30 years on: China, ASEAN upgrade ties to comprehensive strategic partnership
Since the establishment of dialogue relations 30 years ago, China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have moved forward hand-in-hand with fruitful results in various fields, becoming a fine example of the most successful and vibrant bilateral relations in the Asia-Pacific.
Upgrading this relationship, Chinese President Xi Jinping has announced the establishment of the China-ASEAN comprehensive strategic partnership. He made the announcement while chairing the Special Summit to Commemorate the 30th Anniversary of China-ASEAN Dialogue Relations via video link in Beijing on Monday morning.
Calling it "a new milestone" in the history of the relations, he said the move will inject new impetus into peace, stability, prosperity and development of the region and the world.
Good neighbors, friends and partners
Addressing the summit, Xi hailed the good-neighborly friendship and win-win cooperation between China and ASEAN over the past 30 years, saying the valuable cooperation experience lays the foundation and provides guidelines for developing their Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.
According to the Chinese president, the gains in bilateral cooperation are attributable to the unique geographical proximity and cultural affinity and, more importantly, to the fact that both sides have actively embraced the development trend of the times and made the right historic choice.
Trade between China and the ASEAN has skyrocketed by 85 times since the two sides established their dialogue relations in 1991. Since 2009, China has remained ASEAN's largest trading partner for 12 consecutive years, while in 2020, ASEAN also became China's largest trading partner.
In the first half of this year, bilateral trade between China and ASEAN continued robust expansion, registering a year-on-year growth of 38.2 percent and mutual investment of over $310 billion.
Moreover, China has also been helping ASEAN member states fight the COVID-19 pandemic. As of October, China had provided ASEAN member states with over 300 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines and a large quantity of emergency medical supplies, besides sending teams of medical experts to help build virus-testing labs and work on vaccine trials with several ASEAN countries.
"China was, is and will always be ASEAN's good neighbor, friend and partner," Xi affirmed at the summit, adding that China will take ASEAN as a high priority in its neighborhood diplomacy.
For a shared future and common home
Regarding the future relations between China and ASEAN, the Chinese president made five proposals, urging efforts to move toward a closer China-ASEAN community with a shared future and making the region and the world even more prosperous.
Calling for building a peaceful home together, Xi told ASEAN countries that "China will never seek hegemony, still less bully smaller countries."
China supports ASEAN's efforts to build a nuclear weapon-free zone and is prepared to sign the Protocol to the Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone as early as possible, Xi said.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has once again proved that no place on Earth is an insulated island enjoying absolute security, and only universal security brings genuine security," the Chinese president pointed out, voicing the necessity of building a safe and secure home together.
He added that China is ready to work with ASEAN countries to jointly build a "health shield" for the region. Under the initiative, according to Xi, China will donate an additional 150 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to ASEAN countries and contribute an additional $5 million to the COVID-19 ASEAN Response Fund.
"Joint efforts are needed to safeguard stability in the South China Sea and make it a sea of peace, friendship and cooperation," said Xi.
President Xi also announced a series of measures to build a prosperous home with ASEAN countries, including providing ASEAN with another $1.5 billion of development assistance in the next three years to support their fight against COVID-19 and economic recovery, buying up to $150 billion worth of agricultural products from ASEAN in the next five years, providing 1,000 items of advanced and applicable technology to ASEAN and supporting a program for 300 young scientists from ASEAN to come to China for exchanges in the next five years.
"Harmony with nature is the basis for humanity's sustained development," Xi said, adding that China is ready to open a dialogue with ASEAN on climate response. He said the two sides can intensify cooperation on clean energy, green finance and investment, agriculture as well as marine sustainable development.
Xi also highlighted the importance of building an amicable home together and urged the two sides to advocate common humanitarian values, promote people-to-people exchanges and deepen mutual learning between civilizations.
Quoting an ancient Chinese statesman who observed that "designs for justice prevail, and acts for people's benefit succeed," Xi told ASEAN partners to keep in mind the people's aspirations for a better life and shoulder the mission of the times to safeguard peace and promote development.
(Cover: Chinese President Xi Jinping chairs the ASEAN-China Special Summit to Commemorate the 30th Anniversary of China-ASEAN Dialogue Relations via video link in Beijing, China, November 22, 2021. /Xinhua)