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Premier raises proposal for upgrading China-ASEAN relations

Updated: Sep 8,2016 10:30 AM

Speaking at a ceremony on Sept 7 with ASEAN leaders to commemorate the 25th anniversary of China-ASEAN ties, Premier Li Keqiang said that relations between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have made great strides and that China is confident about further promoting bilateral ties.

Premier Li said that China-ASEAN relations have withstood challenges from the international community and set a good example for equal treatment and win-win cooperation among countries at different development levels.

“During the past 25 years, China and ASEAN have valued their dialogue relations through the principle of mutual trust, friendship, mutual benefit and peaceful coexistence,” said the Premier.

Premier Li raised a five-point proposal for furthering the development of China-ASEAN relations:

First, China-ASEAN relations should be upgraded by reinforcing the alignment of development goals and path while continuing to jointly build a community of common destiny. He added that China will work with ASEAN to further enhance pragmatic cooperation and expand mutual interests under the guidance of “2+7 cooperation framework” and the third “Action Plan” of China-ASEAN strategic partnership.

Second, a new platform for political security cooperation should be built. China is willing to sign a “Good Neighbor Treaty” with ASEAN countries to provide legal protection for bilateral ties, said the Premier. The Premier also said China supports efforts by ASEAN to establish the nuclear-free zone. And he urged informal regular meetings between Defense secretaries to promote efficient communication on civil defense and military affairs. Premier Li further suggested pragmatic cooperation on law enforcement security through regular ministerial dialogues.

Third, nurture the new impetus to trade and economic cooperation. Implement the upgraded China-ASEAN Free Trade Area, making trade and investment more free and convenient. Promote the “Belt and Road” Initiative by implementing major projects, such as China-Laos railway, China-Thailand railway and the high-speed railway between Jakarta and Bandung, two Indonesian cities.

Fourth, boost cultural cooperation. With education and tourism as priorities, China and ASEAN should try more cooperation methods, making it the third most important cooperation area. China suggests that both parties launch a program for exchange students, hoping that by 2025, the number of students participating will be as high as 300,000.

Fifth, jointly enhance regional cooperation. A special fund has been launched for Lancang-Mekong Cooperation, supporting projects that cover political security, economy and sustainable development and culture. Five major areas will be prioritized in cooperation — connectivity, production capacity, cross-border economy, water resources, poverty reduction, and agriculture.

“If the past 25 years can be regarded as a growth period for China-ASEAN dialogue relations, then it will enter a period of maturity in the upcoming 25 years,” said the Premier, adding that China is ready to further promote bilateral ties, thereby boosting regional peace, stability and prosperity.

Attending leaders of ASEAN countries said Premier Li showed positive signals of China-ASEAN ties. Recognizing China as the most important partner, they praised the bilateral dialogue based on mutual respect, saying that it had brought benefits to all parties. They expressed gratitude for China’s support of the development of ASEAN and China’s effort in bilateral economic cooperation, and support for China’s proposals such as the “Belt and Road” Initiative and connective infrastructure construction.

They hoped that both sides can boost economic cooperation, implement the agreement of the upgraded China-ASEAN Free Trade Zone and accelerate the negotiation of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

After completing the “Chinese Education Year”, they said ASEAN expects Chinese Tourism Year in 2017, hoping that it will promote more cultural exchanges.

“More mutual beneficial cooperation achievements are expected to be made to promote regional and international development,” they said.

Joint statements were adopted at the summit, on the 19th China-ASEAN summit to commemorate the 25th anniversary of China-ASEAN dialogue relations, on production capacity cooperation, on China-ASEAN senior diplomats’ hotline to address maritime emergencies, and on accidental encounters between China and ASEAN in the South China Sea.