Your Excellency Secretary-General Chen Dehai,
Your Excellencies Ambassadors and Diplomatic Envoys of ASEAN Countries to China,
It is my great pleasure to join you at this reception. On behalf of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, I wish to congratulate the ASEAN-China Centre (ACC) on its eighth anniversary.
Earlier this month, the ASEAN plus summits were successfully held in Thailand. Premier Li Keqiang and ASEAN leaders discussed ways to take forward our cooperation and agreed on a number of important outcomes, lending new impetus to the upgrading of China-ASEAN relations.
Together, we advanced regional economic integration. The China-ASEAN FTA Upgrading Protocol came into effect and 15 RCEP participating countries concluded overall negotiations.
Together, we boosted regional connectivity. The two sides released a Joint Statement on Synergizing the Belt and Road Initiative and the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity 2025.
Together, we safeguarded regional peace and stability. China and ASEAN countries actively advanced the COC consultations and agreed to strive for a conclusion by 2021 or even earlier according to the “three-year target”.
ASEAN is a priority in China’s neighborhood diplomacy. Our strategic partnership is entering a new stage of all-round development, marked by growing political trust, closer high-level exchanges and fruitful practical cooperation. For ten years in a row, China has been ASEAN’s biggest trading partner; and ASEAN became China’s second largest trading partner this year.
People-to-people exchanges are booming: mutual visits approached 60 million last year. This year, we launched the China-ASEAN Young Leaders Scholarship and co-hosted a rich variety of activities under the China-ASEAN Year of Media Exchanges.
Looking ahead, China and ASEAN need to work together under the guidance of the China-ASEAN Strategic Partnership Vision 2030, continue to upgrade our cooperation, deliver more benefits to our people, and contribute even more to the development and prosperity of our region.
First, we should draw up a new blueprint for cooperation. China and ASEAN will formulate the fourth Plan of Action to Implement the Joint Declaration on China-ASEAN Strategic Partnership for Peace and Prosperity. In the meantime, we should strive for concrete progress in major connectivity projects, including existing economic corridors and rail links connecting China and Thailand, China and Laos, and Jakarta and Bandung, to lay a solid foundation for regional growth.
Second, we should strengthen new drivers of cooperation. The year 2020 has been designated as China-ASEAN Year of Digital Economy Cooperation. We should build on the momentum to deepen cooperation in such domains as artificial intelligence, big data, cybersecurity, e-commerce and blockchain.
We should seize the new opportunities generated by the entry into force of the China-ASEAN FTA Upgrading Protocol and breakthroughs in the RCEP negotiations to expand cooperation in trade and investment.
We should also leverage the strengths of sub-regional mechanisms such as Lancang-Mekong Cooperation and China and BIMP-EAGA Cooperation to promote common and sustainable development of our region.
Third, we should cultivate new brands of cooperation. We should strengthen practical cooperation on marine ecosystem preservation, ocean industry and marine technology innovation with the aim of building a China-ASEAN Partnership on Blue Economy.
We should make good use of the China-ASEAN Young Leaders Scholarship program to strengthen youth exchanges and nurture more talent, and give full scope to the role of the China-ASEAN Cooperation Fund to support more high-quality projects.
Over the past eight years, thanks to the joint efforts of both sides, the ACC has gone from strength to strength and played an important role in deepening mutual understanding, mutual trust and cooperation between China and ASEAN.
In the face of new circumstances and new opportunities, I hope the ACC, with its unique strengths, will continue to serve as an envoy for people-to-people friendship and a bridge and platform for amiable and win-win cooperation. We have high expectations for the ACC making even greater contributions to the building of China-ASEAN Strategic Partnership at a higher level. As the host country, China will continue to support the ACC in carrying out its duties.
Before I conclude, I wish to pay high tribute to all the guests present and all our friends who have given care and support and contributed to China-ASEAN exchanges and cooperation over the years.