese volunteers are teaching pupils there to learn the Chinese language while spreading the words of friendship.

Talking about volunteers, what comes to my mind is a tragedy that happened 10 days ago. Two excellent young Chinese language teachers, a 25 year-old girl and a 24 year-old boy, were killed in a traffic accident in central Thailand. The accident broke my heart and those of the people of China and Thailand. The school in which the two young teachers worked was founded by His Majesty King of Thailand, and Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindorn has expressed her sympathy and condolences.

I mentioned this tragic event simply to tell you that people, ordinary people in their huge numbers, have quietly contributed to the growing China-ASEAN relations with their youth, hard work and even lives. I have checked out that the first ever group of Chinese young volunteers sent overseas went to the Lao PDR in 2002, and the first international rescue and relief mission by Chinese young volunteers was conducted in 2005 in the tsunami-hit areas of Southeast Asia. To date, out of a total of 18,000 volunteer teachers from China, most have worked or are still working in ASEAN countries, including some 8,000 in Thailand alone. These young envoys of friendship deserve our gratitude, care and whole-hearted support. They represent the hope and future of the friendly and cooperative relations between China and ASEAN.

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

Today, China-ASEAN relationship stands once again at a new starting point.

A review of the past reveals that in growing China-ASEAN relations, the most important foundation is the region's peace and stability that we have jointly preserved, the most important consensus is to facilitate common development through cooperation, and the most important experience is to stick to the "Asian way" and the "ASEAN way" and resolve the differences through friendly consultation and equal-footed dialogue. We must keep to these valuable experience and consensus.

Looking ahead, China-ASEAN relations are blessed with growth opportunities and dynamism with vast potential and bright prospects. I believe these opportunities and dynamism are first and foremost generated by China's development.

Recently, the trend of the Chinese economy has become the focus of world attention. Let me say here that the Chinese economy has maintained a steady and sound growth. Its growth rate in the first half of this year was 7.6%, still at the top of all major economies in the world. Our next priority is to speed up economic transformation and upgrading. We will pay more attention to improving the quality and efficiency of growth. This means we should not simply pursue an excessively high growth rate. China has enormous demand, a vast market, rich human resources, fast-developing science and technology as well as stable policies and a strong government.

We have every ability, confidence and condition to meet the set development goals, lay a sound foundation for China's future development and set the Chinese economy onto a track of sustainable development. In the past 30 years and more, China's rapid economic growth has delivered enormous dividends to this region and the world at large. In the future, a Chinese economy that enjoys long-term, sustained and sound development will make even more important and lasting contribution to the development of the region and beyond.

A few days ago, I met Mr. Justin Yifu Lin, former Chief Economist of World Bank. He told me that just as the industrial upgrading and relocation of the "four Asian tigers" gave a boost to the economic development of China's mainland, the economic upgrading and relocation of China will definitely create new growth space for the other developing countries, especially China's neighbors. What is more, since China is far bigger than the "four tigers" at the time, the boost from China can only be stronger.

Estimates show that in the coming five years, China's ODI will increase by 500 billion US dollars, its imports will reach 10 trillion US dollars and its outbound tourists will total over 400 million. In China, we say that "A water-front pavilion gets the moonlight first." As China's close neighbor, top investment destination by Chinese companies, third largest trading partner and a major tourist destination, ASEAN will undoubtedly benefit from China's future economic development.

We are fully aware, however, that although China's fast growth has generated tangible benefits for our ASEAN friends, it has, unavoidably, led to certain suspicion, concern or even misunderstanding. This is nothing to be surprised at, because anyone could feel uneasy about a close buddy who has all of a sudden grown into a big fellow. Yet let me tell you that China is getting bigger and stronger, yet China's development is the strengthening of a force for peace and friendship. As Dr. Mahathir pointed out years ago, China's development brings benefits to the neighboring countries. It is an opportunity, rather than a threat. He is truly an outstanding ASEAN statesman with a strategic vision.

I believe that Dr. Mahathir did not make a casual comment here. He has a deep understanding of China. To judge a country's strategic direction, one can basically rely on two important yardsticks. One is its culture. The other is its history. No one knows China better than the ASEAN countries in this connection.

The essence of the Chinese culture is about the pursuit of peace that features love, non-offense and good-neighborliness, the concept of harmony that features peace being of paramount importance and harmony without uniformity, and the diplomatic tradition that cherishes people from afar and values giving rather than receiving. These fine cultural concepts and philosophies have made an important and far-reaching impact on the culture of the entire East, including Southeast Asian countries.

Historically, China was, for many centuries, a world power. The famous story of Zheng He and his voyages to the western seas took place during the height of the Ming Dynasty. Numerous expeditions were sent by other world powers after that. But few were as peaceful and non-intrusive as Zheng He's. He reached many Southeast Asian countries on many occasions and left behind tales of peace, friendship and mutually beneficial cooperation, which are still being told in these places to this day.

Throughout the past 600 years and more since Zheng He, China has made no attempt at colonialism anywhere in the world. In the 60-odd years of history of the People's Republic, China has never gone for expansion in its neighborhood. This is China's past, and it will not change in the future.

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

I know there is a great deal of interest in where this relationship is headed for. There are indeed many things for China and ASEAN to do together, but the following two things, in my view, are the most important:

The first is to deepen cooperation in all fields to achieve win-win development. We should step up efforts to build an upgraded version of China-ASEAN FTA, and advance regional economic integration. We should accelerate progress towards all-dimensional connectivity, and explore the possibility of an Asian investment and financing platform. We should actively engage in maritime cooperation, and make good use of the China-ASEAN Maritime Cooperation Fund. China welcomes more project proposals from ASEAN countries.

We should continue to enrich and improve the regional cooperation structure so that various mechanisms such as 10+1, 10+3 and EAS will complement and reinforce one another to secure the common interest of all countries in the region. We should enhance friendship among our peoples and promote friendly exchanges among our youth, think-tanks, parliaments, NGOs and civil organizations. We should further expand security cooperation. China stands ready to strengthen exchanges with ASEAN countries in defense and security fields to jointly safeguard regional security and stability.

The second is to properly settle differences with peaceful means through equal-footed dialogue and friendly consultation. China and some Southeast Asian countries have disputes over territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests, which are left over from history. Though not an issue between China and ASEAN, this has an impact on China-ASEAN relations in reality.

On our part, we have always stood ready to solve the dispute through dialogue and direct negotiation. China has kept the door to dialogue and consultation open and pursued the prospects of win-win results. China will continue to do so in the future. We hope other countries concerned will show the same spirit, and work with us in the same direction, instead of taking any move that may complicate or aggravate the situation, still less misjudging the situation and making mistakes repeatedly.

During the recent East Asian foreign ministers' meetings, China and ASEAN countries agreed to hold consultations on the formulation of COC under the framework of implementing the DOC. China is a responsible country and has strictly complied with its commitment in DOC implementation. We hope other relevant parties will also abide by all the provisions in the DOC. It is a gradual process to move from the DOC to COC. We will work with ASEAN countries to seriously discuss and steadily advance the COC process. We would like to work with all countries to make the South China Sea truly a sea of peace, friendship and cooperation.

Thank you.

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