Chinese premier calls for stronger China-Cambodia friendship, closer East Asian cooperation

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Monday called for a stronger China-Cambodia friendship and a closer East Asian cooperation prior to his official visit to Cambodia and attendance at the leaders' meetings on East Asia cooperation.

Recent years have witnessed continued growth of China-Cambodia relations, Li said in a signed article published in Cambodian newspapers Khmer Times and Jian Hua Daily.

Noting that Chinese President Xi Jinping made a successful visit to Cambodia in 2016, and awarded Cambodian Queen Mother Norodom Monineath Sihanouk the Friendship Medal of the People's Republic of China in 2020, Li said both events marked new chapters in China-Cambodia friendship.

"Our sincere cooperation has produced tangible results. Such achievements are recorded in the history of our joint pursuit of common development, and will be forever etched in our memory," Li said, adding that "such achievements are taking forward the historic process of China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries working together for a shared future."

Given the profound and complex changes in the region and the world and a significant rise in factors of instability, uncertainty and insecurity, Li said, it is imperative that regional countries build on their historical experience and seize the current opportunities, and open up new prospects for the future if they are to maintain stability and keep the momentum of development going.

"Over the past 10 years, China and other countries in the region have made the best of our geopolitical proximity, economic complementarity, cultural affinity and our potentials to promote results-oriented cooperation," Li noted.

For example, Li said, a number of major projects such as the China-Laos Railway and Jakarta-Bandung High-Speed Railway have been delivered, providing strong underpinning for the economic growth and livelihood improvement in the region.

"We have continued to push for trade and investment liberalization and facilitation. China-ASEAN trade has withstood external headwinds, and our trade volume has grown from $400 billion to $800 billion," he said.

Noting that the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) has entered into force, Li said this multilateral free trade agreement is the world's largest in terms of both economic aggregate and population served, and has injected strong impetus to regional economic integration, economic globalization and free trade.

Despite difficulties and challenges, regional countries have properly addressed issues at sea and managed their differences, having pressed ahead with consultations on the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, carried out results-oriented maritime cooperation, and worked to make the South China Sea a sea of peace, friendship and cooperation, said the Chinese premier.

Faced with the persistent COVID pandemic, regional countries have come together in solidarity and supported each other, adding new dimensions to their friendship, he said.

Calling the friendship between China and Cambodia "a millennium-old" one that has withstood the test of time, Li said "this great friendship has transcended time and has remained as strong as ever."

"We have firmly supported and spoken up for each other on issues of core interests and major concerns. The proven mutual trust and friendship have been deeply embedded in the hearts of our peoples," he said.

According to the article, in the past few years, as the China-Cambodia Free Trade Agreement was signed and entered into force, bilateral trade has exceeded $10 billion, two years earlier than expected.

High-quality rice, Basa fish, bananas, mangoes and the longan from Cambodia are readily available on Chinese market and on the menu of Chinese households.

More than 170 companies from around the world have settled in the Sihanoukville Special Economic Zone, which was jointly developed by China and Cambodia, creating nearly 30,000 job opportunities for local people.

Construction of the new international airport in Siem Reap is well underway. The expressway from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville, the first of its kind in Cambodia, has been completed.

Looking ahead, Li stressed in the article the need to stay committed to multilateralism and economic globalization, which represents the way forward, in the face of the volatile international landscape and the treacherous global economic situation.

"We need to strengthen complementarity between our development strategies, earnestly implement the RCEP, drive our cooperation on the two wheels of regional trade and free trade, and work together to build an open regional economy," Li said.

"We need to seize the opportunities created by the new revolution in science, technology and industry, foster new drivers for cooperation in such areas as 5G, artificial intelligence and smart cities," he said.

Li also stressed the need to accelerate the transition toward a digital economy and a digital society, rise to the challenges of climate change and the crisis of energy security, and address the impacts of the pandemic on people's livelihood.

China will do its part to help ensure a stable supply in food and energy, and will continue to deepen people-to-people exchanges by promoting cultural and tourism cooperation, he said.

Noting that China always firmly supports ASEAN unity and centrality, Li said that China's ASEAN friends can rest assured that there will be no pressure from China for them to take sides, only encouragement for common progress in solidarity.

"As the largest developing country in the world, China will remain focused on running our own affairs well to deliver a better life for the Chinese people," he said.

"Going forward, we will take strong measures to ensure steady, sound and sustainable growth of China's economy," he said.

Li said China will stay committed to its fundamental state policy of opening up, open still wider to the world, and continue to foster an enabling business environment that is based on market principles, governed by law, and up to international standards.

"China will stand together through times of adversity with Cambodia and other countries in the region, and work together to build a stronger China-Cambodia friendship and a closer East Asian cooperation," he added.

(Cover: Workers transfer the China-donated Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccines at Phnom Penh International Airport in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, February 7, 2021. /Xinhua)

Source(s): Xinhua News Agency

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