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21 Sep, 2014

China outlines six-point proposal for future relations with ASEAN

NANNING, Sept. 16 (Xinhua) — Following is the translated version of the full text of a speech by Zhang Gaoli, Member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and Vice Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China at the 11th China-ASEAN Expo and China-ASEAN Business and Investment Summit

Distinguished guests, Ladies and gentlemen, Friends,

I am delighted to join you in Nanning, the beautiful Green City of China, for the 11th China-ASEAN Expo and China-ASEAN Business and Investment Summit. First, please allow me to extend, on behalf of President Xi Jinping, Premier Li Keqiang and the Chinese government, our warm congratulations on the opening of the 11th Expo and the Summit, and our warm welcome to all distinguished guests from ASEAN countries and other countries and regions.

China and ASEAN are natural partners of cooperation, as we enjoy geographical proximity, strong bond, cultural affinity, close business ties and interconnected interests. The ancient maritime Silk Road, opened more than 2,000 years ago, created bonds of trade, culture and friendship between the people in China and Southeast Asian countries. Zheng He, the well-known Chinese navigator of the Ming Dynasty, visited Southeast Asian countries on all of his seven voyages, sowing the seeds of peace and friendship. Over thousands of years, the Chinese people and people in Southeast Asian countries have, by way of the ancient maritime Silk Road, forged friendship and developed trade, leaving behind many unforgettable stories.

In the new era of today, China-ASEAN friendship has entered a new chapter. Since the commencement of our dialogue relations in 1991 and the establishment of the strategic partnership in 2003 in particular, China-ASEAN relations have traversed an extraordinary path, and become a fine example of good-neighborliness and cooperation. Our political mutual trust has continuously increased and we have supported each other in many major international and regional affairs. Among ASEAN’s dialogue partners, China was the first to join the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia. With deepened business cooperation, we have put in place world’s largest free trade zone of developing countries. As each other’s major trade and investment partners, China and ASEAN have quadrupled their trade from US$105.9 billion in 2004 to US$443.6 billion in 2013. And the two-way accumulative investment has topped US$120 billion. Our cooperation has also expanded comprehensively. Practical cooperation has been carried out in many fields, including 11 major areas, ranging from agriculture to IT, human resource development, mutual investment, development of the Mekong river basin, transport, energy, culture, tourism, public health and environmental protection. There are more than 140 pairs of sister cities/provinces. Every week, over 1,000 flights are made between China and ASEAN countries. Every year, more than 18 million people travel between the two sides. And the number of exchange students has exceeded 180,000. On the front of fighting major natural disasters and communicable diseases, China and ASEAN have also worked together successfully. After the recent earthquake in Ludian of China’s Yunnan Province, which caused a huge loss of life and property, ASEAN countries expressed their sympathies to the Chinese government and people and offered their support. China-ASEAN friendship and cooperation has proved to be not only beneficial to the people of both sides, but also a boost to peace, stability and development of the region.

Ladies and gentlemen, friends,

This year marks the beginning of the second decade of China-ASEAN strategic partnership. Our relations are at a new historical starting point. The Chinese government will, as always, attach great importance to advancing friendship and cooperation with ASEAN. While staying committed to forging friendship and partnership with our neighbors, we will develop our relations with ASEAN under the principle of “amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness”. China will continue to give priority to ASEAN in its neighborhood diplomacy, support ASEAN’s growth and its endeavor to build the ASEAN Community, and support the centrality of ASEAN in regional cooperation. We are ready to work hand in hand with ASEAN for a sound, stable and dynamic China-ASEAN relationship.

China, now engaged in deepening comprehensive reform and opening wider to the outside world, is working towards the Chinese dream of the great renewal of the Chinese nation. ASEAN, as a thriving organization of developing countries, is also moving towards its goal of building the ASEAN Community by 2015. We share similar development goals. We both give priority to growing our economies and improving people’s livelihood so as to build an even brighter future. Since the beginning of this year, China’s economy has been within a proper range, with major indicators meeting our expectations for the year. In the first half of 2014, our GDP grew at 7.4%, leading major economies in the world. Such a growth rate is conducive to China’s effort in adjusting economic structure and improving the quality and performance of economic growth, and to the steady recovery of world economy as well. In the coming five years, China will import more than US$10 trillion worth of goods. Our outbound direct investment will exceed US$500 billion. Our outbound tourists will be over 500 million. The sustained and sound growth of Chinese economy will continue to drive world economic growth and bring more benefits to the people of ASEAN countries.

