Published: 12:01, April 18, 2024
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Those sowing seeds of discord are not like-minded with regional countries
By China Daily
Automated cranes deliver containers at Qinzhou Port in Qinzhou, South China's Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, in February 2023. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

Those trying to drive a wedge between China and its Asia-Pacific neighbors feel no qualms about smearing the Belt and Road Initiative and other cooperation mechanisms between China and regional countries as Beijing's geopolitical tools. They intentionally turn a blind eye to the fruits that have been harvested in the form of infrastructure facilities, jobs, environmental protection and green development, and the development achievements that have been made through the joint efforts of the participating countries.

None of the cooperation mechanisms between China and its neighbors excludes any third party. Beijing always welcomes capable countries working together with China to promote common development.

That is in stark contrast to the exclusive small circles some countries from outside the region are trying to form with countries in the region with the aim of isolating China from its neighbors. A practice that has proved to be a fool's errand as it has found little favor in a region that understands the importance of peace and stability for development.

Those countries trying to create frictions seem to forget that regional countries have the wisdom of experience, having been burned by such practices in the past.

The more these trouble-intentioned countries try to steer the region in that direction, the more the regional countries will pull together to resist their designs and reinforce their solidarity and cooperation.

During his nearly week-long trip that starts on Thursday, Foreign Minister Wang Yi will chair the Fourth Meeting of the China-Indonesia High-Level Dialogue Cooperation Mechanism and the Seventh Meeting of the China-Cambodia Intergovernmental Coordination Committee. He will finish the tour in Papua New Guinea. Such bilateral cooperation mechanisms, particularly those under the China-ASEAN collaboration framework, are conducive to promoting substantive cooperation.

Last year, China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations were each other's largest trading partners for the fourth consecutive year. In January and February, trade between China and ASEAN totaled 993.2 billion yuan ($137.19 billion), up 8.1 percent year-on-year. The economic progress of the region is not a gift received from the hegemon for doing its bidding, but a hard-won result of regional countries' own efforts.

A host of guests from Southeast Asian countries, including Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and Singapore, have visited or are due to visit China this month. The close exchanges between China and its neighbors demonstrate the great importance they attach to their relations and to maintaining unanimity.

Those countries that cover their divisive geopolitical schemes under the disguise of "shared values" are at odds with the amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness that are the values most cherished by countries in the region. Regional countries know that these are the crucial building blocks for peace, stability and development, which are essential to build a better future for the region.

The refusal of those calling for "like-minded" countries to open their own markets — while demanding regional countries open theirs — and to lower tariffs for imports, promote technology cooperation and invest in livelihood projects in the developing countries speaks volumes of their hypocrisy. Fundamentally, their unwillingness to provide public goods to bridge the development gap, and refusal to address the trust deficit originate from their zero-sum game mentality and "democracy versus autocracy" false binary mindset. China, in contrast, will continue to prioritize its neighborhood diplomacy by strengthening cooperation, mutual understanding and trust.

Rather than trying to subordinate regional countries to their will, those trying to use the region as a geopolitical crucible in which to temper their privileges would do better to conform to the regional norms so they too are welcomed to sit at a table where all enjoy friendly meals. It is they that need to show they are like-minded to regional values.