BEIJING — As the global economy continues to encounter uncertainties and headwind, China unwaveringly keeps its door open to international cooperation and stays committed to pushing for common development.
In a show of that spirit, which is in pressing need under current circumstances, Premier Li Keqiang is in Singapore for a series of East Asian leaders’ meetings to help forge broader consensus on issues of common concern.
In the same month 40 years ago, then Chinese Vice-Premier Deng Xiaoping landed in Singapore for a historic path-finding visit, where he was deeply impressed by the Southeastern Asian nation’s dynamic transformation only 13 years after its independence, a result of active engagement with the global economy.
That year was also when Beijing began to ready itself for a whole new prescription for faster development and a reorientation with the wider world. One month later that year, Beijing declared the start of its reform and opening-up endeavor, commencing China’s decades of exuberant economic ascent.
Over the past four decades, the spirit of opening-up has shined as the loadstar of China’s cooperation with the international community, and the East Asian nations in particular. That spirit has helped chalk up stronger political mutual trust, greater economic cooperation and more frequent people-to-people exchanges between China and its East Asian neighbors, and given birth to a host of multilateral dialogue partnerships and free trade arrangements in the region.
Within these frameworks, trade between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) hit a record high of $514.8 billion last year, more than six times that of 2003, when China and ASEAN established their strategic partnership. Accumulated two-way investment has reached more than $200 billion and over 4,000 Chinese companies have set up ventures in the ASEAN markets, creating over 300,000 jobs for locals, according to the Chinese Ministry of Commerce.
Thanks to the robust trade and investment, the region has seen the formation of a rather complete and mature industrial and supply chain that has strung local economies together, laying a solid foundation for further regional economic integration.
This year, the negotiations of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) has picked up speed. The proposed regional free trade agreement, comprising the 10 ASEAN members and the six Asia-Pacific states with which ASEAN has free trade agreements — Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand — could cover nearly a half of the world’s population and a third of global trade once established.
This year’s gathering of East Asian leaders comes at a time when the global economy is facing such daunting challenges as rising trade protectionism and nationalism. East Asia’s vibrant economic fabric is under serious threat. Beijing’s solution to the predicament is to open up even wider, and that has been propped up with concrete actions.
Premier Li’s trip comes right after the first China International Import Expo (CIIE), which attracted 3,600 companies from more than 130 countries and regions and concluded with perspective deals worth $57.8 billion. At the CIIE, China not only offered overseas traders direct access to its domestic markets, but also demonstrated its commitment to further opening-up.
This April, Beijing unveiled at the Boao Forum for Asia annual conference a package of measures aimed at giving foreign investors greater access to China’s markets, better protect intellectual property rights, significantly reduce tariffs on imported vehicles, and fully scrap the restriction on foreign ownership in financial sectors in three years.
Economic cooperation requires solid political trust and regional tranquility. The good news is that the region now enjoys an increasingly favorable condition.
In May, leaders of China, Japan and South Korea convened for the first time in three years. In August, China and ASEAN arrived at a single negotiating text of the Code of Conduct in a bid to ensure peace in the South China Sea.
Looking into the future, countries in the region need to uphold the spirit of openness and cooperation along the way ahead, and join hands to facilitate regional economic integration and safeguard multilateralism as well as the rule-based global trading system for common development.