Speech by H.E. Li Keqiang
Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China
At the 23rd China-ASEAN Summit
November 12, 2020
Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc,
It is a great pleasure to meet you all again. I would like to thank the Vietnamese government and Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc for your hard work in putting this meeting together. I look forward to our in-depth discussion on China-ASEAN cooperation and common development into the future.
This has been an unusual year for the world as COVID-19 seriously affected the development and external interactions of all countries. Either in combating the coronavirus or recovering the economy, we must stay the course of openness and cooperation. In his keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the third China International Import Expo, President Xi Jinping reaffirmed that China will join hands with all other countries to create opportunities in opening-up and tackle difficult problems through cooperation.
Since the start of COVID-19, China and ASEAN have taken the lead in conducting regional anti-epidemic cooperation. We have met online several times and discussed in-depth ways for tackling the immediate challenge. Thanks to our joint efforts, we have overcome the impact of the pandemic and resumed the growth of China-ASEAN economic cooperation and trade. In the first three quarters, China-ASEAN trade reached 481.81 billion US dollars, up by five percent year-on-year, making ASEAN China’s largest trading partner. China’s industry-wide foreign direct investment in ASEAN topped 10.72 billion US dollars, jumping 76.6 percent year-on-year. These figures speak volumes about the strong foundation and potential of our cooperation.
Such achievements are a further testament to the growing maturity and stability of China-ASEAN relations after three decades of development. Among ASEAN’s dialogue partners, China has been number one on many fronts. China was the first to join the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia, the first to forge strategic partnership with ASEAN, the first to start FTA negotiations with ASEAN, and the first to give unequivocal support for ASEAN centrality in East Asian regional cooperation. China and ASEAN working in concert has been a key underlying factor behind the strong momentum of China-ASEAN cooperation and its important role in ensuring regional stability and prosperity.
First, we have pursued the path of solidarity and development by upholding good neighborliness and friendship. China and ASEAN are permanent neighbors and close partners, and our people enjoy a deep bond of friendship. In times of adversities, from the two financial crises, to major natural disasters such as tsunamis and SARS and to the sudden onslaught of COVID-19, we have always stood together and looked out for each other in the spirit of a community with a shared future.
Second, we have pursued the path of common development by promoting win-win cooperation. China-ASEAN cooperation is open, inclusive and delivers benefits to both sides. Seeing each other’s development as crucial opportunities, we have promoted integrated and interconnected development by synergizing development plans and strengthening connectivity, and advocated multilateralism and free trade. These common endeavors have made the pie of shared interests bigger; they have not only facilitated our own development, but also injected a strong impetus into the stable economic development of the region and beyond.
Third, we have pursued the path of peaceful development by adhering to dialogue and consultation. Peace and stability are the preconditions for development and prosperity. It is natural for neighbors to sometimes run into frictions. But, if handled properly, these frictions will not disrupt the course of development. We all believe that countries should respect each other, seek common ground while putting aside differences and settle differences and disputes through friendly consultations. Such shared commitments have fostered a regional environment of peace and stability.
Fourth, we have pursued the path of coordinated development by putting people first. For us, the fundamental interests of the two billion people of China and ASEAN countries are always the top-order priority. In the face of COVID-19, we have cared deeply about life and livelihood, extended a helping hand to those most in need and made joint efforts to protect the life, security and health of all our peoples. We have also facilitated practical cooperation to safeguard and enhance peoples’ well-being in light of their real needs.
As the pandemic continues to spread across the world, global recovery will be a difficult and tortuous process. Rising protectionism and unilateralism have put the global governance system and multilateral institutions in jeopardy. Economic and social development at the regional and international levels face serious challenges.It is encouraging to see that the pandemic situation has largely stabilized in East Asia and is turning for the better. Countries in our region are reopening economies in an orderly manner with normalized containment measures in place. More and more positive factors indicate a steady return to economic and social progress.Last month, the Communist Party of China (CPC) convened the Fifth Plenum of its 19th Central Committee and adopted the Recommendations of the CPC Central Committee on Formulating the 14th Five-Year Plan for Economic and Social Development and the Long-Range Goals for 2035. The Recommendations proposed that China embrace a new development philosophy for high-quality development and move expeditiously to forge a new development paradigm. As China strives to expand domestic demand, we will pursue opening-up at a higher level. This will enable us to better match the two huge markets of China and ASEAN, bring out greater dynamism from within our economies, and contribute to regional economic recovery and sustainable development. As China’s close economic and trading partner, ASEAN will be the first to benefit from this development strategy.
