Cambodian scholar: China actively backs ASEAN in 25 years of relations
Xinhua, May 18, 2016 Adjust font size:
China has actively supported the ten-country Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in the 25 years of their relations, said a Cambodian expert specialized in ASEAN affairs.
In an article published in the Khmer Times newspaper on Wednesday, Chheang Vannarith, chairman of the Cambodian Institute for Strategic Studies, said this year marks 25th anniversary of the China-ASEAN dialogue partnership.
He said that over the past two decades, China has successfully implemented its regional economic integration policy, particularly through the implementation of the China-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) adopted in 2010.
Since 2009, China has become the world's leading exporter, surpassing the United States in 2007 and Germany in 2009. China's trade with ASEAN countries has increased from 39.5 billion U.S. dollars in 2000 to around 450 billion U.S. dollars in 2015, making China the leading trading partner of ASEAN.
By 2020, the bilateral trade volume is expected to reach 1 trillion U.S. dollars. China is also a main source of foreign direct investment to ASEAN after the European Union, the United States and Japan.
"China has become a key regional development partner and development assistance provider, especially in narrowing development gaps between the member states of ASEAN," the expert said.
The introduction of new initiatives such as the Belt and Road and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) has further boosted China-ASEAN economic integration through intra-regional infrastructure connectivity, trade and investment facilitation, tourism promotion and educational and cultural exchanges, he said.
"Both China and ASEAN stand to benefit from deepening regional economic integration and connectivity," said Vannarith.
Since the early 1990s, China worked actively with Southeast Asia to deepen economic ties, development cooperation and cultural exchanges, he said, adding that during the Asian financial crisis in 1997, China did not depreciate its currency, instead, China helped regional countries to cope with the crisis through both economic and financial measures.
China has also actively engaged in developing trust-based and rule-based regional cooperation.
In 1997, the first ASEAN-China Summit issued a joint statement highlighting a 21st century-oriented partnership of good neighborliness and mutual trust. In 2003, China acceded to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation to further ensure the peaceful development of China with its neighbors and started to implement a comprehensive strategic partnership between China and ASEAN.
"China is also active in strengthening regional security institutions such as the ASEAN Regional Forum and the ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting Plus. Here, non-traditional security cooperation is the principle area of cooperation between China and its Southeast Asian neighbors," he said.
China has supported regional countries in capacity building and collectively addressing human security issues such as natural disaster relief and humanitarian assistance, transnational crimes and pandemic diseases, he added.
Also, through the development and improvement of the ASEAN-centered regional institutions, the enhancement of strategic transparency and the maintaining of frank and sincere consultation and negotiation at both bilateral and multilateral levels, China and ASEAN can enhance their strategic dividend, said Vannarith.
"China and ASEAN need to work together to harmonize regional and sub-regional initiatives such as linking the China-ASEAN strategic partnership and CAFTA with Belt and Road, and connect regional initiatives with sub-regional cooperation frameworks, particularly the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation and Greater Mekong Sub-regional Cooperation," he said.
More efforts should be put in strengthening people-to-people ties across sectors from government to the private sector and civil society groups, the scholar said.