Speech by H.E. Li Keqiang
Premier of the State Council of the People”s Republic of China
At the 24th China-ASEAN Summit
Beijing, 26 October 2021
Your Majesty Sultan Hassanal,
It is a great pleasure to meet you all on the “cloud” to attend the 24th China-ASEAN Summit. I would like to thank His Majesty Sultan Hassanal and the Bruneian government for their contributions to hosting this meeting.
China-ASEAN relations now enjoy sound and steady growth. Our practical cooperation keeps moving ahead across the board. Over the past year, President Xi Jinping and leaders of ASEAN countries have engaged in in-depth strategic communication through multiple means. Our two sides have overcome the adverse impact of COVID-19, maintained close exchanges at all levels and conducted vibrant interactions both online and in person. China and ASEAN countries have pulled together with solidarity in this trying time. With its resilience further demonstrated and cooperation potential further unlocked, China-ASEAN relationship shows a sound momentum of all-round and in-depth development.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the China-ASEAN dialogue relationship. Over the past three decades, we have actively embraced the trend of the times, promoted common development and progress, and created with joint efforts the East Asian miracle. We have safeguarded overall stability and sustained economic growth in the region, and established a path of good-neighborliness and win-win cooperation. China-ASEAN relations have achieved a historic leap.
We have remained committed to amity and good faith, and steadily enhanced strategic mutual trust. We have followed the East Asian way of building consensus through consultation and accommodating each other’s comfort levels. We have upheld multilateralism, jointly preserved the ASEAN-centered, open and inclusive regional architecture and become a key force for regional peace and tranquility. We have adhered to the basic approach of dialogue and consultation, properly handled differences, and effectively safeguarded peace and stability in the South China Sea.
We have remained committed to mutual help and support, and carried out active cooperation against COVID-19. In light of the changing situation of the pandemic, China and ASEAN countries have provided each other with containment supplies, shared response experience and cooperated on the research and development, supply and production of vaccines. We have speedily responded to each other’s needs and done our best to help one another.
We have remained committed to mutual benefit and win-win, and joined hands in boosting economic recovery. China and ASEAN countries have kept the markets open to each other. Our trade and investment has continuously expanded, cross-border e-commerce has been flourishing, and our industrial and supply chains have become more closely linked. Since last year, ASEAN has been China’s biggest trading partner. For China, ASEAN is also a predominant destination of outbound investment and source of foreign direct investment.
We have remained committed to heart-to-heart engagement, and worked vigorously to deepen affinity among our people. Despite the impact of COVID-19, our people-to-people and cultural exchanges have not been interrupted. Interactions in culture and among media, think tanks, and youth have shown a stronger momentum. Such signature programs as the China-ASEAN Education Cooperation Week and the China-ASEAN Young Leaders Scholarship enjoy a rising profile.
I look forward to an in-depth exchange of views with you on ways to further intensify China-ASEAN cooperation to lend new impetus to the upgrading of the China-ASEAN Strategic Partnership.
China will not halt its pursuit of comprehensive reform or stop its pace of opening-up. China will continue to resolutely follow, together with other countries, the right path of mutually beneficial cooperation, and better integrate itself into the Asia-Pacific and the world economies. We are ready to deepen friendship and mutually beneficial cooperation with ASEAN countries and the wider world in the course of opening-up. To this end, I wish to propose the following for our cooperation in the next stage:
First, we need to jointly build a line of defense for health. Given the repeated resurgence of the coronavirus worldwide, we need to further coordinate our efforts in COVID response and economic and social development. We need to enhance policy communication and coordination, and continue to act in a concerted way to ensure effective COVID response. Vaccines are a powerful weapon to defeat COVID-19. China will further increase assistance in vaccines and anti-COVID supplies in light of ASEAN’s needs, continue to support ASEAN in building regional vaccine production and distribution centers at a faster pace, and strengthen cooperation on the research and development, production and technology transfer of vaccines and specific medicines for COVID-19. China is developing an information system platform for global COVID-19 data integration and risk analysis, and is ready to share COVID surveillance and containment data with ASEAN in a timely manner, to jointly enhance capacity for early warning and emergency response. Bearing in mind the needs in the post-COVID era, China hopes to work with ASEAN to fully implement the China-ASEAN Cooperation Program on Public Health Management, focusing on closer exchange and cooperation in the prevention and control of communicable diseases and cultivation of medical and healthcare professionals. China proposes establishing a China-ASEAN Public Health Research and Development Collaborating Center to empower public health cooperation with science and technology.
