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Sunday, November 29, 2020, 18:04
Xi's remarks at expo point to growing China-ASEAN bond
By Yang Han and Prime Sarmiento in Hong Kong
Sunday, November 29, 2020, 18:04 By Yang Han and Prime Sarmiento in Hong Kong

President Xi Jinping addresses the opening ceremony of the 17th China-ASEAN Expo and China-ASEAN Business and Investment Summit via video on Nov 27, 2020. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

As the growing bond between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations becomes lasting and mutually beneficial, their cooperation will be instrumental toward a shared future of mankind, according to analysts.

In his remarks at the opening ceremony of the 17th China-ASEAN Expo and China ASEAN Business and Investment Summit in Nanning on Nov 27, Chinese President Xi Jinping said the two sides enjoy growing connectivity, deepening economic integration, robust business ties, and closer people-to-people exchanges. 

The China-ASEAN relationship has grown into the most successful and vibrant model for cooperation in the Asia-Pacific and an exemplary effort in building a community with a shared future for mankind.

Xi Jinping, Chinese president

ASEAN itself is a community grouping 10 nations of Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.  The group and China have been clearly and consistently building trade and economic partnership over the years, said Suthiphand Chirathivat, executive director of the ASEAN Studies Center at Chulalongkorn University and executive director of Thai conglomerate Central Group.

In his virtual address, Xi said: “The China-ASEAN relationship has grown into the most successful and vibrant model for cooperation in the Asia-Pacific and an exemplary effort in building a community with a shared future for mankind.”

ALSO READ: Xi calls for closer China-ASEAN ties

Xi's address “was a reiteration of Chinese commitment toward regional cooperation, development, and prosperity,” said Nawazish Mirza, associate professor of finance, Excelia Business School in France.

The trade flow, easy market access to regional investors, and integration of industrial supply chains will remain the backbone of collaborative development. 

“Overall, these collaborative efforts will be instrumental towards a shared future of humanity,” Mizra said.

“ASEAN became the top trading partner of China in the first ten months of this year, and China is already the top trading partner for almost every single ASEAN country. The figure speaks for itself,” said Suthiphand, noting the cooperation in investment is also "catching up very quickly".

Ho Meng Kit, Chief Executive Officer of Singapore Business Federation, also noted China is ASEAN’s largest trading partner and the top source of imports for many ASEAN countries.

I foresee China and ASEAN countries will become mutually dependent on each other. Their bond will become lasting and mutually beneficial.

Chin Yew Sin, Advisor for Asia Pacific region, Global One Belt One Road Association

Echoing Xi citing ASEAN as a key region in high-quality Belt and Road cooperation during his speech, Chin Yew Sin, advisor for Asia Pacific region at the Global One Belt One Road Association, said ASEAN countries have been actively working with China under the Belt and Road Initiative.

READ MORE: China, ASEAN ready to embrace opportunities

China can also benefit from a more developed ASEAN because as these countries develop, their demand for goods and technologies from China will also increase, said Chin.

“I foresee China and ASEAN countries will become mutually dependent on each other. Their bond will become lasting and mutually beneficial,” Chin said.

Mirza paid attention to Xi highlighting the need to focus on stimulating the digital economy, which will be a catalyst for future growth. “Technological cooperation is an essential aspect of the Belt and Road Initiative that will promote digitalization and lead to sustainable development,” he said.

Chin said the digital economy will be important after the pandemic as technologies like 5G, artificial intelligence and blockchain can help a country to develop faster. “A normal industrial development of a country will go through four stages, which are imitation, improvement, innovation and invention. With the use of digital technologies, it can cut short a lot of these stages.”

For example, “(ASEAN) countries can just buy these technologies from China, then they can be on par with China,” said Chin, noting Malaysia is also in close cooperation with China to develop its digital economy, such as 5G and cloud computing.

China's support “will be vital for other regional countries in improving public health capacity,” said Nawazish Mirza, associate professor of finance, Excelia Business School in France

Iris Pang, chief economist for Greater China at Dutch investment bank ING, also appreciated Xi’s highlight of technology connectivity. ASEAN and Belt and Road in general could still be a large export market for China’s technology, he said.

The president’s reassurance of continuous support of ASEAN in combating COVID-19 is welcomed. Xi said when its COVID-19 vaccines are available for use, “China will actively consider the needs of ASEAN countries”, and the country will provide financial support to the COVID-19 ASEAN Response Fund. 

China's support “will be vital for other regional countries in improving public health capacity,” said Mirza.

READ MORE: Xi: China to share vaccine with world

Pang said recipient countries are usually concerned with the vaccine’s reliability and side-effects. “I believe China knows this well and will try to provide a vaccine with effective protection and minimal side effects,” he said.

“COVID-19 has proved to us how fragile it could be in terms of the interconnectivity of our world, despite the progress we made about globalization before,” said Suthiphand.

“In order to get back on track again on globalization, we need global governance and better international order. China has already shown support (for globalization), and I hope China can continue to make that kind of opening and keep the words with action,” said Suthiphand.

The recently signed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, the world’s biggest free trade pact, is a proving ground for the new regional order and global partnership, Suthiphand said. “We should support it. People should not see RCEP as a China-backed initiative,” he said, adding that the deal will create benefit for everyone.

Ho of SBF said: "The signing of RCEP can further increase trade and investment flows between China and ASEAN."

“Singapore businesses are strong in the Chinese market across a wide range of sectors and also in the ASEAN markets with good grasp of how to do business in ASEAN." 

SBF is a long-time participant of the China-ASEAN Expo in the capital of South China’s Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region. "CAEXPO continues to be a useful platform for our businesses to deepen collaborations with Chinese partners,” he said.

Contact the writers at kelly@chinadailyapac.com


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