Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi Sunday unveiled a multi-billion-dollar package of aid and credit to enhance China-ASEAN cooperation.
Yang met with envoys of the 10 ASEAN countries in Beijing Sunday, fresh from his return from Thailand late Saturday where scheduled Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meetings were postponed due to Thailand's domestic unrest.
"As always, China firmly backs ASEAN integration and community building, and firmly supports ASEAN playing a leading role in regional cooperation," said Yang, adding China's policy toward cooperation with the ASEAN was unchanged despite the postponement of the meetings.
Yang said China called for joint efforts to reach an investment agreement, which was scheduled to be signed on the sidelines of the postponed meetings.
The agreement would be conducive to the establishment of the China-ASEAN free trade zone.
China planned to establish a China-ASEAN investment cooperation fund totaling 10 billion U.S. dollars, designed for cooperation on infrastructure construction, energy and resources, information and communications, Yang said.
Over the next three to five years, China planned to offer credit of 15 billion U.S. dollars to ASEAN countries, including loans with preferential terms of 1.7 billion dollars in aid for cooperation projects.
China also planned to offer 270 million yuan (39.7 million dollars) in special aid to Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar to meet urgent needs, inject 5 million dollars into the China-ASEAN Cooperation Fund, and donate 900,000 dollars to the cooperation fund of ASEAN plus China, Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK).
Regarding sub-regional cooperation between the two sides, China proposed to vigorously push forward development in Mekong river subregion, cooperation in areas including East ASEAN Growth Area and Indonesia-Malaysia-Thailand Growth Triangle.
Yang also expressed China's hope of expanding exchanges and cooperation between its coastal, frontier, central and western provinces and enterprises on the one hand and the ASEAN countries on the other hand to foster new outlets of economic growth.
Financial cooperation was also included in the proposals. China calls for stepping up the multilateralization of Chiang Mai Initiative, expanding regional foreign exchange reserve pool, increasing scale and range of relevant bilateral currency swaps, to further Asian bond market building.
China will provide 300,000 tons of rice for the emergency East Asia rice reserve to strengthen food security in the region. China also proposed to implement the China-ASEAN grain production capability enhancement action plan, which included the establishment of high-quality, high-yield crop demonstration farms in ASEAN countries and agrotechnical training course.
China will offer an extra 2,000 government scholarships and 200master's scholarships for public administration students from the developing member countries over the next five years. China will also host a series of training projects on tackling natural disasters, to share its experience with ASEAN countries.
China is to continue strengthening dialogue with ASEAN defense academics, and enhance cooperation on cracking down on transnational crimes by holding relevant training course.
"The overall thought for China-ASEAN cooperation is that the two sides should rise to difficulties in face of the grim global financial crisis, and make efforts to convert unprecedented challenge into opportunity for closer pragmatic cooperation and common development," said Yang.
"China feel confident of prospect of ASEAN development and the China-ASEAN cooperation of friendship," he said.
The envoys expressed that the proposals were comprehensive and important, which would exert profound and active influence on China-ASEAN cooperation, and would enormously support ASEAN countries during the global financial crisis.
Thailand was deeply appreciative of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's attendance at the postponed meetings, Thai Ambassador to China Rathakit Manathat said.
He also expressed gratitude for China's understanding of Thailand's decision of postponement.
Xue Hanqin, who was appointed as China's first ambassador to the ASEAN late last year, told Xinhua that China's unchanged policy of friendship toward the ASEAN was in coincidence with a Chinese proverb, namely "misfortunes test the sincerity of friends".
All the envoys expressed their willingness to work with China to step up the ASEAN-China relationship.
ASEAN member countries are Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia, Brunei, Vietnam, Indonesia.
(Xinhua News Agency April 12, 2009)