Zhang Huanbo: China and ASEAN Join Hands for High-Quality Development and Open Up A New Pattern of Globalization
On November 3, 2019, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang attended the 22nd China-ASEAN (10 + 1) Leaders’ Meeting in Bangkok, Thailand. Li Keqiang, and the Prime Minister of Thailand, Prayut Chan-o-cha, co-chaired the meeting.
In his speech, Li Keqiang stated that the establishment of the dialogue between China and ASEAN has brought great benefits to both sides. The current downward pressure on the world economy has brought severe challenges to all countries. China will unswervingly follow the path of peaceful development, pursue an open strategy of mutual benefit and win-win results, and is willing to link the joint construction of the “Belt and Road” initiative with the overall development strategy of ASEAN and other countries. Furthermore, China will accelerate the construction of transport corridors and build a China-ASEAN blue economic partnership.
Zhang Huanbo, deputy director of the Institute of American and European Studies at China Center for International Economic Exchanges, was interviewed by Zhonghong net.
Creating a new model of high-quality regional cooperation.
Question: How do you interpret the cooperation between China and ASEAN, the practices such as “community with shared future for mankind”, “common development’, “mutual learning of civilization”?
Zhang Huanbo: the economic and trade cooperation between China and ASEAN has developed rapidly, and significant progress has been made in regional integration since the establishment of the dialogue relationship between the two sides. China has been the largest trading partner of ASEAN for ten consecutive years. In the first half of this year, the trade between China and ASEAN reached US $291.85 billion, and ASEAN surpassed the United States to become China’s second-largest trading partner. As of the end of 2018, the two-way cumulative investment between the two sides exceeded US$200 billion, and ASEAN has become a key destination for Chinese enterprises’ investment. China and the ten ASEAN countries have signed the “Belt and Road” cooperation documents, and a large number of projects such as interconnection and park cooperation have been steadily advanced. In April this year, China-ASEAN reached a consensus on high-quality co-construction of the “Belt and Road” and signed a new batch of cooperation agreements. The “Upgraded Protocol of China-ASEAN Free Trade Area” has entered into force. At present, China-ASEAN relations have entered a new stage of all-round development. The two sides should jointly build the “Belt and Road” with high quality, continue to expand the areas of cooperation and consensus, and build a community with shared future for China-ASEAN and set a good example for regional cooperation.
Questions: What should China and ASEAN do to promote economic globalization and liberalize investment and trade?
Zhang Huanbo: The current global economic growth is weak, economic globalization is faced with new challenges, and investment and trade liberalization are deterred by protectionism. China and ASEAN countries are working hard to promote trade and investment liberalization, deepen regional cooperation, and continue to support multilateral trade under the WTO System to accelerate negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP). In November 2019, the China-ASEAN Strategic Partnership Vision 2030 was officially released. The two sides should build a new framework for cooperation and a closer community with shared future according to the three pillars of political security, economy and trade, and cultural exchanges.
Setting sail for a new blue ocean of China-ASEAN digital economy.
Question: What is your analysis and suggestion on the new opportunities for China-ASEAN “Belt and Road” cooperation and how to seize this opportunity?
Zhang Huanbo: In April 2019, China and ASEAN reached a consensus on high-quality co-construction of the “Belt and Road” and signed a new batch of cooperation agreements. China and ASEAN have reached an agreement on the integration of the “Belt and Road” initiative and the “Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity 2025”. To promote new opportunities for cooperation between the two sides on the “Belt and Road” initiative, we must firstly give full play to the role of existing cooperation mechanisms and platforms between China and ASEAN. Second, we must effectively implement the China-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement and the Upgrade Protocol, and strengthen regional economic integration. Third, we must do a good job in major projects and use them as a good example to promote the smooth implementation of projects in key areas such as connectivity, production capacity docking, and technological innovation. Fourth, we must promote China-ASEAN sub-region cooperation by using the existing economic and trade parks as well as economic corridors as the basis.
Question: What are your suggestions on promoting high-quality cooperation between China and ASEAN with the digital economy as the starting point?
Zhang Huanbo: In recent years, the two sides have carried out a number of cooperation in scientific and technological research and development, human resources, and joint construction of national laboratories under the framework of China-ASEAN science and technology partnership and bilateral scientific and technological cooperation mechanisms. 2020 is the year of China-ASEAN Digital Economy Cooperation. The two sides should take this opportunity to strengthen cooperation in artificial intelligence, 5G communications, blockchain and other areas. Apart from that, the two sides should strengthen cooperation in the R&D of digital economy technology, focus on conducting scientific and cultural exchanges, promote the docking of related policies in the digital economy, and promote China’s experience in digital economy development.