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Speech by Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the Session
"ASEAN Community: A Major Milestone for Asian Integration"
Of the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2015

2015/03/28

Boao, 28 March 2015

The Honorable Abdullah Ahmad Badawi,
Distinguished Guests,
Dear Friends,

It is my great pleasure to attend this session and meet so many old friends and good friends of ASEAN.

Just now, Mr. Badawi delivered an excellent keynote speech. It reminds me of the year 1991 when Mr. Badawi, then Malaysia's foreign minister, invited Mr. Qian Qichen, China's foreign minister at that time, to the first China-ASEAN foreign ministers' dialogue. It started the process of China-ASEAN relations. Six years later, the first China-ASEAN leaders meeting took place, opening a new chapter in China-ASEAN relations.

As an old saying in China goes, "When drinking water, don't forget those who dug the well". The thriving relations between China and ASEAN today are really attributable to the vision and commitment of our predecessors. I suggest we pay tribute to Mr. Badawi and other veteran statesmen present as well as friends from all sectors who have done so much for the growth of China-ASEAN relations.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

By the end of this year, ASEAN will establish three communities: political-security community, economic community and socio-cultural community, the first sub-regional community of its kind in Asia. It will be a milestone in the process of Asian integration. We are happy for it from the bottom of our hearts, and wish to extend our warm congratulations.

A review of the extraordinary path ASEAN has traversed over the past 48 years shows that it is the result of their determination and hard work that the people of ASEAN countries have won dignity, fostered a harmonious environment and achieved development. ASEAN has increasingly become an important force in promoting regional peace and development.

Over the past 48 years, ASEAN, by pursuing a foreign policy of independence, neutrality and non-alignment, has committed itself to strengthening internal unity and defusing regional conflicts. These efforts have paid off, turning Southeast Asia from a region of turbulence, confrontation and poverty into a region of stability, cooperation and prosperity. In the early 1990s, thanks to the effective assistance of ASEAN, the Cambodian problem was solved peacefully, and Southeast Asia has since emerged from the shadow of war. China also played an active and constructive role in this process. I see that H.R.H. Prince Norodom Sirivudh, Chairman of Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace, is also present at this session. I am sure this piece of history is still vivid in your memory.

Over the past 48 years, ASEAN has energetically moved forward regional economic cooperation. It took the lead in launching the ASEAN FTA, and boosted the development of ASEAN Economic Community. Today, ASEAN economy totalled US$2.5 trillion, ranking 7th in the world. With FTA agreements signed with China, Japan, the ROK, Australia, India and other dialogue partners, and the launch of the talks on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), ASEAN has made active contribution to regional economic integration.

Over the past 48 years, ASEAN, through its own development and with the expansion of external relations, has gradually developed an ASEAN way, a unique approach that emphasizes equality, consensus-building and accommodation of each other's comfort level. Its core concept is harmony without uniformity, openness, inclusiveness and win-win cooperation. This concept, already incorporated in the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia formulated by ASEAN, has become a code of conduct endorsed by both ASEAN countries and the dialogue partners, playing a distinctive role in promoting regional stability and development.

As a good friend and good partner, China will continue to give firm support to a stronger ASEAN, the building of the ASEAN Community and ASEAN centrality in the regional cooperation of East Asia. We believe this will contribute to economic integration in Asia, greater democracy in international relations and a more just and equitable international order. To support the building of the ASEAN Community, China is willing to explore the possibility of the Lancang-Mekong River dialogue and cooperation as a concrete step to help ASEAN bridge the development gap and achieve common development.

China sincerely hopes and believes that with the concerted efforts of ASEAN members and the strong support of China and other dialogue partners, fresh progress will be made in the building of the ASEAN Community. ASEAN will embrace an even brighter future.

Dear Friends,

The relations between China and Southeast Asia go way back into the past. For hundreds of years, Southeast Asia was an integral part and important hub of the ancient maritime Silk Road. The Chinese and Southeast Asian people, taking advantage of the favorable monsoon, sailed back and forth across the South China Sea, engaging in maritime trade and forging profound friendship.

China and ASEAN are natural cooperation partners. China is ASEAN's biggest neighbor connected by land and sea. It shares a land border of over 4,000 kilometers with Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam, and faces other ASEAN countries across the sea. A good neighbor is an invaluable treasure. As close neighbors, we have every reason to live in harmony and join hands for common development.

The past 24 years of China-ASEAN cooperation has been marked by several important milestones. In 1991, China-ASEAN dialogue was launched. In 1996, China became ASEAN's full dialogue partner. In 1997, the two sides established a partnership of good-neighborliness and mutual trust, which was upgraded in 2003 to a strategic partnership for peace and prosperity.

Over the past 24 years, we have worked hard to increase political trust. Among all of ASEAN's dialogue partners, China was the first to accede to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia and the first to establish a strategic partnership with ASEAN. We wish to sign the protocol to the Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone at an early date. China and ASEAN countries have also formulated the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, laying an important foundation for peace and stability in our region, including the South China Sea.

