Speech by H.E. Li Keqiang
Premier of the State Council of
The People’s Republic of China
At the 15th East Asia Summit
14 November 2020
Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc,
It is my pleasure to join you via video link. Let me begin by thanking the Vietnamese government and Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc for your tremendous efforts in putting this meeting together.
This year marks the 15th anniversary of the East Asia Summit (EAS) and the 53rd anniversary of the founding of ASEAN. Next year, we will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the dialogue relations between China and ASEAN. As East Asian cooperation reached an important moment of development, and as countries around the world are fighting to defeat COVID-19 and revive the economy, our meeting today has taken on special significance.
We are now at a time of rapid change both in our region and internationally. COVID-19 continues to ravage the world, threatening human life and health and affecting economic and social development of all countries. Protectionism and unilateralism have been on the rise, seriously impacting the world economy, challenging the multilateral trading regime and exposing the deficiencies in global governance. All this is compounded by ongoing regional hotspots and non-traditional security threats and growing geopolitical risks.According to international institutions, the year 2020 will see a 4.4% contraction of the world economy, 13% to 32% decline of global trade and almost 50% plunge in international investment. Countries all face serious challenges of development.
At the same time, the pandemic has also energized new forms of industry such as contact-free economy, quickened the digital transformation of the economy and society, and fostered new drivers of growth. Economic globalization will continue to move forward, though with necessary adjustments. Peace, development, openness and cooperation serves the fundamental interests of all countries, and represents the overwhelming aspiration of our people and the trend of our times.In light of our national conditions, we East Asian countries have worked to control the virus and reopen our economy, and have made good progress on both fronts. We should remain united, focus on development, and expand cooperation to instill confidence in the development prospects of our region.
Since its inception 15 years ago, the EAS has been playing its role as a “leaders-led strategic forum”. By upholding ASEAN centrality and basic principles such as non-interference in internal affairs, consensus building and accommodating each other’s comfort level, it has advanced both political and security cooperation and economic and social development, actively contributing to trust among its members and the momentum of East Asian cooperation.With members including major countries in the Asia Pacific, the EAS enjoys extensive representation and influence. Under the changing circumstances, this regional framework needs to step up to tackle the crisis and promote cooperation. In this connection, I wish to make the following proposals:
First, we need to work together to fight COVID-19 and bolster public health capacity. We need to follow the spirit of science, take targeted and coordinated steps to build a strong line of defense against the virus. We need to collaborate on vaccine research and development, procurement and production, and promote the accessibility and affordability of vaccines. Bringing into full play the role of the World Health Organization, we need to pursue coordinated global response to defeat the virus and build a global community of health for all.On its part, China has joined COVAX and pledged another US$50 million to the UN COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan. China will continue to help fellow countries in the region, through the provision of much needed medical supplies, collaboration on vaccine, building nucleic acid testing labs and supporting ASEAN in launching the COVID-19 response fund and a regional reserve of medical supplies. China has also co-hosted the EAS Health Experts Meeting.We support the release of the statement on strengthening collective capacity in epidemic prevention and response. We hope that through working together on COVID-19, we will enhance public health cooperation and strengthen our region’s preparedness for public health emergencies.
Second, we need to enhance policy coordination and form synergy for economic recovery. With strong economic resilience, East Asia is poised to be the only region to realize positive growth this year. It is most crucial to step up international cooperation to minimize COVID-19’s impact on economic growth. We need to strengthen policy coordination, build a network of “fast tracks” and “green lanes” to facilitate flows of people and goods, keep industrial and supply chains stable and unimpeded, and take forward major infrastructure projects. We need to firmly uphold free trade and the multilateral trading system, and build on the signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) to promote trade and investment liberalization and facilitation and realize high-level economic integration in the region. It is important to capitalize on the opportunities brought by new business forms and models to foster new growth drivers and propel the development in countries across the region. We support the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework and its Implementation Plan, and will continue synergizing China’s Belt and Road Initiative and ASEAN’s development plans. China appreciates all parties’ support for the Leaders’ Statement on Cooperation for Steady Growth of Regional Economy. By working together, we will bolster economic recovery and growth in East Asia.
Third, we need to advance practical cooperation and build greater capacity for sustainable development. As a regional cooperation framework of extensive representation in the Asia-Pacific, the EAS should stay focused on development, which best serves the common interests of all countries. Cooperation in the six priority areas including energy, education and finance should remain the central task, non-traditional security cooperation in such areas as climate change, counter-terrorism and cybersecurity needs to be scaled up, and the vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security should be upheld. At this year’s United Nations General Assembly, President Xi Jinping announced that China aims to peak carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. China will match this commitment with actions, and stands ready to step up climate cooperation with EAS participating countries. Next year, China will continue to hold such events as the New Energy Forum and Clean Energy Forum. Your active participation is most welcome. China stands ready to share poverty relief experience and practices in various sectors and contribute to international cooperation on this front. With digital economy burgeoning, China hopes to work with all parties to advance global digital governance and cybersecurity cooperation. China supports the EAS Leaders’ Statement on Marine Sustainability, and stands ready to conduct cooperation in maritime disaster relief and other related areas.
Fourth, we need to strengthen ASEAN centrality and the cohesion of the regional architecture. The 15-year development of the EAS shows that ASEAN centrality is a key element that underpins regional peace and stability. Hence, it serves the fundamental interests of our region for all parties to participate in and safeguard the ASEAN-led regional architecture. Under the current circumstances, China advocates enhancing ASEAN centrality and strengthening the ASEAN-led regional cooperation frameworks. Instead of forming exclusive blocs, the regional architecture should stay open and inclusive for all parties to participate in on an equal footing, which is the right direction of East Asian cooperation. Due to COVID-19, researches on the security architecture in the Asia-Pacific and related activities will be rescheduled for next year. China will continue to work with other parties in support of discussions on regional security concept and architectures that suit this region’s reality. China endorses the Ha Noi Declaration on the Fifteenth Anniversary of the East Asia Summit, and supports EAS chairs in playing a more constructive role of coordination.
The development and prosperity of East Asia would not be possible without a peaceful and stable South China Sea. The current circumstances make it all the more important to maintain stability in the South China Sea. Since the beginning of this year, commercial vessels and flights of various countries and cargo ships and planes loaded with anti-epidemic supplies have crisscrossed the South China Sea, which has served as an important conduit for trade, people-to-people exchanges and transportation of medical supplies between regional countries. Such sea-borne traffic has been smooth, safe and efficient.
The South China Sea issue is a complex one left from history. China remains firmly committed to peace and stability in the South China Sea. Committed to safeguarding and promoting international rule of law, we respect international law including UNCLOS, and support the proper handling of the South China Sea issue in accordance with universally-recognized principles of international law, UNCLOS and the DOC included. We will, as always, work with ASEAN countries to fully and effectively implement the DOC and steadily advance COC consultations. As an upgrade of the DOC, the COC will be more substantive, effective and operable. China stays firmly committed to concluding the COC at an early date. We hope that all countries would respect regional parties’ efforts to uphold peace and stability in the South China Sea, and jointly build it into a sea of peace, friendship and cooperation.