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Forging Ahead with Determination, Playing the Main Melody of Asian Cooperation
——Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin’s Comments on Asian Situation and Neighborhood Diplomacy
2014-01-01 23:37

Journalist: In 2013, Asia holds an increasingly important status and exerts larger influence in the international pattern. Many people believe that this century is bound to be the “Century of Asia”. As the Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs in charge of Asian affairs, what are your comments on the current situation in Asia and its development trend?

Liu Zhenmin: For Asia, the year of 2013 is a year of development and cooperation. Against the backdrop of an in-depth development of world multi-polarization and economic globalization, the political and economic situation in Asia remains stable in general, and Asia’s status and influence over the international affairs have continued to rise. The rise of the Asian countries as a whole has become a prominent factor that influences the trend of the international situation.

In 2013, Asia enjoyed good governance and harmony, and boosts tremendous development potentials and bright cooperation prospects. First, Asia is still the world’s major engine for economic growth. Asia’s emerging economies continue to maintain relatively rapid growth, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecasts that, their growth rate for this year will reach 6.3 percent, which is more than twice of the average growth rate of the world. Second, the situation in Asia is stable in general. The Asian countries have reached broad consensus that they would pursue peace, stability, development, and properly handle divergences through friendly consultations. Third, regional cooperation in Asia has increasingly deepened. Asia has become the most dynamic region in global free trade cooperation. Its regional economic integration system is improving, and its political and security cooperation are strengthening continuously.

On the other hand, Asia is also faced with some risks and challenges. Constrained by factors such as the external environment and its own economic structural adjustment, the growth rate of Asia’s emerging economies has begun to slow down, and the pressure of economic downturn is increasing. There are still uncertainties influencing regional peace and stability. Hotspot issues and difficult problems frequently happen, and non-traditional security challenges are still severe.

At present, all Asian countries are committed to developing the economy, improving people’s livelihood and enhancing mutual beneficial cooperation. I believe that, with the joint efforts of peoples from all countries, Asia will continue to create new wonders.

Journalist: The new central leadership has put forward a series of new ideas and new measures for the diplomatic work. China and other Asian countries enjoy intensive high-level mutual visits, and diplomacy in Asia has shown many bright spots. How do you evaluate China’s diplomacy in Asia over the past year?

Liu Zhenmin: The year of 2013 is an extraordinary year which marked the first and also a productive year for the diplomatic work of the new generation of the central leadership. We have more clearly made the neighborhood diplomacy a priority of China’s diplomacy. The neighborhood diplomacy has opened up a new vista and yielded productive results one after another, displaying a bright view of China’s diplomacy.

We focus on improving relations with other Asian countries, and have basically had high-level exchanges with almost all Asian countries. President Xi Jinping attended the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2013 in April, and attended the APEC Informal Leadership Meeting and visited Indonesia and Malaysia in October. Premier Li Keqiang chose India and Pakistan as stops for his first foreign visit, attended the China-ASEAN Expo and met with leaders of five ASEAN member states in September, and attended the East Asian leaders’ meetings and visited Brunei, Thailand and Vietnam in October. We have upgraded China’s relations with Indonesia and Malaysia to the comprehensive strategic partnerships, and promoted cooperative relations with Brunei and Sri Lanka. Chinese Premier and Indian Prime Minister exchanged visits in 2013, the first time the mutual visits are finished in the same year since more than fifty years ago. Chinese Premier and Pakistani Prime Minister exchanged visits within two months. According to incomplete statistics, China has had about 70 mutual visits with the East Asian countries and South Asian countries at the level of foreign minister or above, with talks and meetings in bilateral and multilateral occasions of about 300 person times, and has signed over 200 cooperative agreements. We substantially implement the policy of building good neighborly relationships and partnerships with neighboring countries, comprehensively promote cooperation with neighboring countries, and good-neighbor and friendliness has been advanced to a new stage.

To make China’s development better benefit the neighboring regions and promote the common development of China and the neighboring countries, we have proposed a series of major cooperation initiatives, including signing the treaty of good-neighborliness and friendly cooperation between China and the ASEAN countries, establishing the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st century Maritime Silk Road, forging the upgraded version of China-ASEAN Free Trade Area, preparing to establish the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and building China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor. These initiatives are conducive to promoting mutual benefit, win-win results and long-term development of the region, and thus have received positive responses.