We have actively pursued common development. Among all of its dialogue partners, China was the first to establish a free trade area with ASEAN, which is also the largest among developing countries in the world. Last year, our trade exceeded US$480 billion and two-way investment totalled as much as US$120 billion. China has been ASEAN's largest trading partner for five consecutive years and ASEAN China's third largest trading partner for four years in a row.

We have made vigorous efforts to enhance connectivity. Every week, over 1,000 flights shuttle between China and ASEAN countries. Every year, our people make 18 million mutual visits and over 180,000 students study in each other's countries. The Suramadu Bridge, a China-Indonesia joint project, and the Penang Second Bridge built together by China and Malaysia have both become landmark projects reflecting China's support for ASEAN connectivity.

We have also worked in concert to overcome various challenges. A friend in need is a friend indeed. Over the years, we have always stood side by side and offered each other much-needed support in times of difficulties, be it the Asian financial crisis, the SARS epidemic, the Indian Ocean tsunami or the devastating earthquake in China's Wenchuan. Although we are from different countries, we do care about each other as family members.

Dear Friends,

During his visit to Indonesia in October 2013, President Xi Jinping proposed that China and ASEAN countries forge a closer community of common destiny and jointly build the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. At the subsequent China-ASEAN leaders' meeting in Brunei, Premier Li Keqiang set forth the "2+7 framework" for cooperation. This has set the direction and charted the course for growing China-ASEAN relations. We will uphold the neighborhood diplomacy featuring amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness, forge friendship and partnership with neighboring countries, foster an amicable, secure and prosperous neighborhood and always be a good neighbor, good friend and good partner of ASEAN countries.

First, we need to cement the foundation for security and political mutual trust so that China-ASEAN relations will make steadier and further progress. For this purpose, we wish to actively advance the negotiations on a treaty of good-neighborliness, friendship and cooperation between China and ASEAN countries, which will provide strong legal and institutional safeguard for the growth of our relations. We need to ensure the success of this year's Informal China-ASEAN Defense Ministers' Meeting to be held in China for the first time, advocate a security concept featuring common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security, step up traditional and non-traditional security cooperation and provide more public security goods for the region. We are willing to follow the "dual-track approach" agreed upon by China and most ASEAN countries, stay committed to peaceful means in properly addressing the disputes left over from history and jointly uphold peace and stability in the South China Sea.

Second, we need to enlarge common interests so that China-ASEAN relations will deliver better and more tangible results. We need to speed up the negotiations for an upgraded China-ASEAN Free Trade Area and RCEP, and strive to reach agreement before the end of this year. It is also important to further facilitate business cooperation between the two sides. We may continue to leverage the platform of the China-ASEAN Expo, and work for the targets of bringing our two-way trade to US$500 billion this year and US$1 trillion by 2020.

We stand ready to work with ASEAN countries to build the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road and open up new prospects for common development and prosperity. As such, we should channel great efforts to promote connectivity in infrastructure and other sectors, jointly work for the establishment of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank before the end of the year and put it into operation, so as to lend support to interconnected economic growth in the region. China has signed a cooperation agreement on high speed railway with Thailand; it is intensifying work on the railway connecting China and Laos; and it is ready to actively participate in the bidding for the high speed rail linking Singapore and Malaysia. China's economy has now entered a state of new normal, and we see ASEAN countries as being a favorable partner of cooperation using China's competitive surplus production capacity. We will explore with ASEAN countries the possibility of building even more industrial parks, assist in local industries upgrading and help ASEAN countries turn development potential into development strengths and deliverables.

2015 has been designated the year of China-ASEAN maritime cooperation. As we speak, its launching ceremony is being held at another conference hall of this building. We need to actively expand maritime cooperation so that it will become the new bright spot and driving force for China-ASEAN relations and provide important support for our joint endeavor to build the Maritime Silk Road.

Third, we need to vigorously promote people-to-people exchanges and foster closer ties between China and ASEAN. Friendship between the people holds the key to closer relations between countries. China and ASEAN countries share a cultural affinity, including a similar folk culture. We may further intensify cooperation in education, culture, tourism, sports and health, vigorously promote exchanges between the youth, media, think-tanks and localities, and make good use of the China-ASEAN Center, the China-ASEAN Education Cooperation Week and other platforms. We will also support the development of the Network of ASEAN-China Think-Tanks, and jointly enhance the social and cultural foundation for relations between the two sides.

Dear Friends,

The establishment of the ASEAN Community heralds a new phase of regional integration. It also offers a new opportunity for our joint endeavor to build and nurture a China-ASEAN community of shared destiny. Let us work in concert and with a common sense of purpose to further deepen China-ASEAN relations, advance regional integration, and usher in an even brighter future for East Asia and Asia as a whole!

Thank you very much.

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