Thu, 02 Oct 2003

'ASEAN one of China's most important partner'

Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao will attend next week's Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Bali, along with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun and Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. The following is an excerpt of an interview with the Chinese envoy to Indonesia Lu Shumin, who talked to The Jakarta Post's Kornelius Purba.

Question:China's economy continues to grow and to attract foreign direct investment (FDI) from industrialized countries, including Japan. Meanwhile, ASEAN countries are facing decreasing levels of FDI. What is China now doing and will do to help the economies of ASEAN member states so that the two parties can grow together?

Answer: As the world's largest developing country, the fact that China has been able to maintain its economic development and constantly increase its people's living standards is a significant contribution to the region and the world.

China's development not only provides a huge market for Southeast Asia, but also promotes the sound development of the regional economy, facilitates the economic cooperation and integration of the region and strengthens the capability of the regional economy against risks.

China and ASEAN enjoy broad common interests in strengthening regional cooperation and promoting peace and development in the region ... The new Chinese leadership has emphasized that China will more actively participate in regional cooperation to achieve common development with neighboring countries.

China has become an important driving force for the regional cooperative mechanisms, such as ASEAN + China + Japan + South Korea (10+3) and the Asia Cooperation Dialog. China will continue to support the gradual establishment of a sound regional framework of trade and investment, and the ultimate goal of the free flow of commodities, people, technologies and information. These mechanisms of cooperation should develop hand in hand with each other.

Over the past 10 years or so, the relationship between China and ASEAN has developed rapidly from an overall dialog partnership to the forging of a partnership of good- neighborliness and mutual trust.

In 2002, China and ASEAN signed the Framework Agreement on Comprehensive Economic Cooperation, and launched the negotiation process for the Free Trade Area. This October, during the ASEAN 10+3 and 10+1 (India) summit which Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao will attend, China will officially join the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC).

With China's accession to the TAC, relations between China and ASEAN members will be further and fully developed.

What are the opportunities and problems faced by ASEAN and China in increasing their economic cooperation?

China and ASEAN are geographically close to each other, which constitutes a geographical advantage for developing the economic and trade cooperation between them. Enjoying good political relations, a solid foundation for developing economic and trade cooperation, the two sides have mutual needs for each other's products, since their economies are strongly complementary.

Sino-ASEAN economic cooperation has a promising future.

First, China's accession to WTO and the establishment of the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) have laid a sound foundation for the free flow of both sides' commodities and services.

Second, China is carrying out the strategies of "developing the western region of China" and "going out", which will open new prospects for expanding Sino-ASEAN two-way investment and cooperation.

Third, the rapid development of tourism between China and ASEAN has not only promoted the mutual understanding of their peoples, but also has helped the economic development of all parties.

Fourth, China's active participation, support and promotion of Southeast Asian regional economic cooperation will create more favorable factors for its economic cooperation with ASEAN members. Fifth, the launch of negotiations for the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area will give new impetus to the development of bilateral trade relations.

China has expressed interest in jointly exploring natural resources in the Spratly Islands with ASEAN members. What is China's latest position on the Spratly problem?

The Chinese government has always stood for negotiated settlements of international disputes through peaceful means. No party should take actions that will lead to tension in the region. This stance also applies to the case of the Nansha (Spratly) Islands. China has put forward the proposition of "shelving disputes and going in for joint development".

China is ready to put aside the dispute for the time being and cooperate with the countries concerned pending a settlement of the dispute.

Last November, the leaders of China and ASEAN members signed the Declaration of Conduct in the South China Sea, and reached consensus on the peaceful settlement of differences, joint maintenance of regional stability and cooperation in the South China Sea ...

What is your impression of Indonesia's Chinese-Indonesian community?

As members of Indonesia's multiethnic family, Chinese- Indonesians have long made due contributions to Indonesia's social development and economic prosperity. They should enjoy equally the same rights as other members of the country. Their personal safety and legal rights should be protected by the Indonesian government.

However, many of them still have close ties with relatives and friends in China. So it is natural and normal for the Chinese government and people to be concerned about their livelihood in Indonesia.

Therefore, the appropriate treatment of Chinese-Indonesians will not only serve the interests of Indonesia's long-term stability, but also will be conducive to the smooth development of friendly and cooperative relations between China and Indonesia.

We are pleased to note that there have been fundamental changes to the Indonesian government's policies toward Chinese- Indonesians. We also hope that Chinese-Indonesians will further merge into the mainstream of Indonesian society, and make still greater contributions to Indonesia's social and economic development, as well as to Sino-Indonesia friendly relations.

How should the two countries work together to improve their economies?

The Chinese government has always attached great importance to its friendly relations and cooperation with Indonesia. In order to deepen the friendly exchanges in various fields, further efforts should be made in the following aspects:

First, maintain top-level contacts and exchanges. We should promote friendly exchanges between government agencies, parliaments, political parties, military and non-governmental organizations.

Second, further expand trade and economic cooperation so as to further consolidate the foundation of our bilateral relations. There is great potential for cooperation in the fields of energy, communications, electric power, agriculture and infrastructure.

Third, strengthen cooperation in the sectors of culture, education and tourism.

Fourth, strengthen cooperation in the international and regional arenas, joining efforts to safeguard the legitimate rights of developing countries.

What is China's position on the detention of Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi?

Myanmar is China's friendly neighbor. China and Myanmar have long enjoyed a good relationship. The Chinese government follows closely developments in the situation in Myanmar. What has happened in Myanmar is a matter between the Myanmar government and the opposition, and it is Myanmar's internal affair.

China believes that the people of Myanmar are capable of handling the issue, maintaining social stability and economic development, so as to benefit themselves and the region.