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Ambassador Lyu Jian's Keynote Speech at the International Seminar on "China-ASEAN Strategic Partnership: New Era, New Vision"
2018/10/22

The Honorable Dr. Suriya Chindawongse, Director-General of the Department of ASEAN Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand,
The Honorable Assoc. Prof. Dr. Kitti Prasirtsuk, Vice Rector of the Thammasat University,
Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,

Good morning! Thank you, Dr. Kitti, for your opening remarks. First of all, I would like to express, on behalf of the Chinese Embassy in Thailand, a warm welcome to all the scholars and guests attending today's seminar, sincere gratitude to our co-hosts, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand and the Thammasat University, and respect for friends from all circles who have long been supporting and promoting China-ASEAN relations.

With the theme of "China-ASEAN Strategic Partnership: New Era, New Vision", the seminar is aimed at pooling academic wisdom and offering suggestions for the further development of China-ASEAN relations on the occasion of the 15th anniversary of the establishment of China-ASEAN Strategic Partnership. I would like to take this opportunity to talk about the development of China-ASEAN relations.

ASEAN celebrated its 50th birthday in 2017. Over the past half a century, ASEAN has made active efforts to explore and follow the development path that suits itself, and has made remarkable progress. Today's ASEAN is the sixth largest economy in the world with a population of 640 million people and a nearly US$2.6 trillion economy. It has not only developed into one of the most successful regional cooperation organizations in the world, but also an important force upholding regional peace and stability, and promoting regional integration and world multi-polarization.

China and ASEAN are close neighbors enjoying geographical proximity. The two sides launched the dialogue process in 1991 and established a strategic partnership in 2003. Over the past 15 years, China-ASEAN relations have been developing rapidly in an all-round manner, yielding fruitful results in different areas.

First, political mutual trust between the two sides is deepening. China was the first to join the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia, and the first to establish strategic partnership with ASEAN. China firmly supports the centrality of ASEAN in regional cooperation, and inspires other countries to attach greater importance to and accelerate the development of relations with ASEAN. With close high-level exchanges, smooth policy communication, and mature dialogue mechanisms at all levels and in all fields, China-ASEAN relations have become the most dynamic and substantial one among ASEAN's relations with its dialogue partners.

Second, economic cooperation and trade between the two sides is growing robustly. China was the first to sign free trade agreement with ASEAN, and build the world's largest free trade zone of developing countries. At present, both sides are making all-out efforts to upgrade the free trade zone. In 2017, the trade volume between China and ASEAN topped US$ 500 billion, nearly six times higher than what it was 15 years ago. China has been ASEAN's largest trading partner for nine consecutive years. ASEAN has been China's third largest trading partner for seven years in a row. The two-way direct investment reaches nearly US$ 200 billion.

Third, cultural and people-to-people exchange is expanding. In 2017, the total number of visits made by people from the two sides was 49 million. The combined amount of ASEAN students in China and Chinese students in ASEAN exceeded 200,000, and there were nearly 3,000 flights between China and ASEAN countries each week. In recent years, we have successively held the China-ASEAN Years of Maritime Cooperation, Educational Exchange, Tourism Cooperation and Innovation, attracting more and more people to participate in China-ASEAN cooperation. A few days ago, Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn cut the ribbon for the Chinese Academy of Sciences Innovation Expo at Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre in Bangkok, which was one important event of the China-ASEAN Year of Innovation.

Fourth, security cooperation between the two sides is broadening. China and ASEAN countries have reached an agreement on the single draft negotiating text of the Code of Conduct in South China Sea (COC), and made continuous progress in fully and effectively implementing the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC). China and ASEAN countries actively carry out practical cooperation at sea and maintain the good momentum of stability in the South China Sea. The China-ASEAN joint maritime exercises will be held at the end of this month, marking the further deepening of bilateral cooperation in the field of security and defense.

It is fair to say that China-ASEAN cooperation has become the most successful and dynamic model for cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region. China and ASEAN are like the binary star shining on the international stage, delivering tangible benefits to the two billion people from the two sides, and promoting peace, stability and prosperity of the region and beyond.

