Partnership for prosperity
China, ASEAN can build on the good momentum in their relations to push forward the realization of a community of shared destiny
Premier Li Keqiang reiterated that China's relationship with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations is a priority in Beijing's neighborhood diplomacy during the Ninth East Asia Summit in Myanmar on Friday. His call for China and ASEAN to map out a grand strategy while addressing practical issues shows Beijing's growing confidence in fostering ties with ASEAN and building a prosperous and stable community of common destiny with its members.
The concept of a China-ASEAN community with a common destiny means, first of all, a community of common interests, which necessitates stronger economic cooperation. The economic bonds between China and ASEAN are a key driver of their relations, but they are also a solid foundation for greater cooperation in East Asia at large. The China-ASEAN relationship has reaped a host of fruits during the past "Golden Decade", a term used by both China and ASEAN to describe their flourishing economic ties in the past 10 years.
The ASEAN-China Free Trade Area, with a population of 1.9 billion, has become the largest and most flourishing FTA among developing countries: The two-way trade volume reached nearly $450 billion in 2013. China has been ASEAN's largest trade partner since 2009, while ASEAN has been China's third-largest trade partner during the past three years. ASEAN countries hope the two-way trade with China will increase to $500 billion by 2015 and $1 trillion by 2020, and that two-way investment will reach $150 billion by 2020. With negotiations on upgrading the CAFTA recently launched, the coming "Diamond Decade" should see a fundamental boost in bilateral economic exchanges. However, the immediate focus is on actively moving forward the series of agreements already reached between the leaders of China and the ASEAN countries on growing bilateral ties and ensure the success of the 17th China-ASEAN Summit to be held in November.
To help reduce regional poverty, China intends to provide aid worth 3 billion yuan ($480 million) to the less developed members of ASEAN next year. And Li said at Thursday's summit, another 100 million yuan is being given to reduce rural poverty in East Asia. The premier also said that interconnectivity was a prerequisite for healthy regional trade and investment liberalization, and China would offer over $20 billion in loans to support Southeast Asian interconnectivity. This includes a preferential loan of $10 billion for ASEAN and a $10 billion loan, set up by the China Development Bank, for regional infrastructure development, Li said.