China’s strategic partnership with ASEAN, which is now in its 11th year, has entered a new stage of development according to Wang Yi, China’s Foreign Minister. These comments were made at a China-ASEAN Foreign Ministers meeting in Myanmar’s capital of Naypyidaw.
Several new initiatives were proposed by China’s foreign minister with a goal of enhancing regional ties between ASEAN member nations and China. On the political front, Wang pointed out the need for leaders to have closer interactions in order to build trust and cooperation. Informal meetings between Chinese and ASEAN leaders may be held along with the China-ASEAN Expo and the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference, both of which are already in place.
In addition, the need for China to sign the the Southeast Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty (SEANWFZ) with ASEAN and to develop a plan of action for the ASEAN–China Strategic Partnership for Peace and Prosperity 2016-2020 was mentioned.
With regards to trade, the importance of accelerating negotiations aimed at putting into effect an upgraded version of the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area was stated. The Asian Infrastructure Development Bank and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road are two projects that are being spearheaded by China, which welcomed all ASEAN countries to join as founding members. China also expressed a desire to hold a meeting with senior officials of the six Lancang-Mekong countries with a purpose of narrowing the development gap between ASEAN members.
A proposal to enhance maritime cooperation includes the designation of 2015 as “China-ASEAN Maritime Cooperation Year” and to focus on issues related to the marine economy, environmental protection, disaster prevention, and maritime security during this period.
China’s dedication to a path of peaceful development and desire for friendly relations with its neighbors in ASEAN was stressed by Wang, even as disputes in the South China Sea have stressed ties between China and some countries in Southeast Asia, notably Vietnam and the Philippines.
According to the Chinese minister, full implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) is the only effective approach to maintain stability in the South China Sea. Wang noted that so far, good progress has been made toward implementing the DOC. Advancing dialogue and promoting security cooperation between China and coastal countries in ASEAN was stated to be crucial in the prevention of further disputes.
The Chinese economy has enjoyed strong growth in excess of 7% per year, and the country’s opening up to foreign direct investment, as well as its own investments made in regions such as Africa and Southeast Asia, have continuously expanded.