ASEAN and China

February 24, 2012 Edited by He Shan

All the ASEAN member countries are China's friendly close neighbors and have traditional friendly exchanges with China. China and all the ASEAN countries established diplomatic relations in 1991. The recent years have witnessed the rapid development in the relationship of friendly cooperation between China and ASEAN, which has kept a good momentum.

【Close Political Relations】

In July 1991, Qian Qichen, Chinese Foreign Minister was invited as a guest of the host country to attend the Post Ministerial Meeting(PMC) for the first time. In 1996, the status of China as a consultative dialogue partner of ASEAN was elevated to that of a full dialogue partner. In December 1997, President Jiang Zemin and ASEAN leaders held their first ever summit and issued a joint statement, in which they announced their decision to establish a 21st century-oriented partnership of good neighborliness and mutual trust between China and ASEAN. The joint statement charts the future course and sets a framework for the all-round and in-depth development of relations between the two sides. Later on, China and the ASEAN countries signed or issued action plans of the 21st century-oriented cooperation and hopes to further develop the future relationship of mutual benefit and cooperation with all the ASEAN member countries.

On country to country level, the exchange of high-level contacts between China and ASEAN has been frequent and the dialogue and cooperation on various fields have developed in full scale. President Jiang Zemin paid the state visits to Cambodia, the Laos and Brunei in 2000. Vice-President Hu Jintao had frienly visits to Burma, Thailand and Indonesia. Singapore President, Philippine President, Vietnam's Chairman, Speaker and Premier and the Lao's Chairman visited China. In 2001, President Jiang Zemin, Chairman of Chinese People's Congress (NPC) Li Peng, Premier Zhu Rongji, Chairman Li Ruihuan, Vice President visited Myanmar, Combodia, Brunei, Tailand, Indonesia, Singapore and Vietnam. Malaysian Prime Minister Dato' Seri Dr. Mahathir, supreme head of state Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah, Singporean President S.R. Nathan, Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew, Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong , Nong Duc Manh, General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Vietnam, Philippine President Arroyo, Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra ,Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei, and Vietnamese Prime Minister Phan Van Khai visited China or attended APEC meetings in China in succession.

ASEAN is an extremely active regional organization which has exerted unique influences in the affairs of this region. In recent years, China and ASEAN have supported each other and established good relationship in jointly defending the interests of developing countries at APEC, the informal summit (of East Asia), the ASEAN Regional Forum(ARF), the Asian-Europe Meeting (ASEM), the United Nations as well as other international and regional organizations and conferences, which has played an active role in promoting mutual understanding and trust, safeguarding regional peace and development among countries in this region.

【Economic and Trade Cooperation】

China and ASEAN started their dialogue in 1991. With their economic links becoming closer, their trade volume jumped from 6.3 billion U.S. dollars in 1991 to 18.44 billion dollars in 1995 and more than 20 billion dollars in 1996.

In December 1997, leaders of the two sides issued a joint declaration at the first China-ASEAN summit in Kuala Lumpur, establishing guidelines and common policies to build their relationship in the 21st century.

Bilateral trade volume continued to grow, registering 27.2 billion dollars in 1999, 39.52 billion dollars in 2000, more than 40 billion dollars in 2001.

China and ASEAN signed the Framework Agreement on Comprehensive Economic Cooperation in November 2002, with the aim of establishing a China-ASEAN free trade zone by 2010.

In November 2004, China and ASEAN signed a free trade goods agreement and dispute settlement agreement at the eighth China-ASEAN Summit in Vientiane, capital of the Laos.

In the same year, bilateral trade reached a record 105.9 billion dollars, exceeding the 100-billion-dollar target a year ahead of schedule.

The two sides began reducing tariffs at the start of 2005. In that year, their trade topped 130 billion dollars, more than 15 times the 1991 total.

In 2007, their trade reached a new high, registering 202.6 billion dollars. Last year, it grew to 231.12 billion, maintaining14 percent growth despite the global financial crisis.

So far, China has become the third largest trading partner of ASEAN, while ASEAN has become the fourth largest of China.