Second, we need to deepen economic integration. As global industrial and supply chains undergo a new round of profound adjustments, the momentum of regionalization has kept growing. China and ASEAN countries need to harness our strengths of geographical proximity and industrial complementarity to pursue regional economic integration at a higher level. As the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) approaches the threshold of entry into force, parties need to hasten work for the agreement to take effect as early as possible, so that people of all regional countries get to benefit from its outcomes at an early date. China will work with ASEAN to officially launch the joint feasibility study to identify other areas for possible inclusion in further enhancing the China-ASEAN FTA, focus on the digital economy, green economy and other new areas of cooperation, and make bilateral and regional economic and trade relations more mutually beneficial, open and inclusive. China and Cambodia have ratified the bilateral Free Trade Agreement, and the agreement will come into force and be implemented soon. China proposes discussing Multi-Nation Multi-Park cooperation with ASEAN, and building exemplary parks of international industrial capacity cooperation. China has officially applied to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), and hopes to have the support of ASEAN countries. The China Import and Export Fair, the China International Import Expo, and the China-ASEAN Expo are important channels for closer trade and investment cooperation, and we welcome the continued, active participation of all parties in these events.
Third, we need to promote inclusive development. COVID-19 has widened the development gap, and aggravated the inadequate and unbalanced development in the region. We need to better synergize our development strategies, make the pie of common interests bigger and invigorate cooperation to share development outcomes. We have unanimously agreed to issue the China-ASEAN Joint Statement on Cooperation in Support of the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework. The ASEAN Summit has adopted the ASEAN Leaders’ Declaration on the Blue Economy. China hopes to work with ASEAN to speed up the building of the Partnership on Blue Economy. We need to tap into our respective strengths and promote coordinated development. China is ready to enhance international development cooperation with ASEAN, set up dedicated offices in ASEAN countries and build demonstration areas of development cooperation. China will continue to hold the China-ASEAN Forum on Social Development and Poverty Reduction, share the experience and practices of poverty reduction and rural revitalization, and help narrow the development gap. The mechanism of China-ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Disaster Management should be effectively used to help raise with joint efforts our capacity for disaster prevention, mitigation and relief. We welcome ASEAN’s active participation in the Belt and Road Ministerial Forum for International Cooperation in Disaster Risk Reduction and Emergency Management that China will host. China will continue to work with ASEAN to deepen the Lancang-Mekong cooperation and the China-BIMP-EAGA cooperation to contribute to ASEAN integration.
Fourth, we need to uphold an innovation-driven approach. Innovation is the primary force in driving development. We need to accelerate the commercialization and application of innovation outcomes in science and technology, to provide fresh impetus for high-quality development in the post-COVID era. The two sides need to deliver on the Plan of Action on a Closer Partnership of Science, Technology and Innovation for Future (2021-2025), develop joint research platforms and cooperation bases for innovation and entrepreneurship, strengthen human resources training and deepen the exchanges between researchers. China will work with ASEAN to explore cooperation on industrial design and increase the value of industrial manufactured products with innovative design. Digitization centering on big data represents the future. We need to finalize the Plan of Action on the Implementation of the China-ASEAN Digital Economy Partnership as quickly as possible, and identify the priorities for digital economy cooperation. China will launch such projects as the Preparation for Smart and Sustainable Urbanization in ASEAN Cities, and hopes to work with ASEAN countries to build a China-ASEAN Geosciences and Mining Information Big Data Platform and establish a China-ASEAN Satellite Remote Sensing Application Center.