We focus on the overall peace and stability in the region, actively participate in the resolution of regional hotspot issues, and are committed to working with neighboring countries to jointly create the regional environment with peace, stability, equality, mutual trust, and cooperation for win-win results. We vigorously promote exchanges and cooperation with neighboring countries in fields such as culture, education, youth-to-youth communication, media and tourism, which has improved mutual understanding and friendly affection with neighboring countries.

As a member of the big Asian family, China and other Asian countries share weal and woe, and form an inseparable community of common destiny. China will, as always, adhere to the policy of bringing harmony, security and prosperity to the neighbors, seeking stability and create prosperity together with other Asian countries.

Journalist: The Conference on the Diplomatic Work with Neighboring Countries set the strategic goals, basic principles and overall arrangement for China’s neighborhood diplomacy for the next five to ten years, and clarified the working thought and implementation plans. How will the Ministry of Foreign Affairs actualize the spirits of the Conference and open up a new situation for neighborhood diplomacy?

Liu Zhenmin: The Conference on the Diplomatic Work with Neighboring Countries is an important conference held by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) to coordinate both domestic and international situations and open up a new vista for the neighborhood diplomacy under the new circumstances. It set strategic goals, basic principles and overall arrangement for China’s neighborhood diplomacy for the next five to ten years, and opened broader prospects for China’s neighborhood diplomacy. With a high level and large scale, the Conference demonstrated the importance the CPC Central Committee attaches to developing good-neighborly relations with neighboring countries and creating a favorable neighboring environment.

The Conference pointed out that the strategic goals of China’s neighborhood diplomacy are to obey and serve the realization of the two "Centenary Goals" and achieve the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation; to comprehensively develop relations with neighboring countries, cement good-neighborliness and deepen mutually beneficial cooperation; to safeguard and make good use of the important period of strategic opportunities for China’s development and uphold national sovereignty, security and development interests; and to strive to grow more friendly political relations, more secure economic ties, deeper security cooperation and closer people-to-people and cultural contacts with neighboring countries. The major policies and principles proposed at the Conference are strategic guidelines for the neighborhood diplomacy in the next period.

We will deeply comprehend and effectively implement the spirits of the Conference on the Diplomatic Work with Neighboring Countries, strengthen communication and exchanges, promote understanding and friendship, and safeguard peace and stability in the neighboring regions; actively participate in regional economic cooperation, accelerate interconnection construction, and promote mutual benefits and win-win results; shoulder the responsibility as a major power, advocate the idea of all-round security, common security and cooperation security, and push forward regional security cooperation; expand non-governmental diplomacy and people-to-people and cultural exchanges, make more friends and form friendship, and spare no effort to create a community of common destiny between China and the neighboring countries.

Journalist: In 2013, the economy of the Asian countries continued to lead the global economy, but risks and challenges were on the rise, and the pressure of maintaining sustainable development builds up. As the largest economy in Asia, what role can China play in promoting sustained momentum of economic growth and carrying out mutually beneficial cooperation in Asia?

Liu Zhenmin: Asia has maintained relatively rapid economic growth in 2013, and is still one of the regions with the most vigor and potential in the world today, serving as a major engine to stimulate the world’s economic recovery and growth. The IMF forecasts that, the economic growth rates of Asia’s emerging economies in this year and the following year are 6.3 percent and 6.5 percent respectively, much higher than the world’s average. Meanwhile, affected by the adjustment of monetary polices in developed countries, the market fluctuation in some countries is aggravated, and the risk of economic downturn in Asia increases. Although China’s economy is also faced with some pressure, China is still a major power with the highest growth rate in the world, playing a crucial role in stabilizing regional economy.

With very close economic and trade relations with other Asian countries, China has become the largest trade partner, largest export market and an important investment source of many Asian countries. China carries out pragmatic cooperation widely with other countries in the region, implements cooperation actively with other Asian countries in fields such as high and new technology, new energy, energy conservation and environment protection, and promotes cooperative projects of industrial parks, ecological parks and economic and trade zones with neighboring countries. The total trade volume between China and the East Asian and South Asian countries from this January to September exceeded 834.3 billion USD, which took up 27.3 percent of China’s total foreign trade volume during the same period. About 70 percent of China’s foreign investment goes to the Asian countries and regions. It is estimated that the contribution rate of China’s economic growth to Asian economic growth has surpassed 50 percent.

