The Honourable Datuk Abdullah Ahmad Badawi,
Minister of Foreign Affairs,
The past year was a year in which Asia experienced big changes and China and ASEAN countries withstood the tests. And it was also a year that witnessed significant progress in the bilateral relations between the two sides.
We are pleased to see all-round cooperation between China and ASEAN countries under the guidance of the Joint Statement and steady growth of their good-neighbourly relations and friendship since the historic meeting between President Jiang Zemin and the leaders of the nine ASEAN countries at the end of last year and the establishment of the 21st century-oriented partnership of good-neighbourliness and mutual trust during the meeting.
The friendly exchanges and mutual understanding between China and ASEAN have continued to deepen. During the ASEM Summit, Premier Zhu Rongji had an in-depth exchange of views with ASEAN leaders on regional situation and bilateral relations. I myself visited ASEAN countries before any other countries after assigning my new post. The China-ASEAN SOM was held in April, which has enhanced the common understanding between the two sides. China and ASEAN have maintained close coordination and cooperation in international and regional affairs, particularly in ARF,APEC and ASEM.
What is worth particular mentioning is that we both have given priority to strengthened cooperation in the economic, trade, scientific and technological fields and that our mutually beneficial cooperation has, instead of being weakened by the financial crisis, been enhanced in a way.
— Proceeding from the overall Interest of regional economic stability China has, despite its own relatively weak economic strength and in face of the risks and pressure, committed itself not to devalue its RMB, thus making contribution to the easing off of the Asian financial crisis and the difficulties facing countries in this region.
— China has provided, as far as it can, assistance to Thailand and Indonesia respectively through the Operational Budget of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
— China has provided export credit and emergency medical assistance gratis to countries like Indonesia through bilateral channels and discussed, in a positive manner, flexible cooperation means such as barter trade with the countries concerned. China has offered assistance, though limited, with every sincerity and without attaching any conditions, which is a token of its goodwill and desire to help its neighbours in distress.
— The visits to Malaysia and Thailand paid by delegations of China Council for Promotion of International Trade and All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce have added substance to the bilateral cooperation.
— Through mutual support and coordination in regional and international fora, China and ASEAN have boosted confidence in Asia’s rejuvenation and its bright future and strived for a favourable external environment for the development of Asia.
— China-ASEAN Joint Cooperation Committee and other such organizations have been operating effectively, with their cooperation projects achieving smooth progress and fruitful results.
What has commanded China’s great admiration is that ASEAN countries and the ASEAN organization have defied the difficulties and displayed the commendable spirit of self-improvement through unity in facing the severe impact of the financial crisis. The ASEAN countries have made vigorous efforts to promote economic integration while accelerating readjustment and reform and remained actively involved in regional multi-lateral cooperation in an effort to realize the Vision 2020. A united, stable and ever-developing ASEAN is vital to peace and development in Asia. We firmly believe that ASEAN countries and the ASEAN organization will surely be able to weather the storm, survive the challenges and score fresh progress in overcoming difficulties.
China and ASEAN countries are now faced with the common pressing task and challenge to tide over the East Asian financial crisis and rejuvenate the Asian economy at an earlier date. As a member of Asia and a good neighbour, good friend and good partner of ASEAN countries, China will, as always, share the feelings of ASEAN countries and weather the storm together with them. To be specific, the Chinese side is ready to continue to work with ASEAN in the following areas:
First, to work for regional economic stability and development. Being aware of the responsibility on its shoulder, China will make vigorous efforts to expand domestic demand and realize this year’s goal of 8% growth rate. We are now increasing our input in. the infrastructure construction and in turning high and new technologies into commercial production and the proportion of investment in technological upgrading. China has planned to invest US$ 750 billion in the next three years, particularly in infrastructure construction. China will continue unswervingly to carry out the policy of non-devaluation of its RMB. China will strive to maintain sustained, rapid and sound economic growth in a long time to come so as to contribute to the recovery and development of Asian economy.
Second, to expand bilateral trade, mutual investment and areas of cooperation. The Chinese side is ready to foster new points of cooperation and increase complementarity with ASEAN countries on the existing basis. That is to say, while deepening economic cooperation and trade, China wishes to expand its cooperation with ASEAN to such areas as the development of natural resources, agriculture, applicable technologies, medical care and medicine, human resources development and environmental protection. Particularly, it is important to increase scientific and technological cooperation and exchanges of financial and commercial information so as to promote their respective efforts in structural readjustment and shift, of growth mode. Furthermore, efforts should be made to build a multi-level cooperation network and to support and encourage stronger links between non-governmental entities and enterprises.
Third, to make concerted efforts to overcome the temporary difficulties. To this end, the Chinese side will continue to provide ASEAN countries with assistance as far as it can, including export credit support for commodities in urgent need, grain export at concessional prices, and assistance gratis. The Chinese Government has recently decided that it will continue to support the IMF Operational Budget for assisting Indonesia, and on top of that, it will provide US$ 300 million to the Indonesian Government in the form of bilateral loans in support of the financing programme of the international community to assist Indonesia under the auspices of the IMF.
Fourth, to enhance Asia’s ability to guard against and tide over financial risks. For this purpose, the competent authorities of China and ASEAN countries may, in due time, study in real earnest the issue of international financial reform and come up with ideas and formulas for the reform so as to exert positive influence on this reform.
Fifth, to enhance communication and coordination between the two sides in regional fora on economic cooperation and security dialogue, further promote, the implementation of the cooperation project of the Mekong Basin development, and expand cooperation in subregions and growth regions.
The partnership of good-neighbourliness and mutual trust between China and ASEAN has a firm foundation and great vitality. Though the impact of the financial turmoil is still present and the difficulties we are faced with will continue for a while, we are fully confident that we will surely tide over the current difficulties so long as we share weal and woe and advance side by side. We have full confidence both in the future development of Asia and in China-ASEAN relations. Let’s keep up our courage and turn pressure into motive forces and challenges into opportunities to overcome the current difficulties, open up a new chapter of Asian development and usher in stronger ties between China and ASEAN with full confidence.