China seizes strategic initiative

October 22, 2013

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OCTOBER 2013 can be called the “Asia-Pacific month” or “Southeast Asia month” of China’s diplomacy. With the 21st Apec Economic Leaders’ Meeting and the East Asia leaders’ meetings being held in Indonesia and Brunei respectively in succession, China’s diplomatic “dream team” set out again.

President Xi Jinping paid state visits to Indonesia and Malaysia and attended the Apec summit from October 2-8, and Premier Li Keqiang paid official visits to Brunei, Thailand and Vietnam and attended the East Asia leaders’ meetings from October 9-15. Their maiden visits to Southeast Asia and debut in the two summits boosted friendly and mutually beneficial cooperation between China and most Southeast Asian countries, promoted peace, stability and development in the Asia-Pacific region, and won the strategic initiative for China’s diplomatic layout in the Asia-Pacific.

Xi’s visit to Southeast Asia in October further deepened China-Indonesia and China-Malaysia relations. Both China and Indonesia are G20 members. Bilateral relationships in Southeast Asia and global economic governance are becoming increasingly important, and both sides decided to elevate their relations to a comprehensive strategic partnership.

China is Malaysia’s largest trading partner, and Malaysia is China’s largest trading partner within Asean, and the two sides also decided to upgrade bilateral relations to a comprehensive strategic partnership.

In Indonesia, President Xi Jinping expounded China’s “five commitments” on jointly building a closer China-Asean community of common destiny through building trust and developing political good-neighbourliness; working for win-win cooperation economically and establishing an Asian infrastructure investment bank; standing together and assisting each other on security issues; enhancing mutual understanding and friendship; and sticking to openness and inclusiveness.

To ensure sustainable and healthy development of the Asia-Pacific economy, Xi stressed that Apec should play a leading role in maintaining and advancing an open-world economy and put forward a three-point proposal to this end: strengthen macroeconomic policy coordination and jointly promote Asia-Pacific common development; maintain economic and financial stability in the Asia-Pacific region through factual assessment of the situation and cool-headed responses to challenges; and take a long-term perspective and encourage members to deepen economic restructuring to inject more vitality into sustainable development of the Asia-Pacific region.

In consideration of the multiple economic cooperative arrangements and mechanisms in the Asia-Pacific region, Xi stressed that the relevant arrangements should learn from each other, promote each other, integrate with each other, and complement each other.

Also, countries should join forces to promote Asia-Pacific economic integration, be committed to open development, and firmly oppose trade protectionism and have firm confidence, injecting new vitality to the multilateral trading system.

Xi also put forward proposals for boosting connectivity in the Asia-Pacific region, such as building a connectivity landscape connecting and covering both shores across the Pacific, breaking the bottlenecks hindering connectivity, expediting connectivity and infrastructure development within the framework of regional and international cooperation, and enabling the people in the Asia-Pacific to forge closer ties through connectivity.

Li’s visit to Southeast Asia and attendance at the East Asia leaders’ meetings also produced a series of highlights. The visit further promoted political mutual trust and mutually beneficial cooperation between China and Asean. While attending the 16th China-Asean Summit, Li proposed a 2+7 (two political consensus and seven cooperation fields) cooperation framework, which represents the new Chinese leadership’s new vision on expanding the China-Asean relationship.

China and Asean should further deepen two political consensus: the foundation of advancing cooperation lies in deepening political mutual trust and enhancing good-neighbourly friendship; and the key to deepening cooperation is focusing on economic growth and expanding mutual benefits.

Li suggested the two sides carry out deep, high-level and all-around cooperation in seven fields in the next 10 years: actively discuss the signing of a treaty on good-neighbourliness, friendship and cooperation; start negotiations on upgrading the China-Asean Free Trade Area; strengthen exchange and cooperation in the security field; push forward connectivity; strengthen financial cooperation of this region to guard against risks; steadily advance maritime cooperation to build the “maritime Silk Road” of the 21st century; and boost exchanges in people-to-people and cultural fields, science and technology and environmental protection.

Facing up to the South China Sea disputes, Li took the initiative to commit himself to defusing contradictions and maintaining peace and stability in the South China Sea. Li stressed that the disputes should be resolved peacefully between the disputing countries and, before a peaceful solution is reached, disputing countries should actively promote joint development. China is ready to continue to work with other countries in the region to uphold free and safe navigation in the South China Sea.

Li said the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) constitutes the cornerstone for peace and stability in the South China Sea, and China will continue to consult with Asean countries on formulating the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) under the framework of implementing the DOC. China and Vietnam have agreed to create a joint marine working group to promote joint development on the sea.

By arrangement with the China Daily/ANN