Fifth, we need to expand green cooperation. Climate response, ecological conservation and a transition to low-carbon economy and society are common tasks for us all. We need to strengthen policy dialogue and practical cooperation, and implement well the Framework of China-ASEAN Environmental Cooperation Strategy and Action Plan 2021-2025. Our two sides may help preserve global and regional bio-diversity through closer cooperation on mangrove protection, and facilitate knowledge sharing on climate change and environmental protection through such programs as network building of low-carbon schools and climate-resilient communities. We need to push for the transition and upgrading of energy industries and economic structures as appropriate, and develop green industrial parks. China is ready to scale up its new energy investment. The relevant departments will work with the ASEAN Centre for Energy to implement the ASEAN-China Clean Energy Capacity Building Programme, jointly build platforms for clean energy technological cooperation and facilitate technology transfer in new energy.
Sixth, we need to cement the foundation of popular support. Amity between the people is an inexhaustible driving force for our friendship and cooperation. We need to resume people-to-people exchanges in a safe and orderly way based on the evolving COVID situation. In particular, we should manage the return of ASEAN students to China for school in a phased manner while ensuring COVID-related safety. We need to better synergize our education policies and deepen cooperation on human resources development. China proposes setting up a China-ASEAN Senior Officials’ Meeting mechanism on education, and will continue to host the China-ASEAN Education Cooperation Week, to better share the development experience and outcomes in basic, vocational and higher education. We need to make the most of the China-ASEAN Young Leaders Scholarship and other platforms to add new strength to the bond of friendship between our people. China will make a US$10 million additional contribution to the China-ASEAN Cooperation Fund to boost the friendly and practical cooperation between our two sides.
China is firm in its commitment to the path of peaceful development, to safeguarding world peace and regional stability, and to promoting common development. Peace in the South China Sea serves the common interest of China and ASEAN countries; its development is our shared aspiration and its tranquility requires our collective efforts. Despite COVID-19, we have substantively resumed negotiations of the Single Draft COC Negotiating Text and made positive progress. Next year will be the 20th anniversary of the signing of the DOC. China hopes to work with ASEAN countries to mark this occasion with commemorative activities, and use it as an opportunity to actively expand maritime practical cooperation, expedite COC negotiations and strive for early conclusion of the COC, to make the South China Sea a sea of peace, friendship and cooperation.
Similar proverbs in China and Brunei both say, “unity is strength”. Unity is the ASEAN family’s source of strength and the root of ASEAN centrality. For many years, ASEAN has kept to the principles of consensus building through consultation, non-interference in internal affairs and accommodation of each other’s comfort levels. These principles have played a key role in safeguarding ASEAN’s interests and promoting peace and stability in the region. The greater ASEAN upholds unity and independence, the more wisdom and capability it has to use the ASEAN way to properly resolve the pressing issues at the moment. This is in the interest of Southeast Asia, and peace and development in the region and beyond.
As ASEAN’s good neighbor, good friend and good partner, China hopes to see a united, independent and strong ASEAN. I hereby reaffirm that China always sees ASEAN as a priority in its neighborhood diplomacy. We will, as always, firmly support the unity of ASEAN, firmly support its Community-building, firmly support ASEAN centrality in the regional architecture, and firmly support ASEAN in playing a bigger role in regional and international affairs.
Next month, we will jointly hold a summit to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the China-ASEAN dialogue relationship. It will be an important milestone in our relations to build on the past and plan for the future. I am confident that with our concerted efforts, the giant ship of China-ASEAN friendship and cooperation will sail ahead steadily, and make greater contributions to peace, stability, development and prosperity of Asia.
The many different trade and aid policies being pursued by China globally have been heavily criticised but can developing countries become more independent or will China’s policy reform?