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The 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China recommends continued partnership and friendship with neighboring countries
The 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China sends important messages about the direction of China's foreign policy toward neighboring countries.
The message came at a time when many in the world are watching how a more developed China would choose to use its strength, particularly in its neighborhood.
The congress has given a clear answer to such questions. In the section on foreign policy, the report delivered by former general secretary Hu Jintao said that China would promote the idea of "equality and mutual trust, inclusiveness and mutual learning, and mutually beneficial cooperation" in international relations. He reaffirmed China's long-held commitment to peaceful development and an independent foreign policy.
In the area of policy toward neighbors, the report reiterated that China will "continue to promote friendship and partnership with our neighbors, consolidate friendly relations and deepen mutually beneficial cooperation with them".
The report went further to emphasize that China will endeavor to make sure that its own development will bring more benefits to its neighbors.
This policy of "building friendship and partnership with China's neighbors" was written into the 16th as well as the 17th Party congress report.
The idea comes from the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, which was jointly proposed by China, India and Myanmar back in the 1950s and has been upheld by China ever since.
They include: mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual non-aggression, non-interference in each other's internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence. These principles also find roots in China's cultural traditions which has been stressing peace and benevolence in its neighborhood.
These principles have guided China's policy with neighbors through the past decade of enormous change both in China and in the region.
China sees its rise as being part of the historical tide of the Asian renaissance. We see our relationship with neighboring areas as an important foundation for China's global role. While developing ourselves, we must bring benefits to our neighbors and deepen the bond of mutual benefit with them.
Only in this way would we be able to preserve peace and stability in the region and move forward with our neighbors toward shared prosperity and a common destiny.
Such a policy by China has helped to foster continued progress in our region in the past 10 years.
China's trade with neighbors in Northeast, Southeast and South Asia grew from $170 billion to 1 trillion, an increase of around 6 times. While 10 years ago, China's total overseas investment was less than $30 billion, as of the end of 2011, China invested nearly $300 billion in Asia alone. In 2010, companies from the Chinese mainland set up more than 2,000 business ventures in ASEAN countries, creating more than 60,000 local jobs.
China acted as a promoter for regional cooperation in East Asia. We have set up free trade area with ASEAN, the largest among developing countries. We are now working on a trilateral investment agreement with Japan and the Republic of Korea.
We are an active facilitator of ASEAN- plus-3 cooperation, promoting major initiatives. To make the region to be better prepared to face any financial challenges, we worked with our neighbors to expand the Chiang Mai Initiative Multilateralization to $240 billion, to cite a few examples.
China made important contributions to regional peace and stability. We helped to set up the Six-Party Talks. We actively supported the reconstruction of Afghanistan, the law enforcement cooperation in the Mekong River, and regional multilateral security dialogue and cooperation. And we are a persistent proponent of cooperative security aimed at building security for all.
The past decade has also witnessed thriving interactions at the people-to-people level between China and its neighbors. Last year, for example, more than 13 million people traveled between China and ASEAN countries, or 37,000 people daily. Last year, Asian students in China exceeded 160,000, accounting for three fourths of all overseas students in China.
All this is not to suggest that we should rest on our laurels in regional development. There are many areas where much more needs to be done.
We should work further to raise our trade and investment to a higher level. We expect that much of the estimated $100 billion in annual outbound investment from China in the next five years will flow into our neighboring countries.
We are keen to work with them on trade and investment liberalization and facilitation to help foster a favorable investment climate for all companies in the region. We will work hard to build all-round connectivity to strengthen the foundation for long term growth in our region.
At the same time, we need to properly address challenges in our relationship with neighbors. One of them is the need to raise the level of trust, especially regarding the maritime issues.
The 18th Party congress report called for building China into a strong maritime country. This is in recognition of the fact that besides being a continental country, China is also a maritime nation having 18,000 km long coastal line and eight neighbors across the sea.
Strengthening maritime development is a natural part of China's economic and social development. It means that China will seek to better utilize maritime resources, promote the growth of the maritime economy and ecological progress for the benefit of the people of China and the region.
The seas have served as a link between China and its neighbors for centuries. General Zheng He's ocean voyages back in the 15th century set an example of friendly maritime interaction that was a far cry from the colonial expansions of Western powers.
Ever growing links of trade between China and the rest of the world, much of which are through the sea lanes of this region, have made it all the more important that China should seek to build closer maritime links with its neighbors.
Maritime cooperation between China and its neighbors is already in progress. We established maritime consultations with India, Indonesia, the Republic of Korea and Vietnam. We set up a China-ASEAN maritime cooperation fund to the value of 3 billion yuan to support our cooperation in such areas as scientific research, marine ecological protection and sea transport security.
Nonetheless, due to the complexity of the past evolutions, there exist some maritime disputes that can be an area of contention between China and its neighbors.
In the larger interest of peace, stability and prosperity in the region, our principled approach to addressing maritime disputes has been to respect historical facts, abide by international law and seek to resolve them through dialogue and negotiations with countries directly concerned.
For such purposes, China proposed "shelving disputes and going for common development" back in the 1970s and 1980s, which has been the policy direction we consistently followed.
We signed the Declaration of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea with ASEAN countries in 2002, which has since provided an important platform for dialogue and cooperation and for promoting peace and stability in the South China Sea.
We also take an open attitude to the formulation of a code of conduct in the South China Sea as was provided for in the DOC and are working with our ASEAN partners on how to proceed with it while ensuring true implementation of the DOC. We are engaged in an active dialogue with ASEAN countries to accumulate consensus and create conditions for drawing up the code of conduct.
The 18th Party congress reiterated China's commitment to peaceful resolution of disputes and opposition to the use or threat of force. As a major country in the region, China is fully aware of its responsibilities for regional peace and stability.
We have maintained restraint in addressing maritime disputes and sought to work with our neighbors toward mutually acceptable solutions through peaceful dialogue and negotiations.
At the same time, the Chinese government must be able to protect China's rights and interests in the sea, which is also the wish of its people. Proper handling of the disputes requires common efforts of all parties involved.
We are opposed to any acts of provocation that infringe on China's sovereignty and territory and cannot but respond firmly when they occur. That is also necessary in order to keep lasting peace in the region.
We remain committed to working with our neighbors on the basis of mutual respect to build our surrounding seas into bonds of peace, friendship and cooperation. We owe it to our peoples and to the world.
The author is vice-foreign minister of China.
(China Daily 11/17/2012 page5)