Scholars and Experts Shared Thoughts and Insights on Deepening ASEAN-China Strategic Partnership

source:ASEAN-China Centre

On 28 March 2018, scholars and experts from ASEAN and China attending the International Symposium on Celebrating the 15th Anniversary of ASEAN-China Strategic Partnership themed on “New Era, New Vision, New Opportunities” reviewed the experience and inspiration of ASEAN-China Strategic Partnership over the past 15 years, had intensive discussions and shared their thoughts and insights on topics including “Forging a New Pattern for ASEAN-China Economic and Trade Cooperation”, “Seizing New Opportunities for ASEAN-China Innovation Cooperation” and “Opening up New Prospects for ASEAN-China People-to-People Exchanges”.

Participants highly commended the fruitful achievements of ASEAN-China Strategic Partnership and its contribution to regional prosperity and stability. They said ASEAN and China had traveled an extraordinary journey since both sides launched the dialogue relations in 1991 and established Strategic Partnership in 2003. The establishment of Strategic Partnership charted the direction of the development of the bilateral relations, laid the political foundation, built the cooperation framework and injected strong impetus into the bilateral relations, which greatly advanced the all-round cooperation between the two sides in various areas including political and security, economy and trade, culture and people-to-people exchanges. ASEAN-China relations have grown into maturity and become the most dynamic and productive relations that ASEAN has with its dialogue partners. ASEAN-China relations are standing at a crucial stage for upgrading. Both sides should continue to attach strategic importance to ASEAN-China relations, map out further development of the bilateral relations, focus on synergizing the building of the Belt and Road and the implementation of Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity 2025, and formulate ASEAN-China Strategic Partnership Vision 2030. All these will provide clearer guidance for future development of the bilateral relations and build a closer ASEAN-China Community of a Shared Future. Both sides should continue to strengthen communication and exchanges, deepen traditional and non-traditional security cooperation, eliminate misunderstanding, effectively manage differences, enhance political mutual trust and jointly safeguard regional peace and stability. Both sides should continue to uphold the ASEAN centrality in regional affairs, pursue balanced development of regional cooperation mechanism and push forward the building of ASEAN Community and regional cooperation in Asia.

Scholars and experts expressed that economic and trade cooperation is an important driving force of ASEAN-China relations. Economies of ASEAN and China are highly complementary and both sides are important trading partners to each other. China has been the largest trading partner of ASEAN for nine consecutive years, and ASEAN has been China’s third largest trading partner for seven years in a row. In 2007, the bilateral trade volume made another record high and exceeded USD 50 billion. A series of major infrastructure connectivity projects have made breakthroughs and the construction of industrial parks has received fruitful outcomes. The scale of two-way investment is also expanding. In contrast to the weak recovery of the world economy, the spread of "anti-globalization" and rise of trade protectionism, the respective economic development of ASEAN and China and the bilateral cooperation have become a bright spot in global economy. Both sides should continue to work together to cultivate new driving force and foster a new mode and pattern of mutually beneficial cooperation. Both sides should seize the opportunity of building the Belt and Road and ASEAN Economic Community, further tap cooperation potential, expand cooperation areas and raise cooperation level. Both sides should strengthen publicity and let more enterprises benefit from ASEAN-China FTA and its upgraded version, and reach the agreement of Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) as soon as possible. Both sides should upgrade the structure of trade and investment, increase the support for small and medium enterprises, improve regional industrial chain and supply value chain, establish a unified logistics standard system, accelerate the construction of the cross-border economic zone, expand marine economic cooperation, support the development of sub-regional cooperation mechanism such as Lancang-Mekong Cooperation and BIMP-EAGA, and encourage more provinces and regions to participate in ASEAN-China cooperation. Relevant cooperation initiatives should bear the aim of serving the people’s livelihood and bringing more sense of gain to the people.

Scholars and experts believed that the fourth industrial revolution based on cloud computing, big data and the Internet has become a powerful force for the transformation of economic growth, and the digital economy has become a new driving force for the world economy. Leaders of ASEAN countries and China jointly designate this year as the ASEAN-China Year of Innovation, which conforms to the trend of the times, meets the development priorities and demands of both sides and will open up a broader prospect for further cooperation. Both sides should strengthen mutual learning, give full play to respective advantages, and actively strengthen cooperation on e-commerce, smart cities, information technology, etc., and jointly build the information Silk Road and share the benefit of digital economy. Both sides should continue to support the development of innovation and cooperation mechanism. ASEAN-China Technology Transfer Center and Chinese Academy of Sciences Innovation Cooperation Center Bangkok should fully play their role to improve the quality and efficiency of relevant cooperation. Both sides should intensify efforts to train more innovators, encourage and support more young people to start their own businesses. While promoting scientific and technological innovation, attention should also be paid to concept innovation, the promotion of human-centered social innovation, which will enrich the content of ASEAN-China and regional cooperation.

Experts and scholars said that people-to-people exchanges have become an important pillar of ASEAN-China relations and played an indispensable role in cementing public support for the bilateral relations. Under the new circumstances, further strengthening people-to-people exchanges is an inevitable choice to enhance ASEAN-China mutual understanding, eliminate misunderstandings and doubts, and promote people-to-people connectivity. The two sides should fully play the natural advantages of geographic proximity and cultural affinity, constantly expand two-way personnel exchanges, promote face-to-face communication, and enhance mutual understanding and friendship. Both sides should deepen cooperation in education, culture, tourism and other fields and promote exchanges and mutual learning among different cultures through cuisine, music and others. The exchanges of think tanks, media and youth should also be strengthened to expand the participation of the people, enhance the people’s recognition of ASEAN-China relations, make the concept of cooperation more deeply rooted in the hearts of the people, and consolidate the foundation of ASEAN-China Strategic Partnership.

The participants said that the development of ASEAN-China relations is facing new historical opportunities and broad prospects. At the same time, against the background of complicated and changeable international and regional situation, ASEAN-China relations also face new challenges. On the base of past successful experience, the two sides should continue to uphold the spirit of win-win cooperation, seize new opportunities, tackle new challenges, eliminate obstacles and upgrade ASEAN-China relations to achieve greater development, so as to better benefit the people in the region.