BEIJING — Premier Li Keqiang’s just-concluded Myanmar tour will inaugurate a “diamond decade” for the partnership between China and Southeast Asian countries and promote regional cooperation, peace and prosperity, overseas experts and scholars have said.
From Nov 12 to 14, Li attended a series of leaders’ meetings on East Asia cooperation in Nay Pyi Taw, capital of Myanmar, and paid an official visit to the country.
During the visit, he called on East Asian countries to forge a closer China-the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) community with a common destiny, push forward regional economic integration, and enhance cooperation in finance and regional connectivity.
Gennady Chufrin, an expert with the Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO) of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said China has shown its willingness for active cooperation with ASEAN and countries on the eastern edge of the Pacific.
It is crucial for regional stability to strengthen connectivity and people-to-people and cultural exchanges between China and those countries or regions, he said, adding that China’s active participation has also ushered in broad prospects for the region’s future development.
Qian Feng, vice-director of the Chinese-language newspaper Asian Daily in Thailand, said Li’s trip has elevated China-ASEAN relations to a new height and broadened bilateral cooperation.
On the South China Sea issue, China, in the spirit of inclusiveness as a great power, calls for a cool-headed consultation with concerned parties to peacefully solve differences, he said.
As for relations between China and Myanmar, he said China’s economic development, reforms and opening-up have brought a good opportunity for Myanmar, which also needs economic reforms.
Zhao Hong, a senior research fellow with the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore, said the China-ASEAN relations will have a bright prospect for development in the wake of Li’s tour.
Apart from economy and trade, the two sides could also cooperate in the political, security, military and other fields, he said.
Cha Jae-bok, top researcher with the South Korean think-tank of the Northeast Asian History Foundation, said Li’s proposal on maritime cooperation between China and ASEAN will further raise China’s geopolitical clout.
A dual-track approach for dealing with the South China Sea issue will help China defuse tensions with some neighboring countries and safeguard regional security and stability, he added.
Ngeow Chow Bing, senior lecturer at the Institute of China Studies, University of Malaya, said Li’s recent article published in the Malaysian newspaper Sin Chew Jit Poh expounded his views on the future relations between China and ASEAN.
The article echoed President Xi Jinping’s idea on the development of bilateral ties, highlighting the importance of the regional bloc in China’s diplomatic strategy, he said.
Chheang Vannarith, senior researcher at the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace, said China has proven its leadership role in fostering peace and promoting regional cooperation.
“Intra-regional connectivity, economic integration and poverty reduction are the most important cooperation areas between China and other East Asian countries. However, it needs to go along with strategic trust and social capital,” he said. “People-to-people ties and rules-based international relations have been enhanced, but more intensive cooperation is required.”
Commenting on the treaty on good neighborliness, friendship and cooperation, he said the treaty will significantly contribute to strengthening strategic trust between China and its Southeast Asian neighbors.
“Based on trust, peace can be preserved,” he said.
Joseph Matthews, director of the International Cooperation Department at the Asia Euro University in Phnom Penh, said regional peace and stability are the key factors for economic growth and prosperity.
“In my opinion, China is willing and offering to share its prosperity and economic growth with its all neighbors irrespective of their internal policy towards China or internal political situations,” he said.
Matthews added that most countries in the region consider China as a sincere friend and partner in their development, instead of a hegemonic power with a hidden agenda or ulterior motives.
“China’s policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries, respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity and co-existence with its neighbors has made China a favorable and reliable partner in ASEAN and the whole Asian region,” he said.