Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (left) attends the ASEAN-China Ministerial Meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on August 5 (CFP)
China put forward 10 proposals for enhancing cooperation with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and maintaining stability in the South China Sea at the China-ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur on August 5.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that in order to build a more closely-knit China-ASEAN community of common destiny, China is ready to further deepen China-ASEAN cooperation by making the maximum contribution.
The 10-state bloc of Asian countries—Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Viet Nam—hopes to establish the ASEAN Community by the end of this year to create a common economic, political-security and socio-cultural region. The ASEAN Community is nearing completion.
Wang reaffirmed China's support for ASEAN in realizing its goal of regional integration and recognized ASEAN's dominant position in regional cooperation, as well as its role in international and regional affairs.
Under the proposals Wang outlined, China will work together with ASEAN on advancing economic development, cultural exchange, connectivity construction, and strengthening of security by mutual trust.
The 48th ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting, held from August 4 to 7, was attended by foreign ministers and representatives from 10 member nations, as well as countries such as China, South Korea, Japan and the United States.
Ahead of the meeting, China's Ambassador to ASEAN Xu Bu said at a media briefing, "As a major partner of ASEAN, China has always been a firm supporter of an integrated Southeast Asian bloc."
The establishment of the ASEAN Community is an opportunity for China and the rest of the world, Xu said.
Twenty-four years have passed since China first started dialogue with ASEAN. During those years, the two sides have maintained sound relations and expanded their cooperation, Xu said.
ASEAN has become China's third-largest trading partner. According to statistics from the Ministry of Commerce, bilateral trade between China and ASEAN reached $224.38 billion in the first six months of this year, a 1.6 percent growth over the same period last year.
China and ASEAN are engaged in talks to upgrade the Free Trade Area (FTA) that was initiated in 2010 and is expected to be completed by the end of this year, said China's Vice Commerce Minister Gao Yan at a news conference on July 30. The upgraded FTA is expected to double bilateral trading volume within the next six years, Gao said.
China also aims to strengthen its partnership with ASEAN by building the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road and by joint investment in Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), Tang Qifang, a researcher on Southeast Asian studies at the China Institute of International Studies, told Beijing Review.
Building the maritime Silk Road will help facilitate regional integration for ASEAN members. The process needs closer connectivity and improved infrastructure, and the AIIB will be able to offer financial support to meet this demand, Tang said.
"It is not an easy job to build such a diversified region into one unified, competitive and balanced community," Tang said. "ASEAN's 10 member states need to overcome their differences on many issues."
As to the sovereignty disputes in the South China Sea, ASEAN members hold different views. Representatives of the Philippines called on ASEAN members to pressure China, but other members were reluctant to follow suit.
Foreign Minister Wang told the meeting that the disputes involve China and a few Southeast Asian nations, not ASEAN as a whole.
Wang stressed that states in the South China Sea region should fully and effectively implement the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea drawn up in 2002 by China and ASEAN, and accelerate the consultations toward establishing a code of conduct in the South China Sea.
"But ASEAN has a long way to go to coordinate its members' policies and manage the issue of the South China Sea within a proper mechanism," Tang said.
Copyedited by Calvin Palmer
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