Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s ASEAN tour was well-received as China and ASEAN look for more cooperation, and have made proposals for jointly upholding open regionalism.
In his official visit, Wang reiterated that relations have always stayed ahead in many areas. The cooperation between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations countries against COVID-19 was a vivid testament to the deep friendship through thick and thin. Currently, China and ASEAN are each other’s largest trading partners, with trade volume soaring 100 times from 30 years before, and the two-way direct investment has exceeded 310 billion U.S. dollars.
China-ASEAN security cooperation has also been making steady progress, with differences and disputes being effectively managed, he added.
“Our region has secured such remarkable achievements and created exceptional miracles in growth, most fundamentally because countries in the region have adhered to open regionalism, respected and appreciated the diversities among members, and upheld and practiced the principle of voluntarism,” Wang said.
However, he pointed out that there are two completely different trends concerning the future of Asia, one advocates open regionalism, true multilateralism, a development-first approach, and mutually beneficial cooperation, while the other pursues a relapse into the obsolete Cold War mentality and closed group politics, and classifies countries in the region based on their values.
“The choice we make today determines where the path will take us from now on — openness or isolation, cooperation or confrontation, solidarity or division, progress or regression.”
“We hope to champion open regionalism together with ASEAN and deepen our comprehensive strategic partnership,” Wang said.
Wang adds that China will continue to support ASEAN centrality and promote solidarity and cooperation in the region. It firmly supports ASEAN’s role in the “driver’s seat”, supports ASEAN community-building, and supports the ASEAN-centered regional cooperation architecture.
There were talks of implementing the Global Security Initiative, hoping to blaze a new path of security that chooses dialogue over confrontation, partnerships over alliances, and win-win over zero-sum game, an approach to tactics used by the 4-Nation Quad.
Discussions were also made on expediting the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea consultations which China has said it will continue to support ASEAN’s efforts in building a nuclear-weapon-free zone.
On trade, China is ready to launch a new round of upgrade of the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area as soon as possible, and implement the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) across the board and promote its upgrade in due course. China is ready to sign high-standard free trade agreements with more countries, and it looks forward to closely integrating the development of Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area and China-ASEAN cooperation.
Digitalization and technology are aspects China is committed to enhancing with ASEAN countries, the Kingdon is ready to explore cooperation digital connectivity, low-carbon, circular and green economy, and will advance barrier-and discrimination-free scientific and technological innovation. On that note, China seeks to implement the China-ASEAN Science, Technology and Innovation Enhancing Program to accelerate regional transformation and development.
ASEAN travel to China will be facilitated with more measures once the discussion on the recovery tourism is finalised with all parties.