Published: 12:58, June 18, 2024
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Li's tour to boost regional cooperation
By Jia Duqiang

Premier Li Qiang's visits to New Zealand, Australia and Malaysia are significant for many reasons. For instance, his visit to New Zealand on Thursday coincides with the 10th anniversary of the establishment of a comprehensive strategic partnership between China and New Zealand.

Li's visit to Australia has gained added importance because it is the first by a Chinese premier since 2017. And his visit to Malaysia coincides with the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Beijing and Kuala Lumpur, and marks the Year of China-Malaysia Friendship.

Li's visits to the three countries will not only strengthen bilateral relations but also boost regional cooperation.

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Regular exchanges between Beijing and Wellington, including New Zealand Prime Minister Christopher Luxon's visit to China last year and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi's visit to New Zealand in March this year show why the two complementary economies have boosted trade cooperation. China is New Zealand's top trading partner and has been its largest export market for the past 10 years, and while New Zealand's foreign direct investment in China increased by 104.7 percent year-on-year in 2023, China's FDI in New Zealand grew by 16.7 percent.

The two countries have strengthened their comprehensive strategic partnership by deepening high-quality trade cooperation. The two sides have made great achievements in the traditional fields of infrastructure, and the dairy and insurance sectors, while exploring opportunities in areas such as the digital economy, electric vehicles and renewable energy.

Li's visit to New Zealand in the 10th year of the establishment of the China-New Zealand comprehensive strategic partnership surely injects new impetus into bilateral trade and deepens bilateral cooperation.

For Australia, on the other hand, China is the largest trading partner and important market. And despite their highly complementary economies and close trade relations, the COVID-19 pandemic and geopolitics dealt a heavy blow to bilateral ties and trade cooperation in the recent past. But fortunately, the two countries resumed constructive cooperation after Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese assumed office in 2022 and changed the country's policy toward China.

Thanks to the two sides' joint efforts, Sino-Australian ties are improving and bilateral trade is regaining its vitality after the removal of obstacles that hindered the development of bilateral relations. Li's visit to Australia, hopefully, will prompt the two countries to resume normal high-level exchanges and dialogue. And China will include Australia in the list of unilateral visa-free countries.

In fact, the two sides are planning to expand the China-Australia free trade agreement and unleash the full potential of cooperation under the framework of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement. While deepening cooperation in traditional areas including energy, agriculture, tourism and education, the two sides are looking for new economic growth points in fields such as the green economy, digital finance, smart manufacturing and climate change.

Since Australia is an ally of the United States as well as an important trading partner of China, it needs to learn from its experiences to ensure geopolitics doesn't influence its relations with China. During his visit to China last year, Albanese said it is natural for Australia and China to have differences, but they should not let those differences define their relationship. That signaled a new beginning for the two sides on multiple fronts.

China and Australia are following the correct direction by preferring dialogue over argument, managing differences over confrontations, and promoting trust through deepened cooperation.

As for China's relationship with Malaysia, it is friendly and mutually beneficial. To be sure, Sino-Malaysian ties are a model of friendly cooperation. Apart from deepening strategic mutual trust, the two sides have achieved fruitful results in projects under the Belt and Road Initiative framework. And last year, they announced their plan to jointly build a China-Malaysia community with a shared future.

During his visit to Malaysia, Li will attend the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two sides, and discuss with the country's leaders how to deepen Sino-Malaysian cooperation.

First, during his visit to the three countries, Li will impress upon their leaderships that China attaches great importance to its relationships with the three countries, and assure them that China will not only intensify its high-quality opening-up but also pursue win-win cooperation. Li will also hold in-depth exchanges with the leaders in the three countries on bilateral, regional and global issues.

Li's visits to the Asia-Pacific countries also highlight that China remains committed to promoting cooperation with countries across the world and is willing to work with any country that pursues win-win cooperation and common development.

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Second, the improvement of Sino-Australian ties shows that even countries with different ideologies, security policies and political systems can engage in mutually beneficial trade so long as they respect each other and appropriately handle their differences. As a matter of fact, China is willing to establish close and mutually beneficial relations with Western countries on the basis of equality and mutual respect.

Third, China's healthy and high-quality growth has created favorable conditions for it to deepen cooperation with countries in the region and beyond based on openness, inclusiveness, mutual respect, mutual benefit and peaceful coexistence.

And fourth, countries in the Asia-Pacific region should work together to achieve common development despite the unstable global landscape, oppose hegemonism, unilateralism, protectionism, and the building of "small yards with high fences", and desist from inciting bloc confrontation, because they run counter to beneficial cooperation and common development.

The author is an associate researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' National Institute of International Strategy.

The views don't necessarily reflect those of China Daily.