China has always regarded ASEAN as a priority in our neighborhood diplomacy. We firmly support ASEAN’s community-building, support ASEAN’s efforts in strengthening its centrality in regional cooperation, and support ASEAN’s greater role in building an open and inclusive regional architecture.We are ready to work with ASEAN to cement good-neighbourliness, uphold multilateralism and free trade, and push for more concrete outcomes in various areas of our cooperation by implementing the Strategic Partnership Vision 2030, and the recently finalized Plan of Action to Implement the Joint Declaration on China-ASEAN Strategic Partnership for Peace and Prosperity (2021-2025). These joint efforts will not only boost development on both sides, but also facilitate economic recovery within the region and safeguard regional and global peace and stability.To achieve this goal, I propose that China and ASEAN work together in the following areas:
First, we need to defeat COVID-19 together and upgrade public health cooperation. As there appears to be no end in sight to the pandemic, vaccine R&D will be key to a complete victory against the virus. China is reaching out to several ASEAN countries on vaccine R&D and production cooperation, and will actively consider ASEAN countries’ needs when our COVID vaccines are developed and deployed. This will be China’s concrete action to promote vaccine accessibility and affordability.China is ready to hold more “Friends of Vaccines” activities in collaboration with the ASEAN Committee in Beijing or through other channels to promote information sharing and cooperation. We would like to launch the Liaison Mechanism for Public Health Emergencies with ASEAN at an early date, earnestly implement the China-ASEAN Cooperation Program on Public Health Management, and ensure the success of the third China-ASEAN Health Cooperation Forum. We will carry out more practical cooperation projects with ASEAN, including the China-ASEAN Human Resources Training Program of Health Silk Road, the China-ASEAN Training Program for Public Health Executives and other similar programs to help ASEAN countries build capacity. We support ASEAN in establishing the COVID-19 ASEAN Response Fund and the ASEAN Regional Reserve of Medical Supplies for Public Health Emergencies. China offers to lead efforts in setting up an APT reserve of essential medical supplies to pool resources from different quarters and optimize the distribution and utilization of emergency response supplies in our region. We will continue to support WHO in playing its role, enhance international cooperation and joint pandemic response, and work for a global community of health for all.
Second, we need to focus on economic cooperation and trade and boost regional economic recovery. China actively supports ASEAN in adopting and implementing the Comprehensive Recovery Framework and steadily reopening the economy. We welcome the signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). It will be an important step for regional countries to uphold the multilateral trading system and build an open world economy, which is vital to deepening regional economic integration and stabilizing the global economy.China is ready to work with ASEAN to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the full establishment of the China-ASEAN FTA and release a report on its 10-year development. Going forward, we need to further implement our free trade agreement and the upgrading protocol, and promote trade and investment liberalization and facilitation in the region. China will import more high-quality agricultural products from ASEAN and encourage Chinese businesses to increase investment in ASEAN. We also welcome your active participation in the 17th China-ASEAN Expo to share in our market opportunities.China wishes to further leverage the bilateral “fast tracks” and build a regional “fast track” network. Our two sides need to further synergize the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) with ASEAN’s development plans, hold the meeting of the Connectivity Cooperation Committee at an early date to discuss priority cooperation areas and projects, and steadily advance the China-Laos Railway, the China-Thailand Railway, the Jakarta-Bundung Railway and other major projects. China has completed the first stage of fund-raising of the China-ASEAN Investment Cooperation Fund II, totaling one billion US dollars. The Fund will be officially established and put into operation as soon as possible to support ASEAN’s major projects in such fields as infrastructure, energy and resources, and boost regional economic and trade exchanges.