Build on Past Achievements and Scale New Heights
Remarks by H.E. Wang Yi State Councilor and Minister of Foreign Affairs at the Opening Ceremony of the Conference on Celebrating the 30th Anniversary of ASEAN-China Dialogue Relations
28 July 2021
Your Excellency Secretary-General Lim Jock Hoi,
Your Excellencies Diplomatic Envoys from ASEAN Countries,
Good morning. It gives me great pleasure to attend the Conference today. This year marks the 30th anniversary of China-ASEAN Dialogue Relations, and it is a “big year” with special significance for China-ASEAN relations. Today, we are gathered here to review the journey of China-ASEAN relations in the past three decades and envision the bright future of our cooperation. The timing of the Conference cannot be more appropriate. Let me take this opportunity to first extend my sincere greetings and appreciation to friends from all sectors who have long given care and support to China-ASEAN exchange and cooperation.
Back in July 1991, the then Chinese Foreign Minister Qian Qichen was invited to an event at the 24th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, thus kicking off the China-ASEAN dialogue process. In the ensuing three decades, China-ASEAN relations have come a long way. We have taken the lead in establishing a strategic partnership and building a free trade area. We have deepened cooperation across the board and remained the pace-setter for East Asian cooperation. We are proud to see that China-ASEAN relations have become a fine example of the most successful and vibrant bilateral relations in the Asia-Pacific, and served as an important pillar for peace, stability and prosperity in the region.
We have set the example of equal treatment and peaceful coexistence. Guided by the East Asian approach of mutual respect and consensus, China and ASEAN have always accommodated each other’s concerns and core interests, enhanced mutual understanding and trust through sincere communication, and appropriately addressed differences and disputes by pursuing common ground while shelving differences. Together, we have upheld peace and stability in East Asia and kept East Asian cooperation to the right direction.
We have set the example of common development and win-win cooperation. China and ASEAN are always committed to pursuing shared development goals, synergizing development strategies, and expanding mutually beneficial cooperation. Trade between us has expanded over 80 times, and China and ASEAN are now each other’s largest trading partner. We have worked together to promote the signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), and put in place a free trade area with the biggest population, largest economic volume and strongest potential. Our cooperation has delivered extensive benefits to the two billion-plus people of the 11 countries.
We have set the example of mutual assistance and solidarity. Facing various challenges, from natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis to the major impacts of SARS and financial crises, China and ASEAN have always provided each other with all-out support and selfless help as a community with a shared future. After COVID-19 struck, our two sides have once again extended each other a helping hand. China has delivered nearly 180 million doses of COVID vaccines to the ten ASEAN countries. The two sides have conducted fruitful cooperation in anti-pandemic supplies assistance, vaccine production and R&D, and stability of industrial and supply chains. Our cooperation serves as a paradigm for global efforts in COVID-response and economic recovery.
We have set the example of mutual learning and harmonious coexistence between civilizations. China and ASEAN are always committed to strengthening people-to-people bonds. Before COVID-19, over 60 million mutual visits were recorded every year. There were more than 200,000 students studying in each other’s countries, and over 200 pairs of sister cities between our two sides. These diverse interactions and cooperation in social, cultural and people-to-people fields have carried forward our traditions of good neighborliness and partnership and the Asian values of solidarity, collaboration, openness and inclusiveness.
The combined impacts of major changes in the world situation and the COVID-19 pandemic, both unseen in a century, have taken the world into a period of turbulence and transformation. Change means challenges. It also means opportunities. As the China-ASEAN relationship is getting more mature, it is all the more important for us to cherish the valuable experience gained in the 30-year cooperation, cherish the hard-won peace and stability in the region, and cherish the sincere friendship that our peoples have nurtured. We should commit ourselves to building a higher-level strategic partnership and forging a stronger community with a shared future to cultivate a more productive and robust China-ASEAN relationship in the next 30 years.
We need to uphold good-neighborliness and enhance strategic mutual trust. China will always take ASEAN as a priority in its diplomacy, especially in its neighborhood diplomacy. China will firmly support ASEAN’s community building, and firmly support ASEAN centrality in regional cooperation. Our two sides need to stay in close communication at various levels, and continue to render mutual understanding and support on issues concerning each other’s core interests. We need to improve mechanisms and platforms for cooperation, and further consolidate and cement the foundation of strategic mutual trust.
We need to put people first and deepen COVID response cooperation. China is ready to do its best to provide ASEAN countries with COVID vaccines, and support ASEAN countries in building regional vaccine production and distribution centers in order to enhance the accessibility and affordability of vaccines in the region. The two sides need to deliver on the China-ASEAN Cooperation Program on Public Health Management, and jointly protect the life, health and security of people in the region.
We need to focus on development and foster new growth drivers. China is ready to work with ASEAN to support the implementation of the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework (ACRF), promote the early entry-into-force and implementation of the RCEP, and expand and enhance cooperation on economy, trade and investment to boost regional economic integration. We need to promote high-quality Belt and Road cooperation, forge a partnership on digital economy, and unlock the potential in such areas as technological innovation, blue economy, sustainable development and transition to a green economy. And we do all this for the purpose of helping sustain regional recovery and ensure the long-term growth of China-ASEAN relations.
We need to bear in mind the bigger picture and safeguard peace and stability. China is willing to step up dialogue and consultation with the parties concerned on the South China Sea to properly manage differences, steer clear of external disruptions, advance practical maritime cooperation, and maintain peace, stability and long-term security in the South China Sea. We need to fully and effectively implement the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) in its entirety, and speed up consultations on a code of conduct (COC) in order to reach a substantive and effective COC that conforms with the international law, including UNCLOS.
We need to uphold solidarity and coordination and defend justice and fairness. China will work with ASEAN to safeguard the UN-centered international system and the basic norms governing international relations based on the purposes and principles of the UN Charter. We need to champion multilateralism with Asian characteristics, build an open and inclusive framework for regional cooperation, and defend the common interests of people of developing countries and of the whole world. Together, we can make greater contribution to a fairer, more just, more peaceful and safer world.
Not long ago, China celebrated the centenary of the founding of the Communist Party of China (CPC). Leaders of ASEAN countries, the ASEAN Secretary-General and friends from various sectors extended warm congratulations to China through different channels. We deeply appreciate this. In his important speech marking the centenary, General Secretary Xi Jinping reviewed the great accomplishments the Chinese people made under the CPC’s leadership. He announced that China has realized the goal of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects and is now marching in strides toward the goal of building China into a great modern socialist country in all respects.
At this new historical starting point, China will continue to firmly pursue peaceful development, expand opening-up, and deepen all-round cooperation with all countries, including ASEAN countries. China will work with ASEAN to stay as good neighbors that look out for each other in times of need, good friends sharing weal and woe, and good partners in pursuit of common development. I am convinced that through our concerted efforts, China-ASEAN relations will grow with greater maturity and confidence, and embrace a better and more promising future. I also hope that the experts and scholars could fully speak their minds during the Conference, and contribute wisdom and strengths to the steady growth of China-ASEAN relations.
To conclude, I wish the Conference a full success. Thank you.