20 years on, China-ASEAN Expo takes cooperation to a new level
Indonesia, chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for 2023, is ready to steal the show at the 20th China-ASEAN Expo, which is taking place in the capital of south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region from September 16 to 19.
In the previous 19 editions of the China-ASEAN Expo, thousands of Indonesian businesses participated, showing their products across over 2,100 booths. Indonesian cocoa beans, household supplies, handicrafts and bird's nests have been favored by Chinese consumers as soon as they were unveiled at the expo.
This year's expo sees the participation of all 10 members of the ASEAN as well as Belt and Road partner countries. The participation figure rose by 18.2 percent to nearly 2,000 enterprises compared to last year, including 350 Global Fortune 500 companies.
As the China-ASEAN Expo celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, Chinese Premier Li Qiang on Sunday said the China-ASEAN Expo has witnessed the continuous development of bilateral relations since its establishment, and the two sides are committed to strengthening themselves through unity, win-win cooperation and consideration for the world.
Li made the remarks at the opening ceremony of the 20th China-ASEAN Expo and the 20th China-ASEAN Business and Investment Summit.
Model for regional cooperation
In the past 20 years, over 70 kinds of fruits from ASEAN countries have been approved for import into China. ASEAN fruits are always one of the most popular products at the China-ASEAN Expo.
This year, Malaysian jackfruit will officially make its debut in China through the ongoing 20th China-ASEAN Expo, showingthe China-ASEAN expo has actively built a platform for ASEAN enterprises to enter the Chinese market.
China has been ASEAN's largest trading partner for 14 consecutive years. Latest data from China's General Administration of Customs showed that for the first eight months of 2023, the total trade value between China and ASEAN was 4.11 trillion yuan ($570 billion).
As Premier Li pointed out on Sunday, against the backdrop of a weak global economy, China and ASEAN managed to buck the trend and achieve an increase in trade and investment.
According to Li, the trade volume between China and ASEAN has increased by 16.8 times in the past 20 years and the two parties have been each other's largest trading partners for three consecutive years, with their two-way investment exceeding $350 billion.
China-ASEAN relations have become the most successful and dynamic model in regional Asia-Pacific cooperation, and a clear example of how to promote the construction of a community with a shared future for all, the Chinese premier noted.
Amity, sincerity, mutual benefits, inclusiveness
The China-ASEAN Expo is seen as a practice of China's neighborhood diplomacy of amity, sincerity, mutual benefits, and inclusiveness with its past 19 editions attracting a total of 182 Chinese and foreign leaders, over 3,800 ministerial level guests and more than 1.1 million guest exhibitors.
In his address, Li also pointed out that the key to the success of China-ASEAN cooperation lies in the spirit of amity, sincerity, mutual benefits, and inclusiveness and called on the two sides to create a favorable environment for development, prosperity, peace and tranquility, so that the development of one country can benefit neighboring countries and people in the region.
He further elaborated China's plan, saying the country is ready to expand cooperation with ASEAN in such areas as culture, tourism, training and youth to enhance the mutual understanding and friendship between their people, in turn deepening emotional integration.
To further consolidate the foundation of trust, China will adhere to its basic policy of opening-up and strive to create a good business environment so that investors from all over the world feel at ease and comfortable, the premier said.
He noted that China is willing to import more competitive and distinctive products from ASEAN countries, enhance regional connectivity, and build more stable and unimpeded regional industrial and supply chains based on comparative advantages.
"China firmly supports the ASEAN-centered regional cooperation framework. It will continue to synergize the Belt and Road Initiative with the development strategies of other countries, and continue to advance regional economic integration," Li added.
Zhai Kun, deputy dean of the Institute of Area Studies at Peking University, noted that cooperation between China and ASEAN has benefited from the expo and extended from trade in goods, investment and services to cooperation on international production capacity, cross-border park construction and other areas.
Stressing that the expo has also driven bilateral exchanges in many fields, such as artificial intelligence and education, Zhai expressed belief that China-ASEAN cooperation is moving toward broader fields with deeper and higher levels.