By Chu Hao
BEIJING, Sept. 3 (Xinhuanet) -- On Thursday, the Special China-ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting to mark the 10th anniversary of the formation of the strategic partnership between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations was held in Beijing. During the meeting, which aimed to summarize the achievements of the 10 years of cooperation between the two sides and plan for the future development of relations, China and ASEAN member states agreed to consolidate and deepen their strategic partnership. China-ASEAN cooperation can scale new heights in the future by seizing any new opportunities that appear.
Since the beginning of the China-ASEAN dialogue process in 1991, bilateral cooperation in various areas has witnessed great achievements and steady deepening. China is the first ASEAN dialogue partner to join the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia, the first to establish a strategic partnership with ASEAN, and the first to confirm it will establish a free trade area with ASEAN. This has formed an important political and economic base for the development of bilateral relations. In 2002, China and ASEAN countries signed the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, which demonstrated their shared resolve to promote maritime dialogue and cooperation and uphold peace and stability in the South China Sea.
Since the establishment of the ASEAN-China Strategic Partnership for Peace and Prosperity in 2003, the friendship between China and ASEAN member states has not only become an important pillar supporting peace and stability in East Asia, but also scored remarkable achievements in economic and trade cooperation. China has been ASEAN's top trading partner for four consecutive years, while ASEAN is China's third-largest trading partner. The China-ASEAN strategic partnership has withstood the test of the 2008 international financial crisis and other challenges, and the region is one of the world's major economic engines.
By reviewing the development of China-ASEAN relations, it is not difficult to find that win-win cooperation is both the starting point and at the core of the relationship.
Seeking common development has become a consensus for win-win cooperation. After the Cold War, the bipolar pattern was replaced by a multipolar international structure, which has reduced the possibility of a war between major powers. Economic development has become a major strategic objective for most countries. The rapid development of ASEAN economies and the pace-setting economic growth of China have set the stage for an East Asian renaissance.
Promoting regional cooperation for win-win results and common development prevails in the region, including the "Asian way" and "ASEAN way" of addressing differences and conflicts through friendly consultation and dialogue on an equal footing and China's "new security concept", good-neighbor policy, and commitment to peaceful development and a harmonious world.
The collaborative strategic culture has increasingly become the common choice of China and ASEAN, and China is willing to take the initiative to participate in the multilateral cooperation mechanisms designed, advocated and led by the ASEAN.
The rapid development of regional bilateral and multilateral cooperation in the 1990s, and China's responsible performance during the 1997 Asian financial crisis set the stage for both sides to realize a qualitative change in their cooperation level.
With China's accession to the World Trade Organization in 2001, China and ASEAN started the groundbreaking FTA negotiation process the same year, and the two sides then expanded their cooperation to political, security and strategic areas, including China's signing of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, becoming party to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation, the establishment of a strategic partnership, and laying the framework foundation for China-ASEAN comprehensive institutional cooperation.
Other cooperation growth points have been fostered. The two sides have chosen to work together on the easiest areas first to try and realize mutual benefits through expanding common interests in economic cooperation and non-traditional security cooperation and shelving disputes for the time being. The two sides have maintained good cooperation in the Asian Regional Forum, 10+3, East Asia Summit and other mechanisms. There are also various cooperative measures ranging from high-level exchanges, periodic multilateral meetings, trade investment and financial cooperation to assistance, education and cultural exchanges and so on.
Reviewing the past 22-year development of the partnership between China and ASEAN, the two sides have laid a broad and solid foundation for the future. China's friendly relations with ASEAN member countries, as the foundation of bilateral cooperation, continue to deepen to varying degrees. At the same time, with China and ASEAN playing an increasingly important role in the East Asian integration process, interdependence between them will further strengthen.
The 10th anniversary of the establishment of the China-ASEAN strategic partnership is a new opportunity to take relations to a higher level.
The author is a research scholar at the Institute of South and Southeast Asian and Oceania Studies, China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.
(Source: China Daily)