Looking back on the past, the reason why China-ASEAN relations can achieve extensive and rich results is that both sides adhere to the principles of equality, mutual respect, openness, inclusiveness and win-win cooperation, respect each other's core interests and major concerns, and accommodate each other's comfort level. In particular, since the Belt and Road Initiative was put forward, China and ASEAN has expanded and deepened pragmatic cooperation in all areas in an all-round manner and achieved fruitful results by adhering to the principle of achieving shared growth through discussion and collaboration. These principles and practices are invaluable especially as the current international landscape is undergoing profound and complex changes, with rising uncertainties and destabilizing factors, a growing trend toward unilateralism and protectionism, and severe challenges to multilateralism and international rules.

Looking ahead into the future, China-ASEAN relations have entered a new stage of all-round development, with great potential and broad prospect for cooperation. This year marks the 40th anniversary of China's reform and opening up. At the Boao Forum for Asia in April, President Xi Jinping made it clear to the world that the door of China's opening up will not be closed, but will only open even wider. The Belt and Road Initiative is gaining popularity and the outcomes of cooperation are emerging. All these provide new opportunities for the development of the world. ASEAN countries, as China's neighbors and close partners of cooperation, will certainly gain more benefits. This year is also the beginning of the second 50 years of ASEAN. With the implementation of the ASEAN Community Vision 2025, the development of the ASEAN Community will make further headway and bring more positive changes to countries and people of the region.

China will always be ASEAN's neighbor and trustworthy partner. In the future, we will place ASEAN in an important position in China's overall diplomacy and give priority to ASEAN in China's neighborhood diplomacy, so as to build a more closely-knit community of shared future with ASEAN. China is willing to take the 15th anniversary of the establishment of strategic partnership as an opportunity to continuously elevate the level of practical cooperation and turn China and ASEAN into "twin engines" leading regional and even global development. In my point of view, China and ASEAN should stay committed to four aspects when pursuing further cooperation on the basis of the past achievements.

First, they should stay committed to deepening political mutual trust. The two sides have already come to an agreement on the Vision for China-ASEAN Strategic Partnership 2030, which will be presented at the Leaders' meeting in November this year. It is believed that under the guidance of this important document, the two sides will further strengthen strategic communication, carry out higher-level strategic cooperation and work for the steady and long-lasting growth of China-ASEAN relations.

Second, they should stay committed to enhancing practical cooperation. The two sides jointly uphold the rule-based free trade system and a more open world economy. In keeping with their respective advantages and development needs, the two sides are working to synergize the Belt and Road Initiative with the ASEAN Community Vision 2025, and deepen trade and investment cooperation. The two sides will also take the China-ASEAN Year of Innovation as an opportunity to advance cooperation in smart cities, digital economy, artificial intelligence, Internet Plus and other new businesses and new fields, and upgrade China-ASEAN practical cooperation.

Third, they should stay committed to broadening security cooperation. China is ready to work with ASEAN countries to build an ASEAN-centered, open and inclusive Asia-Pacific security framework on the basis of international law and rules. We will continue to implement the DOC fully and effectively, strengthen practical cooperation at sea, steadily press ahead with COC negotiation and maintain stability in the South China Sea. More cooperation should be carried out in the areas of counter-terrorism, disaster prevention and mitigation, and humanitarian assistance to jointly address security challenges and keep the region stable.

Fourth, they should stay committed to expanding cultural and people-to-people exchange. China-ASEAN cooperation in the fields of culture, science and technology, environmental protection and tourism should be strengthened, and exchanges among youth, media, think tanks and local governments should be enhanced. The two sides have agreed to designate next year as the Year of Media Exchange. We should give full play to the role of media in connecting people from both sides and enable them to get to know, understand and like each other.

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,

Thailand is an important member of ASEAN who has played a decisive role in the process of ASEAN's founding and development. Thailand is situated at the land and maritime junction of ASEAN. Open and inclusive, Thailand is an important driving force that propels ASEAN economic integration, narrows the regional development gap and enhances the overall competitiveness of ASEAN. Thailand is also an active promoter of China-ASEAN relations and has maintained close and good cooperation with China under the framework of China-ASEAN. Thailand will assume the rotating chairmanship of ASEAN. China, as a good neighbor, friend and partner of Thailand, will provide full support and look forward to Thailand's unique influence in pushing China-ASEAN relations to a new level.

The healthy and stable development of China-ASEAN relations owes a good deal to the care and support of friends from the academia. I expect to listen to your insightful ideas.

Thank you!

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