China is committed to the path of peaceful development and the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence. China is ready to join hands with all the other countries to pursue, uphold and share peace so that we will be able to live in amity and enjoy common development. The peace and stability of the South China Sea concerns regional development and prosperity and the wellbeing of the people, hence serving the common interests of all the countries in the region. China firmly upholds its territorial sovereignty, maritime rights and interests and national security. At the same time, we are committed to peacefully solving disputes with countries directly concerned through consultations and negotiations on the basis of respect for history and international law. China is ready to work with ASEAN countries to implement the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea in a comprehensive and effective manner, actively advance the consultation on a code of conduct in the South China Sea, enhance dialogue and communication, promote practical cooperation, remove various disruptions and build the South China Sea into a sea of peace, friendship and cooperation.

Ladies and gentlemen, friends,

During his visit to some ASEAN countries last October, President Xi Jinping made the proposal of building the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road and the China-ASEAN Community of shared destiny through the joint efforts of China and ASEAN. This forward-looking proposal is aimed at building on historical inheritance and embracing the trend of the times. It is a major strategic vision that meets the shared aspiration of China and ASEAN for common development, and charts the course for the future growth of China-ASEAN relations. The 21st Century Maritime Silk Road is a road for win-win cooperation based on common development and prosperity. It is also a road of peace and friendship based on deeper mutual understanding and trust and stronger all-round exchanges. It will surely create, for both sides, more converging interests and new areas for growth, and identify new converging points in our strategic partnership. Premier Li Keqiang put forward a “2+7 cooperation framework” at the China-ASEAN summit last year, which consists of two points of consensus and seven areas of cooperation. He highlighted the priorities of China-ASEAN cooperation and outlined its blueprint, further boosting our relations and cooperation in all areas. We need to work, in an inclusive and open spirit, to enhance solidarity and cooperation and actively implement the consensus reached by our leaders by facilitating policy communication, road connectivity, unimpeded trade, monetary circulation and understanding between our people, so as to strive for a splendid new future of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.

To this end, I would like to make a six-point proposal.

First, work hard to deepen political mutual trust. Political mutual trust underpins and guarantees the sustained, sound and steady growth of China-ASEAN relations. Among ASEAN’s dialogue partners, China was the first to establish a strategic partnership with it. China is also willing to be the first to conclude a treaty with ASEAN countries on good-neighborliness, friendship and cooperation, so as to provide legal and institutional guarantee for lasting friendship between our two sides. In order to step up high-level exchanges and increase mutual understanding and mutual trust, China proposes that an informal meeting among Chinese and ASEAN leaders be held in China on an irregular basis in conjunction with the China-ASEAN Expo and the Boao Forum for Asia, so that the two sides may strengthen communication on the development of their relations and issues of shared interest, enhance mutual understanding, and promote cooperation.

Second, work hard to improve the quality and performance of the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area (CAFTA). Trade and investment facilitation is a priority for the development of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. Improving the quality and performance of CAFTA will not only enhance business exchanges between the two sides, but also lay the foundation for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and other regional free trade arrangements. We welcome the official launch of negotiation between the two sides on upgrading CAFTA and suggest that a working plan for the next stage be determined as soon as possible. We should open the market wider, reduce tariffs, carry out a new round of negotiation on service trade commitments, sign cooperation agreements on small and medium enterprises (SME), energy, the environment and sustainable development, and deepen economic, trade and investment cooperation so as to realize the goals of elevating bilateral trade volume to US$500 billion by 2015 and US$1 trillion by 2020. We support Chinese enterprises in conducting investment cooperation in ASEAN countries and will continue to support the establishment of industrial zones and economic and trade cooperation zones in ASEAN countries, and we welcome efforts of ASEAN countries to set up industrial parks in China as well. Projects such as the China-Singapore Suzhou Industrial Park and the China-Singapore Tianjin Eco-city have set good examples for the cooperation between China and ASEAN countries. We must ensure the success of the China-Malaysia Qinzhou Industrial Park and the Malaysia-China Kuantan Industrial Park and build them into exemplary models for China-ASEAN industrial cooperation. China is also willing to discuss with ASEAN countries about establishing cross-border economic cooperation zones in border areas, so as to make the border areas a bond that integrates the interests of the two sides.

