by Xinhua writer Wang Xiuqiong
BEIJING, Nov. 22 (Xinhua) -- China's southeastern Asian neighbors have more to gain than lose in forging closer cooperation with the country.
China's newly outlined development path for the next decade will create more opportunities than threats for the regional bloc despite their divisions on the South China Sea issue.
During a series of East Asian leaders' meetings just concluded in Cambodia, 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), together with China and five other Asia-Pacific countries, announced to launch talks on what could be the world's largest regional free trade deal if completed.
Though some ASEAN members caused disturbances by raising tensions over disputes with China in the South China Sea, China actively supported the deal, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
Those who are fixated on disputes will realize that stronger cooperation with China is set to prove a boon to ASEAN nations.
As demonstrated by China's approach to the South China Sea issue, the Communist Party of China has highlighted peaceful resolution of disputes.
It has also pushed for mutually beneficial cooperation with neighboring countries in its foreign policy for the next decade, which were unveiled at the 18th CPC congress held in Beijing earlier this month.
History offers a testament to China's sincerity and determination to engage in a win-win cooperation instead of waging conflicts with Asian neighbors.
During the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s, China prevented the yuan from depreciating as other regional currencies did, playing a crucial role in stabilizing the regional economy.
Right after the crisis, China proposed in 2000 a free-trade agreement (FTA) between ASEAN and China, which brought about the world's biggest free trade zone for developing countries and greatly mitigated the two economies' reliance on European and U.S. demand.
China also led Asia out of the global financial crisis in 2009 and actively supported efforts to expand a regional currency swap arrangement to better guard against future crises.
With the new foreign policy blueprint, China will seek to bring more benefits to its neighbors in its future growth instead of compromising their interests.
Cementing economic bonds within Asia remains key to the region's continuous growth, as the eurozone sovereign debt woes are far from over, with a fiscal cliff threatening a fragile recovery in the U.S. economy and protectionism on the rise globally.
Internationalizing the South China Sea issue will not help resolve the disputes but can sabotage efforts to carry out friendly negotiations on the issue and hamper much-needed regional economic cooperation.
China's development road map for 2020, also made public at the 18th CPC congress, will create substantial economic opportunities for ASEAN members, if they are well seized.
China-ASEAN trade soared by about four times from 2001 to 2011, outpacing China's economic growth in approximately the same period. The CPC has announced a target to double the country's gross domestic output and per capita residents' income by 2020 from the 2010 levels.
For ASEAN members, that scenario means a boost in trade as well as a greater inflow of Chinese tourists and investors.
Similarly, if the CPC's ambition to transform the Chinese economy to one driven more by innovation and technologies comes a reality, more lower-end manufacturers will move operations to ASEAN countries with cheaper labor and resources and create more jobs there. Some foreign companies are already doing that.
By paying greater attention to resource and energy saving in its future development, as the CPC vows, China will contribute to allay the conflicts between population growth and limited resources in the whole region. It will also ease the energy and resource pressure on other Asian countries.
However, all those trends can be undermined if rifts run deeper between China and ASEAN members.
In Cambodia, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao urged that "the ASEAN way," which calls for shelving disputes and promoting consensus and unity, should continue to be followed. Those with vision and care for the future of China and ASEAN will agree with him.