Speech at the 22nd China-ASEAN Summit
H.E. Li Keqiang, Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China
Bangkok, 3 November 2019
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha,
I am delighted to gather with you in Bangkok for the 22nd China-ASEAN Summit. I look forward to an in-depth exchange of views and greater consensus building on further expanding China-ASEAN cooperation. Let me thank the Thai government and Prime Minister Prayut for the careful preparations and thoughtful arrangements made for the Summit.
Since the inception of our dialogue relationship in 1991, China and ASEAN have forged ahead side by side with mutual support. We have come a long way in our respective economic and social development, and have together contributed significantly to the stability and prosperity in East Asia. In his visits to Southeast Asia, President Xi Jinping called for building a closer China-ASEAN community with a shared future. China is ready to work with ASEAN countries to strengthen unity and cooperation in pursuit of new advances in our relations.
By enhancing political mutual trust, we have upheld regional peace and stability. We have always respected each other and treated each other as equals. We embrace good neighborliness and emphasize common ground over disagreements. And we all call for resolving disputes through dialogue and consultations.
China was the first dialogue partner to join the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia, and the first to openly state its readiness to sign the Protocol to the Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone.
China and ASEAN countries signed the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and have since pushed for its full and effective implementation. We have taken forward consultations on a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) and made continuous progress in this respect.
One could say that without the joint efforts of China and ASEAN countries, East Asia could not have enjoyed continuous peace, free of war and conflict, nor would our region become one of the three economic powerhouses of today’s world.
By deepening the convergence of our interests, we have firmly embraced shared progress. As representatives of the emerging economies in Asia, we have weathered two financial crises, and built the largest free trade area so far among developing countries.
China has remained ASEAN’s top trading partner for ten years running. Two-way trade hit US$587.87 billion last year, and ASEAN became China’s second largest trading partner this year. The China-ASEAN FTA Upgrading Protocol took full effect last month, and the revised rules of origin entered into application last August. Mutual investment exceeded US$200 billion in 2018, and achieved overall two-way balance. With integrated and interconnected development, China and ASEAN countries have become a key driver of regional economic integration.
By pursuing mutual learning between different cultures, we have forged a strong bond of friendship among our peoples. The histories and cultures of China and ASEAN countries are unique, diverse and inclusive. Exchanges between our peoples, which date back centuries, are going as strong as ever. Such close cultural ties are even enviable in the Asian region.
We have forged 201 pairs of sister-city relationships, built 38 Confucius Institutes in ASEAN countries and opened majors in the official languages of all ten ASEAN countries in Chinese universities. The number of students studying in each other’s countries has kept increasing. The Year of Media Exchanges has been highly productive. As each other’s major tourist destinations, we are connected by nearly 4,500 flights every week and mutual visits exceeded 57 million last year, passing the 50 million mark for the first time. Such booming exchanges are a true reflection of how close our peoples are to each other.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. The past seven decades witnessed China’s remarkable achievements in development. China will keep to the path of peaceful development, pursue a win-win strategy of opening-up, and work with ASEAN countries and all others to build a community with a shared future for mankind.
Our world is undergoing profound and complex changes. With global growth slowing, protectionism has been on the rise, putting multilateral rules and the international order under strain. Major international institutions have repeatedly downgraded their forecasts of global growth for this year and the next, indicative of the downside and even recessional risks confronting the world economy. All these will pose new and daunting challenges to countries in East Asia and beyond.
Facing such complexities, uncertainties and downward economic pressure, China and ASEAN countries should jointly uphold the UN-centered international system and the WTO-centered multilateral trading regime, preserve the hard-won achievements in our relations, safeguard the gains made in East Asian cooperation, and jointly sustain the momentum of regional prosperity. This way, we can truly deliver greater benefits to all countries and peoples in our region.
China has all along regarded ASEAN as a priority in its neighborhood diplomacy and a key region in Belt and Road cooperation. We support ASEAN’s community-building, ASEAN centrality in East Asian cooperation and ASEAN’s greater role in developing an open and inclusive regional architecture. Guided by the China-ASEAN Strategic Partnership Vision 2030, China hopes to work with ASEAN to upgrade our cooperation across the board and cultivate a closer community with a shared future. To this end, I wish to make the following proposals:
First, we need to further synergize our development plans in a forward-looking spirit. This is an important foundation for deepening China-ASEAN cooperation. With the third Plan of Action to Implement the Joint Declaration on China-ASEAN Strategic Partnership for Peace and Prosperity due to expire next year, we should get down to formulating the fourth POA for 2021 to 2025 as soon as possible according to the targets we agreed in Vision 2030.
Greater connectivity in the region will serve the interests of both sides. So far, all ten ASEAN countries have signed bilateral Belt and Road cooperation agreements with China. China welcomes the release of the China-ASEAN Joint Statement on Synergizing the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity (MPAC) 2025 at this Summit. We look forward to working with ASEAN to speed up the development of existing economic corridors, major rail links connecting China and Thailand, China and Laos, Jakarta and Bandung, and to strengthen infrastructure connectivity in general through railways, highways, ports, airports, power and telecommunications networks. By doing so, we will lay a solid foundation for future growth and prosperity across the region.