Third, work hard to strengthen connectivity. Connectivity is a significant part of building the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. We should enhance planning and focus on key corridors, key links and key projects. We should step up efforts to build networks of maritime and river transport, high-speed roads, high-speed railways, aviation and optical cable communications, and make these comprehensive connectivity networks safe and efficient. We should accelerate the building of the China-ASEAN Port Cities Cooperation Network and the China-ASEAN Public Information Platform for Port Logistics. We should actively push forward the preparation for the establishment of an Asian infrastructure investment bank, so as to address the financing bottlenecks of the region, especially Southeast Asia, and advance common development of the region. We should expand the scale and scope of the bilateral local currency swap, expand the RMB cross-border trade settlement, set up a trading center for the RMB and currencies of ASEAN countries, and advance cross-border cooperation in financial infrastructure development and financial services.

Fourth, work hard to conduct maritime cooperation. ASEAN is on the Maritime Silk Road and is a key region for building the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. China is ready to strengthen maritime cooperation with ASEAN countries and make such cooperation a new highlight and new engine for the growth of China-ASEAN relations. China hopes to exchange views with ASEAN about designating next year as the “Year of China-ASEAN Maritime Cooperation”, strengthen dialogue and communication between departments in charge of maritime affairs, enhance exchanges and coordination on maritime policies, and explore the possibility of setting up an exchange and cooperation mechanism between maritime law enforcement agencies. We should make full use of the China-ASEAN Maritime Cooperation Fund to boost exchanges and cooperation on marine and maritime economy, connectivity, environmental protection, safety and culture so as to accumulate experience and set a good example for relevant countries in jointly building the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.

Fifth, work hard to push forward sub-regional cooperation. The Pan-Beibu Gulf economic cooperation is a significant component of China-ASEAN sub-regional cooperation. It has seen concrete results thanks to eight years of joint efforts and should continue to be vigorously strengthened. We should actively push for progress in the building of the Nanning-Singapore Economic Corridor, with the aim of facilitating trans-regional and cross-border flow of various resources and factors of production, forming a corridor economic belt featuring mutual reinforcement, regional division of functions, interconnected development and shared growth, and fostering a main artery for China-ASEAN cooperation. In order to further support the building of the ASEAN Community and help ASEAN narrow regional development gaps, China is ready to set up a dialogue and cooperation mechanism with countries along the Mekong River, which will complement and coordinate with the Greater Mekong Subregion Economic Cooperation Program (GMS), so that sub-regional cooperation will bring even greater benefits to the people of China and ASEAN countries.

Sixth, work hard to increase cultural and people-to-people exchanges. Greater and deeper mutual understanding between the people is conducive to the all-round, sustained and steady growth of the friendship between the two sides. China is ready to develop even closer cooperation with ASEAN countries in education, culture, science and technology, environmental protection, tourism, health and other sectors, and enhance exchanges between the youth, media and think tanks and at the subnational level. China will deliver on its commitment of providing 15,000 scholarships for ASEAN countries, make the best use of the ASEAN-China Center, the China-ASEAN Education Exchange Week, the China-ASEAN Education and Training Center, the China-ASEAN Environmental Cooperation Center and other platforms, set up a China-ASEAN technology transfer center, support the development of the China-ASEAN Think Tank Network, and advance the building of the Pan-Beibu Gulf and Maritime Silk Road tourism circles. This year is the year of China-ASEAN cultural exchange. We should ensure the success of the over 100 cultural events in various forms, strengthen the cultural links and friendship between the people of the two sides, jointly cement the public and social foundation for our relations, and promote the Asian spirit of unity, cooperation and mutual assistance.

Ladies and gentlemen, friends,

As a Chinese saying goes, “when brothers share the same purpose, they will be strong enough to cut through metal.” As long as we keep working together, we will achieve win-win results. The China-ASEAN Expo and the China-ASEAN Business and Investment Summit provide an important platform for China and ASEAN countries to enhance political mutual trust, expand the CAFTA market, and advance all-round exchanges. They have become a symbol of China-ASEAN friendship and cooperation. I sincerely wish you well and success in your work during the CAEXPO and Summit in China. I wish the 11th China-ASEAN Expo and the 11th China-ASEAN Business and Investment Summit a complete success. And I wish the CAEXPO and Summit new achievements and new highlights every year, so that they will make significant contribution to the building of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road and regional cooperation and development.

Thank you.