Remarks by Foreign Minister Wang Yi at Meeting with Senior Officials and Ambassadors of ASEAN Countries
2013/04/15

Chinese Foreign Ministry, 2 April 2013

Senior Officials of ASEAN Countries,

Excellencies,

I wish to welcome all the ASEAN senior officials to the 19th ASEAN-China Seniors Officials’ Consultation and extend congratulations on its successful conclusion. I wish to thank you, senior officials and ambassadors, for your contribution to enhancing ASEAN’s relations with China over the years.

A number of consultation mechanisms have been established between China and ASEAN since we launched the dialogue relations 22 years ago. The Senior Officials’ Consultation is one of the first such mechanisms. It serves as an important platform of dialogue and exchanges between the two sides and has played an important role in deepening mutual understanding and trust and boosting result-oriented cooperation in various areas between China and ASEAN.

I was in charge of Asian affairs for a long time at the Foreign Ministry and both participated in and witnessed the dynamic growth of China-ASEAN relations as a Senior Official of China in many rounds of consultation. So this region, this relationship and this mechanism mean a lot to me. Returning to the ASEAN Plus One family and meeting you today make me feel quite excited.

This year is a special one for both China and ASEAN, as it marks the 10th anniversary of China-ASEAN strategic partnership. Over the past decade, we have deepened mutual understanding and expanded win-win cooperation. China-ASEAN friendship has grown into a luxuriant tree and borne rich fruits.

We have endeavored to promote political mutual trust. The two sides have maintained frequent high-level exchange of visits. The Chinese leaders have visited all the ASEAN countries and attended ASEAN summits every year. There are now 12 ministerial level cooperation mechanisms between the two sides. China has sent to ASEAN its first resident ambassador. All this has given a strong boost to the strategic communication between us. We signed the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), promoted maritime dialogue and cooperation in a step-by-step way and jointly upheld peace and stability of the South China Sea.

We have actively promoted common development. The China-ASEAN Free Trade Area (CAFTA) is now fully established. The negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) were officially launched. Last year, the two way trade volume exceeded US$400 billion, mutual investment hit US$100 billion, and the number of mutual visits made by our peoples reached 15 million. The ASEAN-China Center was established. Our cooperation in connectivity, science and technology and finance has registered vigorous growth and reached a higher level.

We have jointly met various challenges. After winning the battle against the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997, we jointly overcame difficulties caused by the global financial crisis in 2008. Our two sides extended to each other sympathy and support and worked together to fight SARS and the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami and Wenchuan earthquake. We have carried forward the traditional friendship and forged close cooperation.

We have vigorously expanded cooperation in East Asia. We have jointly promoted East Asian cooperation with ASEAN in the driver’s seat to realize Asia’s renewal. With vision and an innovative spirit, we have made fresh progress in East Asian integration in political, economic, cultural, security and other areas. China-ASEAN relationship has gone beyond the bilateral scope. It serves as an engine driving East Asian development and underpins stability and prosperity in our region.

Dear Colleagues,

The impact of the global financial crisis is still with us, and the world still faces many uncertainties. But Asia has maintained its overall growth momentum and has a promising future. This has attracted world attention. Major forces in the world have increased their involvement in Asia. We are faced with both rare opportunities and huge challenges. Under such new conditions, the domestic and foreign policy direction of China, the largest country in Asia, is the focus of international attention.

The Communist Party of China (CPC) convened its 18th National Congress last November, during which the blueprint of China’s future development was drawn up. Two goals of the century were set. The first is to finish building a moderately prosperous society in all respects and double the 2010 GDP and per capita income for both rural and urban residents when the Party celebrates its centenary in 2020. The second is to turn China into a modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced and harmonious when the People’s Republic of China marks its centenary in 2049. To realize the great renewal of the Chinese nation is a deeply cherished dream of the Chinese people since modern times. We call it the Chinese Dream, which aims to bring prosperity to China, renewal to the Chinese nation and happiness to the Chinese people.

To achieve the two goals of the century and the Chinese Dream, China needs a peaceful and stable neighboring environment. It is stated in the Political Report to the 18th CPC National Congress that China will continue to promote friendship and partnership with its neighbors, consolidate friendly relations and deepen mutually beneficial cooperation with them, and ensure that China’s development will bring more benefits to its neighbors. This fully affirms that the Chinese government and the new team of leadership have put growing China’s relations with ASEAN and other neighbors high on their agenda. China will strengthen, and definitely not weaken its good-neighborliness policy. ASEAN should rest fully assured about China’s resolve to pursue peaceful development and its political commitment to growing its relations with ASEAN.

The Chinese Dream, when realized, will not only benefit the Chinese people, but also promote development of our region and bring benefits to people of various countries. ASEAN is pursuing its own dream and working toward the goal of building an ASEAN Community. We need to work together, wish each other well and support each other so as to realize both the Chinese Dream and ASEAN Dream. We should take speedy and forceful steps to translate agreement reached during our dialogues and consultations into tangible outcomes. We need to make our cooperation more fruitful to generate greater confidence, and such confidence will guide us to realize our dreams.

As a diplomat who was personally involved in growing China-ASEAN relations, I wish to share with you the following views on the relations:

First, development is where the biggest shared interests of the two sides lie. Over the years, East Asia has maintained robust economic growth mainly because we have devoted our energy to development. The success of China-ASEAN cooperation shows that business and trade are a strong bond which increases mutual interests and binds the two sides together. China and most of ASEAN members are developing countries, and promoting economic development and improving people’s lives is a long-term priority for us. In the face of international financial crisis, we must give our undivided attention to development, advance regional economic integration and development of free trade areas, make the pie of shared interests bigger in size, richer in content and better in quality, narrow development gap, and bring the dividend of China-ASEAN cooperation to as many people as possible.

