Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Visit highlighted shared values

By Zhang Jingquan (China Daily) Updated: 2014-07-07 07:10

Beijing and Seoul have reached a consensus on promoting the Korean Peninsula's denuclearization and suppressing Japanese rightist forces

Chinese President Xi Jinping's two-day visit to the Republic of Korea, starting Thursday, featured five "firsts" highlighting its strategic and diplomatic significance: It was his first state visit to Seoul as president and his first visit to a single country as president; it was also the first state visit of a Chinese leader to Seoul before making a trip to Pyongyang; and Xi was accompanied by a Chinese economic mission involving nearly 300 entrepreneurs, the largest in China's diplomatic history; and it witnessed an unprecedented high-level forum on bilateral economic and trade cooperation in Seoul that was attended by around 500 enterprisers from both countries.

Judging from all the achievements this visit has made and entails in the long run, it is fair to say that the Beijing-Seoul strategic partnership will be enhanced.

First of all, Xi's visit is expected to bring fundamental changes to the existing cooperation between China and the ROK. The ties between the countries have achieved rapid development since diplomatic relations were established 22 years ago. China has become the largest trading partner, export market, source of imports, and overseas investment destination for the ROK, and the ROK is now China's third-largest trading partner country and fifth-largest source of foreign investment. The bilateral trade volume reached $274 billion last year, exceeding that between the ROK and the United States, the ROK and Japan, and the ROK and Europe. There have been over 8.2 million people-to-people exchanges between China and the ROK so far this year, around 20,000 per day, and there are 850 flights between the two countries every week.

During the meeting between Xi and his counterpart Park Geun-hye on Friday, which was their fifth meeting in the past year, besides strengthening their economic and trade ties and boosting exchanges, both made concrete efforts to push for greater cooperation in security and regional and international affairs, aiming to raise their relationship to a higher level.

Despite most of the countries in Northeast Asia enjoying rapid economic growth, no fundamental improvements have been made in regional economic cooperation due to various historical and practical reasons. The foundation for the region's economic cooperation would be the Free Trade Agreement between China, the ROK, and Japan, but this has seen little progress in the past decades.

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