30 years on, China, ASEAN make progress towards realizing community with shared future


The visit to Myanmar, Indonesia, Brunei and the Philippines was Wang Yi's first trip to neighboring countries in the new year, highlighting the importance of ASEAN in China's foreign policy.

XinhuaUpdated: January 18, 2021

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi wrapped up his visit to four Southeast Asian countries on Saturday, his second trip to the region since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, with both sides expressing a strong will to forge a closer partnership.

Local people display Chinese paper cutting during the opening ceremony of the China Day Cultural Carnival in Bandar Seri Begawan, capital of Brunei, Dec. 26, 2020. (Photo by Jeffrey Wong/Xinhua)

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the dialogue relations between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), an important milestone in the development of bilateral ties. In retrospect, it has been an extraordinary journey that started with a strategic vision.

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 a strategic partnership with ASEAN, the first to start negotiations on a free trade area with ASEAN, and the first to give unequivocal support for ASEAN centrality in East Asian regional cooperation.

Last year, facing a once-in-a-century global health crisis and ensuing economic challenges, China and ASEAN worked closely in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic and reopening the economy, turning East Asia into a stellar exemplar in the global fight against the novel coronavirus and an early bird in achieving economic recovery.

Members of a Chinese medical team assisting the Myanmar government's efforts in fight against COVID-19 board the plane before departure at the Kunming Changshui International Airport in Kunming, southwest China's Yunnan Province, April 8, 2020. (Photo by Chen Xinbo/Xinhua)

Despite the contracting global trade and economic recession, the two sides became each other's largest trading partners for the first time in 2020. The two sides also jointly pushed for the signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which gave birth to the world's most promising free trade area with the largest population and biggest economic aggregate.

The visit to Myanmar, Indonesia, Brunei and the Philippines was Wang's first trip to neighboring countries in the new year, highlighting the importance of ASEAN in China's foreign policy.

The joint fight against the novel coronavirus is at the top of the agenda for both sides. ASEAN supported China with donations of medical supplies when China was in the throes of its fight against the disease. China returned the favor later by offering medical supplies, dispatching medical teams, sharing prevention and treatment experiences and enhancing vaccine cooperation.

As stressed repeatedly by the Chinese side, as the ravaging pandemic continues to wreak havoc, China keeps in mind the need of ASEAN countries for a COVID-19 vaccine, and has pledged to carry out vaccine cooperation with more ASEAN members.

The economic recovery in the post-pandemic era also tops the agenda of China-ASEAN cooperation. During Wang's visit, the Chinese side and the four countries also agreed to further strengthen cooperation in areas such as trade, investment, maritime, fishery, travel, energy, culture, people-to-people exchanges, sustainable development, and grasp new cooperation opportunities brought by the digital economy including 5G and e-commerce.

Aerial photo taken on Nov. 19, 2020 shows containers piled at the Qinzhou Port in south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. (Xinhua/Zhang Ailin)

Across the planet, the global economy is experiencing a deep recession, and resurgent protectionism, unilateralism and hegemonism are posing a grave threat to world peace and development.

Both as staunch supporters of multilateralism and an open world economy, China and ASEAN can become a powerful catalyst of global progress and trade. With the signing of the RCEP and a strong cooperation momentum, the two sides can continue to play a major role in the post-pandemic economic recovery and growth in the region.

Due to the past 30 years of tremendous progress, China and ASEAN have set an example in building a community with a shared future for mankind. Standing at the historical juncture, the two sides should grasp the new opportunities, steer clear of noise and disruptions, and forge a closer community with bright prospects.