Domestic resources 'yet to be tapped'
China has only tapped a fraction of its natural resources with vast reserves yet to be discovered, according to Zhang Hongtao, deputy director of the China Geological Survey, an institute with the Ministry of Land and Resources.
His comments were in line with the central government's decision to put domestic exploration at the top on its long-term energy development strategy along with energy conservation.
"Major findings are expected soon," he said. "We are very hopeful China will overcome the energy bottleneck by tapping its own mineral resources."
In an interview with China Daily the deputy director added: "I believe China is still a nation with plenty of options. We have reason to be confident of finding new resources."
A key reason for Zhang's confidence is that two of the world's three major mineral rich metallogenic belts span western China, while the country now has technology to mine deeper into the earth's crust.
Zhou Dadi, director of the National Development and Reform Commission's energy research institute, agreed with Zhang, adding that East Asian nations should work together to create better energy co-operation and build an energy security framework.
Major co-operation projects are likely to include the development of oil and gas resources, pipeline construction, fund-raising for energy projects, integrated energy policies and energy technology exchanges, he said at the same forum.
However, energy is not the only field offering opportunities for East Asian nations to work together. According to some of the almost 300 delegates at the two-day forum, co-operation in areas such as investment, trade and finance are equally promising.
"East Asia is on the brink of great changes, great development and great prosperity," said Wu Jianmin, president of the China Foreign Affairs University, one of the organizers of the forum.
"The region will be the engine for growth in the global economy in the coming 30 years," he said.
East Asia has already witnessed increased trade co-operation, inter-regional trade accounted for over half the region's foreign trade in 2004.
Free trade area (FTA) negotiations between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China, Japan and the Republic of Korea are also in full swing.
"Closer trade ties call for enhanced investment co-operation," Wu said, adding that the region's huge foreign exchange reserves and high savings ratio are good foundations for close investment co-operation.
For China, enhanced ties with its East Asian neighbours are also significant because the region has become the country's biggest source of foreign direct investment (FDI), Vice-Minister of Commerce Liao Xiaoqi said in a written speech to the forum.
In the first five months of this year, China's FDI amounted to US$22.4 billion, of which nearly 30 per cent came from Japan, the Republic of Korea, and the 10 countries in ASEAN. The region has also become a favoured destination of Chinese investment.