China actively promotes regional economic integration. The significant cooperative initiatives put forward by China, such as upgrading the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area, and establishing the Asian currency stability system, Asian credit system and Asian investment and finance cooperation system, have shown China’s active wills in deepening regional cooperation and promoting mutual benefits and win-win results. China actively boosts interconnection, and puts forward a series of major initiatives, such as building the Silk Road Economic Belt, the 21st century Maritime Silk Road, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, and the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor, as well as preparing to establish the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank. With important willingness and eye-catching initiatives, the implementation serves as the key. We will strive to turn the strategic concept of regional cooperation into tangible results that benefit the neighboring countries, and the peoples of China and other Asian countries.

The world, especially other Asian countries, pay close attention to China’s future development. The decision concerning comprehensively deepening reforms was adopted at the third Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee. These reform measures will help China’s economy continue to maintain the momentum of sound development. The domestic demand, especially consumer demand, will expand continuously, while foreign investment will increase substantially. These will bring more opportunities to the cooperation between China and other Asian countries. China will continue to make contributions to Asia’s development and prosperity.

Journalist: Since coming into power, Japan’s Shinzo Abe government has continued to hold tough policies toward China, and Abe paid homage to the Yasukuni Shrine a few days ago. Meanwhile, the Diaoyu Islands Issue remains deadlocked. How do you view the future development of China-Japan relations?

Liu Zhenmin: The China-Japan relations have been beset by continuous, serious difficulties since the Japanese side created the farce of “purchasing” the Diaoyu Islands last year. On December 26, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, going against the tide of history and openly provoking international justice and human conscience, blatantly paid homage to the Yasukuni Shrine where Class-A war criminals of the World War II are consecrated. It erected a new and major political barrier to the China-Japan relations which have already been beset by severe difficulties.

The Abe government strives to push a radical right conservative path with historical revisionism as its core, bringing Japan to a very dangerous direction and bringing about increasingly serious negative effects to the security situation of East Asia. The neighboring countries in Asia and international community should be of high vigilance to resolutely prevent the Japanese right-wing forces from turning the clock back to the backtrack of the history, so as to maintain the hard-won overall situation of peace and stability in East Asia.

We have always advocated developing long-term, sound, and stable China-Japan relations on the basis of the four political documents between China and Japan in the spirit of “taking history as a mirror and looking into the future”. It is imperative that Japan correct its mistakes, stop provocative words and deeds, and make practical efforts to improve the relations between the two countries.

Journalist: Some uncertain factors exist in the security situation in Asia. The DPRK nuclear and other issues are still in stalemate and the future direction of the situation has considerable uncertainty. How will China play its role in maintaining regional peace and stability?

Liu Zhenmin: The overall situation in the Asia-Pacific region is stable, but some hotspot and sensitive issues also exist. China pays high attention to the development of the Korean Peninsula situation and has always been committed to actively promoting peace talks so as to push forward the proper resolution of the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue and to making unremitting efforts to maintain peace and stability on the Peninsula. It is China’s unswerving position to realize denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, maintain peace and stability on the Peninsula, and resolve the issues peacefully through dialogues and consultations. The DPRK nuclear issue is a long-standing and intricate issue. We hope that all relevant parties meet each other halfway, do more things that can enhance trust and ease the situation, and return on the track of dialogue at an early date.

Journalist: In 2013, the situation in South China Sea was obviously eased, and the maritime cooperation between China and the neighboring countries stepped into a new stage. Please brief us on China’s efforts to promote maritime cooperation and relevant achievements.

Liu Zhenmin: Our position has always been that China has indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha Islands and the adjacent waters. The relevant parties’ disputes over some islands and reefs of the Nansha Islands and the demarcation of some waters in the South China Sea should be solved properly and peacefully through negotiations by parties directly involved. Before the settlement of disputes, it is advisable to “shelve disputes and carry out joint development”. To this end, we have made active efforts. In 2013, along with the ASEAN countries, we actively implemented the “Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea” (DOC) and launched the consultation on the formulation of the “Code of Conduct in the South China Sea” (COC) under the framework of the DOC. China has reached important consensuses with Brunei and Vietnam respectively, taking a big step forward on the issue of jointly developing the South China Sea.