Second, trust is the foundation of our cooperation. China and ASEAN went through years of distrust and confrontation. However, the two sides started the process of dialogue, built up trust and moved forward cooperation step by step, and today we have become strategic partners. Both China and ASEAN are growing fast. Major countries outside the region are increasing their involvement in East Asia. Some historical issues persist and new ones are emerging. Given this increasingly complex environment, rifts between neighbors are unavoidable. What is important is that we should not lose confidence in the strategic direction of bilateral relations, and the foundation of political trust should not be weakened. In the face of differences and disagreement, we should continue to act in the larger interest of stability and development in our region and manage relevant issues through dialogue and consultation in the spirit of seeking common ground while shelving differences. Opportunities are hard to seize. We should not allow one or two issues to affect our overall cooperation and miss out on the historical opportunity created by the rise of Asia.

Third, accommodating each other’s concern is an important guarantee for cooperation. Progress in East Asian cooperation proves that ASEAN’s centrality, consensus building and accommodating each other’s comfort level is an approach to regional cooperation that suits Asia’s reality. ASEAN’s centrality in East Asia regional cooperation is a historical choice; and it is what reality calls for. ASEAN centrality is a good example of promoting democracy in international relations in East Asia. Any attempt by any big country to seek dominance or hegemony in East Asian cooperation is unthinkable and will not happen. China firmly supports ASEAN’s centrality in East Asian cooperation. China does not and cannot ask ASEAN to choose sides between major countries. China has not done and will not do anything detrimental to ASEAN unity. At the same time, we also hope that ASEAN will always be objective and impartial in its position, accommodate interests and legitimate concerns of various parties in a balanced way, and unequivocally oppose actions that undermine peace, stability and development in our region. ASEAN is an association for nations in not only Southeast Asia but East Asia as well. We are confident that ASEAN will, with such vision and wisdom, continue to consolidate its centrality in East Asia.

Dear Colleagues,

China-ASEAN relationship has entered its third decade, and we need to redouble efforts to ensure its robust and sustainable growth in the new era. To this end, both sides should take the following steps in the time to come.

First, we should maintain close contact. To enhance trust and ease misgivings is an important long-term task for China and ASEAN. The new Chinese government and leadership attach great importance to ASEAN and hope to have stronger ties and more exchanges with ASEAN. The more neighbors engage each other, the closer they become with each other. And it is all the more important to increase dialogue, mutual understanding and trust when problems arise. China welcomes leaders of Brunei, Myanmar and Cambodia to visit China this month and attend the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference, and also welcomes future visits to China by other ASEAN leaders at an appropriate time. To mark the 10th anniversary of China-ASEAN strategic partnership, China will host a Special China-ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting this year. I look forward to meeting ASEAN foreign ministers and exchanging views with them on strengthening our strategic partnership like friends and brothers in a relaxed atmosphere. Arrangements for the meeting may be discussed through diplomatic channels. I hope ASEAN will support the convening of this meeting.

Second, we should continue to advance result-oriented cooperation. There are three priorities for us. First, building of the CAFTA should be promoted. We should fully unleash the potential of CAFTA and actively promote negotiations on the RCEP. Opening-up boosts productivity and provides inexhaustible power driving the growth of East Asia. We must maintain the momentum and be eager to break new ground. Second, connectivity should be enhanced. Not only should we facilitate connectivity of the hardware including infrastructure and industrial layout, we also need to ensure connectivity of software such as institutional arrangements and people-to-people exchanges. At the same time, we need to discuss establishing a regional financing platform so as to remove bottlenecks in financing. Improving connectivity will create greater common interests among us and strengthen the foundation of our friendly relations. Third, maritime cooperation should be advanced. There is a huge potential for China-ASEAN maritime cooperation. We should make good use of the China-ASEAN Maritime Cooperation Fund and actively explore ways to boost pragmatic maritime cooperation. Maritime diplomacy is a common agenda for both China and ASEAN. The ocean is fluid, which nourishes everything on the earth. The ocean is also vast because it admits all the rivers. We must act in the spirit of mutual benefit, resolve maritime disputes by expanding maritime cooperation and make such cooperation a new pillar underpinning China-ASEAN strategic partnership.

Third, we should properly handle the South China Sea issue. To uphold peace and stability of the South China Sea meets the interests of all parties. With this in mind, China and ASEAN countries signed the DOC 11 years ago. It is a landmark event in the history of China-ASEAN relations and a cornerstone of our strategic partnership. It is explicitly stated in the DOC that disputes in the South China Sea shall be resolved by peaceful means through consultations and negotiations by sovereign states directly concerned. The South China Sea issue should not affect the larger interests of China-ASEAN friendship and cooperation. We should fully implement the DOC, make full use of mechanisms of senior officials meeting and working groups and take more steps to promote mutual trust and cooperation so as to fully unleash the positive energy of the DOC. To adopt a code of conduct in the South China Sea is part of the efforts to implement the DOC, which gives expression to our shared commitment and expectation. At present, we should maintain dialogue, increase mutual trust and build consensus so as to create conditions for launching the formal consultation. In this process, all parties should exercise restraint and refrain from doing anything that is incompatible with the DOC or hinders the process of implementing the DOC.

Dear colleagues,

Upholding peace and stability, promoting development and prosperity, and achieving win-win cooperation in Asia are not only the common aspirations of countries in the region, but also the irresistible trends of the times. China-ASEAN relationship has made great strides in the past. Today, this relationship is forging ahead. We have every reason to believe that with our joint efforts, China-ASEAN relationship will have a great future.

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