Year-ender: China and Southeast Asian neighbors promote pragmatic cooperation in 2015

Updated: 2015-12-17 22:21

By Hu Zhengyue, CNTV Commentator(

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Relations between China and Southeast Asian countries have maintained stable development for the year.

Witnessing frequent high-level exchanges

Chinese President Xi Jinping paid visits to Vietnam, Singapore, and Indonesia. He attended the Asia-Africa Summit and commemorated the 60th anniversary of the Bandung Conference. He also attended the APEC informal leadership meeting in the Philippines.

Indonesia plays a prominent role in Southeast Asia ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations).

Newly-appointed Indonesian President Joko Widodo's visit touted relations between China and ASEAN for the future. Singaporean President Tony Tan Keng Yam's visit took place after the late Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew was laid to rest.

Chinese President Xi Jinping made a quick return visit to Singapore, which indicates that both sides maintain robust bilateral cooperation. Vietnam is China's close neighbor, holding an important position in ASEAN. The top leaders of both countries exchanged visits to reduce misunderstandings.

Following a successful visit to Thailand last year, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang also took a trip to Malaysia.

Both Thailand and Malaysia are China;s major trading partners and they cooperate on tourism efforts, and they see the huge potential for further infrastructure construction. The visits had achieved pragmatic cooperation with remarkable results for all countries involved.

This year also marked China;s commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the victory over the War of Resistance against the Japanese Aggression and the World Anti-Fascist War.

Four heads of states from Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar had gathered in Beijing to jointly safeguard world and regional peace.

Pragmatic cooperation strides forward

This year marked several major events of cooperation between China and Southeast Asia. All ASEAN countries signed on as founding members of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

The upgraded version of China-ASEAN FTA talks had garnered positive progress, while various parties are supporting China's 21st Maritime Silk Road initiative and expecting to move forward on it.

Beijing has achieved substantive progress with ASEAN countries to cooperate in infrastructure construction, including high-speed railways, highways, ports, docks and airports. Some have signed contracts, and others are exploring cooperation opportunities with rosy expectations.

The two sides maintain positive bilateral trade. The trade volume target of an annual US$500 billion is forecast to reach its goals. Beijing and Southeast Asia nations are building a "community of destiny."

Relations with ASEAN get closer

ASEAN will complete its "community" building this year as a result of several generations of continued efforts in the region. As ASEAN's largest neighbor, China supports them. From the beginning, China has anticipated favorable outcomes from its ASEAN relations.

The 10 + 1 cooperation, ASEAN plus China's cooperation, has taken a leading position. The East Asia Summit was held in Kuala Lumpur this year, which showed mutual understanding between both sides.

This basic trend will not be reversed so easily by external forces. Some Southeast Asia countries are demonstrating subtle internal changes. But, Beijing pursues non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs.

No matter which faction rises to power, China would maintain good-neighborly relations. Accordingly, Aung San Suu Kyi, Chairperson of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) of Myanmar was invited to visit China this year.

It's a timely olive branch, since good relations are important for both countries. They should adapt to benefit each other.

Nevertheless, the South China Sea has not become a regional hot-spot issue that could undermine China-ASEAN relations as some people expected. Beijing and all related parties have handled the issue in a reasonable, pragmatic and proper manner.

Through dialogue, the problem could be solved, but only by acting trustworthy. China's basic principle on the South China Sea issue will not change, and its determination to safeguard its rights and benefits will not waiver.

2016 will mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of China-ASEAN relations. Summing up the past, planning for the future, seeking peace, cooperation and fostering common development will be the main themes for the year ahead. We are looking forward to 2016 with renewed confidence.