Promoting maritime cooperation is in line with the common interests of China and the ASEAN countries, and is also the most effective way to resolve differences and ease conflicts. It is helpful for all parties to accumulate trust and create conditions and atmosphere for the final settlement of the disputes. China is committed to promoting maritime cooperation with the ASEAN countries. During his visit to Indonesia, President Xi Jinping proposed the initiative of building the 21st century “Maritime Silk Road” together with the ASEAN countries for the purpose of further expanding maritime cooperation with the ASEAN countries and promoting common development. We have communicated and coordinated closely with the ASEAN countries, made full use of the China-ASEAN Maritime Cooperation Fund set up by the Chinese government, and determined on a number of maritime cooperation projects. We are willing to work with the ASEAN countries to make the maritime cooperation a new highlight of China-ASEAN mutually beneficial cooperation, benefit peoples of all countries and make the ocean a friendly tie linking China and the Southeast Asian countries.

Journalist: In 2013, China’s neighborhood diplomacy has yielded fruitful results, yet the tasks for the next year are even heavier. Please look forward and brief us on the direction of the diplomatic work in Asia in 2014.

Liu Zhenmin: The year of 2014 will be the beginning year to implement the spirit of the Conference on the Diplomatic Work with Neighboring Countries, and also a year requiring diligent work to carry out the major cooperation initiatives advanced by the state leaders. The diplomatic work in Asia will be more arduous. We will continue our commitment to building good neighborly relationships and partnerships with neighboring countries and bringing harmony, security and prosperity to the neighbors, actively practice the new concept of “closeness, sincerity, sharing in prosperity, and inclusiveness” in neighborhood diplomacy, further enhance political mutual trust with other Asian countries, expand convergence of interests, strengthen exchanges and cooperation, restrain and manage conflicts and disagreements, and jointly foster a peaceful, stable, cooperative and prosperous regional environment.

We will further deepen the good neighborly and friendly relations with other Asian countries. China will host many significant international conferences including the APEC Informal Leadership Meeting, the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia, the Annual Conference of Boao Forum for Asia and the foreign ministers' meeting on the Istanbul Process of the Afghanistan issue. We will make use of these platforms to renew our friendship and talk about our cooperation with the leaders of other Asian countries. We will adhere to the new security perspective of mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality and cooperation, play a constructive role more actively in regional hotspot issues, restrain and manage disagreements with relevant countries, and maintain regional peace and stability.

We will further expand the convergence of interests with other Asian countries. China will continue to implement the open strategy of mutual benefit and win-win results, vigorously push forward pragmatic cooperation with other Asian countries, accelerate the steps of interconnection construction and maritime cooperation, and promote the building of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st century Maritime Silk Road. We will actively participate in regional cooperation, establish an upgraded version of the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area, and implement the initiatives concerning China-ASEAN “2+7” cooperation framework, China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, and Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor. We will push forward the negotiations on free trade agreements (FTAs) such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), China-ROK FTA and China-Japan-ROK FTA, so as to continuously promote regional economic integration.

We will further strengthen people-to-people and cultural exchanges with other Asian countries. The year of 2014 is the Year of Friendly Exchange between China and the ASEAN, Mongolia, India and other countries. China, India and Myanmar will commemorate together the 60th anniversary of the release of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence. We will explore various channels to expand personnel exchanges, enhance the construction of Chinese Culture Centers and Confucius Institutes (Classes), promote understanding and friendship among the peoples, expand and deepen exchanges and cooperation with other countries in fields such as education, culture, tourism, media and think tanks, and compose a new chapter of people-to-people and cultural exchanges.

The year of 2014 will be a promising year for China’s neighborhood diplomacy. We will follow the guidance of the spirits of the third Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee and the Conference on the Diplomatic Work with Neighboring Countries, face up to the difficulties, forge ahead with determination, and do all the work well in neighborhood diplomacy with great efforts, so as to well maintain national sovereignty, security and development interests, better serve the interests of the motherland and the people, and make greater contributions to the stability and development in Asia.

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