Second, we need to follow a win-win approach and upgrade economic and trade cooperation at a faster pace. The China-ASEAN FTA is one of the most sophisticated, vibrant and fruitful multilateral free trade arrangements in Asia. The entry into force of the Upgrading Protocol offers us a good opportunity to push forward trade and investment liberalization and facilitation, better integrate our industrial, supply and value chains, and further unleash the potential of trade and investment.
Taking the RCEP negotiations to fruition has been our shared aspiration for many years. Thanks to a stronger political will displayed by all parties over the past year, text-based negotiations have been basically concluded, and the bulk of market access talks has been completed. China will continue to uphold ASEAN centrality in the negotiations and support ASEAN’s proposal to push for an early conclusion. We believe that expeditious conclusion of the RCEP negotiations will lay a solid foundation for economic integration in East Asia and contribute to the building of an open world economy.
On its part, China will open its door still wider to the rest of the world by fostering a world-class, market-based business environment governed by a sound legal framework. The second China International Import Expo will open in a couple of days’ time. We look forward to your active participation and are prepared to import more of the agricultural specialties from this region from palm oil to tropical fruits. At the same time, we hope Chinese exporters and investors will enjoy a level playing field in your countries, so that we can all work together to bring two-way trade and investment to a new level. By showing our shared commitment to open and inclusive cooperation, China and ASEAN can set a fine example of promoting multilateralism and the healthy development of free trade worldwide.
Third, we need to pursue innovation-driven growth and be a pace-setter of our times. Cooperation on innovation has become a new highlight in China-ASEAN cooperation. The year 2020 has been designated as the China-ASEAN Year of Digital Economy Cooperation. It underscores a readiness on both sides to seize the opportunities presented by the new round of technological and industrial revolution and take forward our cooperation in such domains as the digital economy, artificial intelligence, big data and cybersecurity.
We need to advance our cooperation on e-commerce and build a China-ASEAN cross-border e-commerce community for innovation-driven development to enable more micro, small and medium-sized businesses to share in the opportunities created by the digital economy.
China welcomes the China-ASEAN Leaders’ Statement on Smart City Cooperation Initiative released at this Summit. We support Chinese cities in partnering with ASEAN smart cities for greater policy exchange, standards sharing, and technology cooperation. We are glad to see that Shenzhen has signed a cooperation agreement with Singapore, and other Chinese cities, including Jinan, Nanning, Hangzhou and Xiamen, are reaching out to ASEAN cities as well. More such city-to-city partnerships will be encouraged.
We need to strengthen connectivity of our information infrastructure and IT supply chains, explore the application of the Beidou system in transportation, maritime search and rescue, precision agriculture and other fields of cooperation, and make digital, information and smart technologies accessible to more people.
Fourth, we need to pursue sustainable economic and social progress through inclusive and balanced development. A China-ASEAN Partnership on Blue Economy can be an important step toward achieving this goal. China hopes to strengthen practical cooperation with ASEAN on marine ecosystem preservation, ocean industry and marine technology innovation, with a view to enhancing the sustainability of the ocean economy.
We are happy to continue hosting the China-ASEAN Forum on Social Development and Poverty Reduction to share experience and deepen cooperation. The Marine Plastic Reduction Initiative for the China-ASEAN Partnership for Eco-friendly Urban Development will be taken forward and the China-ASEAN Collaborative Action on Climate Change and Air Quality Improvement launched. We are also prepared to step up cooperation on clean and renewable energy and technology sharing for water resources management.
Last year, we elevated China and BIMP-EAGA cooperation to the ministerial level. We hope the two sides will work out a Plan of Action at an early date. China is ready to provide a grant in light of the needs of BIMP-EAGA, and China Development Bank will set up a US$5-billion special loan for China and BIMP-EAGA cooperation. The funds will be used to finance cooperation projects in connectivity, people’s well-being, industrial capacity and other fields to facilitate ASEAN’s community-building efforts.
Fifth, we need to uphold mutual respect and trust, and deepen security cooperation. In this connection, let me note a few major events: the successful holding of another joint maritime exercise in Qingdao in April, the completion of the first exchange program for Chinese and ASEAN young and middle-aged officers and military think tanks last month, and the soon-to-be-convened 10th China-ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting. China will work with ASEAN to organize more of these events and conduct exchanges in defense at different levels. We hope that a direct hot line between our defense departments will be set up at an early date to strengthen policy communication and mutual trust. As part of our responses to regional security risks, our cooperation in non-traditional security areas also needs to be expanded, including counter-terrorism, disaster relief, joint law enforcement operations and combating transnational crimes.
Sixth, we need to nurture everlasting friendship and forge closer people-to-people ties. Cooperation in media, health, education and tourism will be enhanced. China welcomes the Joint Statement on Deepening China-ASEAN Media Exchange and Cooperation to be issued at this Summit, and looks forward to the closing ceremony of the China-ASEAN Year of Media Exchange to be held in Thailand later this year. China is ready to formulate a Five-Year Plan for Audiovisual Communication Cooperation with ASEAN, which will map out the direction and pathway for our media cooperation.
To help deliver higher quality health services in the region, China will, under the China-ASEAN Human Resources Training Program of Health Silk Road (2020-2022), train 1,000 ASEAN administrative and specialized personnel in the health sector in the next three years. We will continue to implement measures to facilitate the visits and exchanges to sustain the tourism boom. Next year, China will make additional contributions to replenish the China-ASEAN Cooperation Fund. We support the China-ASEAN Young Leaders Scholarship launched this year, which will help pass on our friendship from generation to generation.