In-person meetings highlight how much ASEAN and China treasure their ties

The Special ASEAN-China Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Celebration of the 30th Anniversary of Dialogue Relations is held in Chongqing, Southwest China, June 7, 2021. The foreign ministers of China and the ASEAN gathered on Monday for the meeting, which was co-chaired by Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Teodoro Locsin, foreign secretary of the Philippines that serves as the current country coordinator for ASEAN-China relations. [Photo/Xinhua]

State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi is attending face-to-face meetings with diplomats from Southeast Asia on Monday and Tuesday to celebrate the 30th anniversary of dialogue relations between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and China, and push forward Lancang-Mekong cooperation.

The in-person gathering sends a strong message of China-ASEAN friendship against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic and provides a good opportunity for the two sides to build on their past achievements and chart the course for new progress. ASEAN and China have good reasons to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the establishment of their dialogue relations as bilateral cooperation has grown in leaps and bounds over the past three decades.

The latest meeting, held at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic situation still looks grim in many parts of the world, including in Southeast Asia, is itself ready proof of the great importance and expectations the two sides attach to their reciprocal relations in the new circumstances.

Among ASEAN’s dialogue partners, China was the first to join the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia, the first to forge a strategic partnership with ASEAN, the first to start negotiations on a free trade area with ASEAN, and the first to give unequivocal support for ASEAN centrality in East Asian regional cooperation.

Despite the impact of the pandemic and Washington’s attempts to sow discord in the region, China and ASEAN became each other’s largest trading partners for the first time in 2020. With a shared vision to create the world’s most promising free trade area with the largest population and biggest economic aggregate, they have also jointly pushed for the signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

Hence, it is only natural that their discussions in Chongqing, with their focus on combating the pandemic and promoting economic recovery, will help the two sides better foster new highlights in their practical cooperation.

The Lancang-Mekong Cooperation meeting, which brings together China, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, is a new type of sub-regional cooperation mechanism. Launched five years ago, the mechanism has achieved fruitful results in promoting economic and social development cooperation among the six riparian countries and brought tangible benefits to their people.

China anticipates that the LMC foreign ministers’ meeting will further deepen cooperation in various fields, including developing the Mekong-Lancang Economic Development Belt and reinvigorating regional economic recovery and prosperity in the post-pandemic era so that the fledgling subregional mechanism can better contribute to ASEAN community building and regional economic integration.

In the face of the uncertainties and challenges caused by the pandemic, further promoting the vibrant ties between China and Southeast Asian countries will help boost the world’s confidence in brighter days ahead. ASEAN countries and China should therefore do all they can to ensure the meetings act as a springboard to propel their relations toward new heights.

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