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Cover Stories Series 2013> Asia-Pacific Partnership> Archive
UPDATED: October 13, 2013 NO. 41 OCTOBER 10, 2013
The Good Neighbors
China's diplomatic policy aims to strengthen relationships with ASEAN member nations
By Ding Ying

GOOD-NEIGHBORING POLICY: Chinese President Xi Jinping detailing China's ASEAN policy in a speech in Jakarta on October 3Strengthening China-ASEAN Ties (CNSPHOTO)

Chinese President Xi Jinping set out on another round of overseas state visits on October 2-8, marking the fourth such tour since his inauguration in March, consisting of stops in Indonesia and Malaysia, as well as an APEC summit meeting held on the Indonesian island of Bali. It was Xi's first visit to the two countries, both members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

His visits not only promoted relations and cooperation between China and the two countries, but also sent a strong message about China's aims to strengthen relations with ASEAN nations, an inseparable part of China's diplomatic policy.

President Xi's visit to Indonesia and Malaysia saw a number of agreements signed and relations between China and the two countries reinforced as a result. Qu Xing, President of the China Institute of International Studies (CIIS) commented that President Xi's visits successfully enhanced bilateral trust with the two ASEAN states and was a clear demonstration of China's good-neighbor policy. Qu added that the trip was an important step in carrying out China's strategy of all-round diplomacy.

Zhang Yunling, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), believes relations with the two ASEAN states are important to China, and that Xi's visits to them bring China and the ASEAN countries closer.

In a joint statement, Xi and his Indonesian counterpart Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono agreed to take bilateral ties to a new level of comprehensive strategic partnership. The two countries vowed to enhance their cooperation in areas such as infrastructure, manufacturing, agriculture, investment and finance. According to the statement, China and Indonesia plan to reach new levels of growth and increase bilateral trade to $80 billion by 2015. China is now Indonesia's second largest trading partner, with bilateral trade reaching $66.2 billion last year, four times higher than it was in 2005. Trade between the two countries in the first half of 2013 reached $33.84 billion, up 4.6 percent from the same period last year. For three years consecutively, Indonesia has been China's largest market for contractors in Southeast Asia.

In addition, the two countries agreed to encourage the active participation of Chinese enterprises in the construction of Indonesia's six major economic corridors. Recognizing the importance and potential benefits of deeper industrial cooperation, both countries expressed support for and welcomed the establishment of the planned Indonesia-China Integrated Industrial Parks to be built by Chinese enterprises in Indonesia. Both countries have also made remarkable progress toward further cooperation in fields such as science and technology, education, culture, defense, and aerospace. The two countries also promised to strengthen their cooperation in regards to natural resources such as oil, natural gas and new energy, forging a long-term and reliable energy cooperation partnership. To deepen fiscal cooperation, they vowed to extend a 100-billion-yuan (about $16.3 billion) bilateral currency exchange agreement with the possibility of expanding the program further.

The two countries agreed to strengthen communication and coordination through defense consultations and dialogues, in order to deepen China-Indonesia and China-ASEAN security cooperation. The two sides also vow to beef up exchanges and cooperation in fighting cross-border crime and terrorism as well as further disaster prevention and relief assistance.

Qu commented that the reinforcement of this bilateral relationship will open a window through which cooperation can be extended, something that is important for both sides, as China and Indonesia are both influential in the region.

Malaysia established diplomatic relations with China in 1974, the first among the ASEAN member countries to do so. During Xi's visit to Malaysia, the two sides agreed to upgrade their relationship to a comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership, and signed a series of agreements aimed at strengthening bilateral ties. The two nations also discussed further development of China's relations with ASEAN member countries and exchanged views on other major regional and international issues.

Qu believes this upgrading of China and Malaysia's relationship is influential in promoting good relationships between China and the rest of the region. "The China-Malaysia relationship has gone through rapid development in recent years, and bilateral cooperation has become both comprehensive and mature as a result," he added.

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