Although Thailand postponed at the last minute the annual summits of East Asian and Southeast Asian leaders scheduled on April 11-12, regional cooperation will continue to forge ahead with full vigor, even more so in the context of the global financial crisis, said Chinese international studies experts.
"As long as the attending countries focus on jointly coping with the global financial crisis, I believe the expected achievements of the summits will still materialize in the near future," said Xu Ningning, Executive Deputy Secretary General of the China-ASEAN Business Council.
JOINING HANDS: Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (center) meets with Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso (right) and South Korean President Lee Myung Bak in Pattaya, Thailand, on April 11 (RAO AIMIN)
The canceled meetings included the 14th summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the 12th ASEAN Plus China Summit, the 12th ASEAN Plus China, Japan and South Korea Summit, the Fourth East Asia Summit, and a breakfast meeting of Chinese, Japanese and South Korean leaders. Anti-government rallies forced the Thai Government to declare a state of emergency in Pattaya, the meeting venue.
East Asian cooperation has been advancing steadily along the right track, Shi Yongming, an associate research fellow at the China Institute of International Studies, told Beijing Review. The global financial crisis provides an opportunity and a driving force for countries in the region to work even closer, he added.
BUSTLING BUSINESS: Trucks from China and Viet Nam line up at Pingxiang crossing along their border on November 19, 2008. Pingxiang is a major trading post in the China-ASEAN free trade area (LIU GUANGMING)
Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said Premier Wen Jiabao had planned to make a three-point proposal on jointly coping with the financial crisis and promoting East Asian cooperation by:
- Giving top priority to tackling the financial crisis to minimize its negative impact on the region;
- Seizing opportunities in the crisis to invigorate cooperation in various fields and strive for all-round regional integration; and
- Advancing East Asian integration and promoting regional peace and prosperity based on long-term mutual interests.
Wen, who flew to Thailand for the summits on April 10, returned home a day later after holding brief meetings with Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso, South Korean President Lee Myung Bak and Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.
Wen was to announce a number of concrete measures China would take to assist ASEAN countries, Yang told reporters on their way back.
For example, China has decided to establish a China-ASEAN investment cooperation fund totaling $10 billion to accelerate the construction of infrastructure that will better connect the country with ASEAN countries. It will extend $15 billion in loans, including $1.7 billion in loans with preferential terms, to ASEAN countries over the next three to five years to support China-ASEAN cooperative projects.
China will also offer 270 million yuan ($39.7 million) in special aid to Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar to help them overcome economic difficulties. It will inject an extra $5 million into the China-ASEAN Cooperation Fund. It will also provide 300,000 tons of rice for East Asia's emergency rice reserve.
In addition, China will help train 1,000 agricultural technicians for the ASEAN nations in the next three years. It will offer another 2,000 government scholarships as well as 200 scholarships for master of public administration students from the developing members of the East Asia Summit over the next five years. It will also donate $900,000 to the ASEAN Plus China, Japan and South Korea Cooperation Fund.