The China-ASEAN free trade agreement, covering a combined population of 1.9 billion and a combined gross domestic product close to 6 trillion dollars, is the world's third largest free trade area.

The free trade area incorporates China and Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

【Cooperative Mechenism】

With the further development of Sino-ASEAN relations, bilateral cooperative mechnisem established and improved and had formed the multi-field and multi-level cooperative framework.

1. Summit. From 1997 the leaders of China and ASEAN held 10+1 Summit during the 10+3 Summit annualy. The first 10+1 Summit was held in Kuala lumpur and both leaders issued the joint statement of establishing the partnership relations oriented toward 21 century on the basis of good neighbourhood and mutual trust. Later on the second, third and fourth summit was held in Hanoi, Manila and Singapore. From the fourth summit, it was renamed as China-ASEAN Summit. The fifth meeting was held in Brunei in November 2001 . Leaders of both sides decided to establish China-ASEAN Free Trade Zone within 10 years, and identified agriculture, information industry, human resources exploration and the Mekong River development as key fields of bilateral cooperation in the beginning of the new century.

2. Foreign Ministers' Conference. From 1991 foreign ministers of China and ASEAN countries met every year to exchange views on Sino-ASEAN relations and issues of common interest. From 1997 the foreign ministers' meeting also made preparation for the Summit at the end of the year.

3.Five Working Parallel Mechanisms as follows:

A.ASEAN-China Senior Officials Political Consultations.By 1999 five rounds of China-ASEAN Senior Officials Political Consultations have been convened, in which both China and ASEAN briefed to each other the latest development on major issues such as political, diplomatic situation in their respective countries and relationship between big powers and strengthened their cooperation and coordination. As a result, China has enhanced mutual understanding and trust with ASEAN in the political and security fields.

B. the ASEAN-China Joint Cooperation Committee (ACJCC) which was formed In February 1997. The establishment aimed at promoting the coordination and development of bilateral cooperation in various fields and mainly focused at the cooperation of human resources development, personnel and cultural exchanges. In 1997, China provided 700 thousand US$ to set up China-ASEAN Cooperative Fund so as to clarify the cooperation projects. In 2000, China provided again 5 million US$ for the Fund to human resources development. The Fund has exerted good result by assistting a dozen of cooperation projects.

C.China-ASEAN Joint Committee on Economic and Trade Cooperation(ACJCETC). When Secretary General of ASEAN visited China in 1993, the two sides agreed to establish ACJCETC and officially established in July 1994 through exchange of notes. ACJCETC mainly exchanges views on international and regional economic issues and discusses how to put forward bilateral trade and investment cooperation. Three meetings had held in Jakarta, Beijing and Kuala Lumpur in Aug. 1995, Sep. 1997 and Mar. 2001 respectively. The third meeting declared to establish China-ASEAN Economic Cooperation Expert Panell which will do research on how to promote bilateral economic ties and to provide trade and investment convenience.

D.China-ASEAN Joint Committee on Science and Technology(ACJCST). When Secretary General of ASEAN visited China in 1993, the two sides agreed to establish ACJCST and officially established in July 1994 through exchange of notes. ACJCST hold the first meeting in Brunei in March 1995 and the second meeting in Hainan, China in October 2001. At this meeting, functional food, ocean technology and tropical life resources exploration were identified as key fields of the next- stage bilateral cooperation..

E.ASEAN Committee in Beijing(ACB).ACB was established by the then ASEAN Heads of Missions in Beijing in 1996. Now ACB consistes of 10 ASEAN ambassadors in Beijing and the chairperson is in rotary half an year.

In 2001, China and ASEAN established a new cooperative mechnism,that is China-ASEAN Trade Council. China Council for the Promotion of International Trade signed memorandum with ASEAN Trade Council and both sides agreed to establish China-ASEAN Trade Council. Because of the impact of Asian Financial Crisis, the Council did not establish until Nov. 2001 when Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji visited Indonesia and unveiled the inauguration ceremony of the Council together with Indonesian President which also marked the official starting of the Council.