Commentary: China, ASEAN sail together toward epicentrum of growth

(Xinhua) 15:27, September 09, 2023

JAKARTA, Sept. 8 (Xinhua) -- As the global economy grapples with slow demand, high inflation and severe fragmentation, China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are sailing together toward epicentrum of growth.

During the 26th China-ASEAN Summit, which took place Wednesday in Jakarta, Indonesia, China pledged to further enhance cooperation with ASEAN countries in fields including science and technology, agriculture as well as people-to-people exchanges.

The summit, together with related events held under the theme "epicentrum of growth," has drawn global attention to a trend too eminent to ignore: the future of growth is in Asia.

As the world's second largest economy, China is expected to contribute over 30 percent of global growth this year, the International Monetary Fund predicted. ASEAN's combined GDP, currently the fifth largest in the world, is also on track for faster growth with a burgeoning digital economy adding to the momentum.

Sailing together, China and ASEAN will be an important force to stabilize global supply chains at this turbulent time and provide new impetus to post-pandemic global recovery.

Zhai Kun, deputy dean of the Institute of Area Studies of Peking University, said the long cooperative list between the two sides includes infrastructure construction on the land, the sea and in the sky, as well as transition of new energy, digital economy and cross-border E-commerce, among others.

One of the key areas of future growth is green energy. ASEAN's transition to green energy has fueled an electric vehicle (EV) boom in its member countries, with EV sales in the region soaring by almost 10 times year on year in the first quarter of this year, market data showed.

As a global leader in EV production, Chinese carmakers are gaining increasing presence in ASEAN countries, helping reduce carbon emissions while facilitating local industrial upgrade. During the summits in Jakarta, China pledged support for ASEAN countries in the development of a regional EV ecosystem, a move expected to speed up the region's energy transition.

More momentum is set to be unleashed as China and ASEAN aim for more concrete actions, under the initiatives such as the Belt and Road Initiative and an updated version of bilateral free trade agreement currently under negotiation.

Nevertheless, the journey is far from smooth sailing. Major Western powers including the United States are increasingly imposing their influence and interests in the region, putting forward so-called economic initiatives which have divided ASEAN.

These attempts lack sincerity and honesty which are crucial to any relationship: trust can only be built through mutual understanding and win-win cooperation, rather than by courting allies with various means but only for self-interest.

Being well aware of the various challenges ASEAN is facing, Indonesian President Joko Widodo urged global solidarity to tide over the difficult times.

"Although we have to sail in high waves, we as state leaders of ASEAN must ensure that our ship can keep sailing well, drive it toward peace, stability and prosperity," Widodo said during the ASEAN Summit.

As a close cooperative partner of ASEAN, China has always been respecting ASEAN's central role in the region, and getting closer with all ASEAN countries and sharing common interests, said Zhai.

Trilateral cooperation among China, ASEAN and the United States should be enhanced within the frameworks of the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific and the East Asia Summit, so as to make ASEAN countries beneficiaries of the China-U.S. relationship, he added.

Not far away from the Jakarta convention center, where ASEAN leaders gathered, a high-speed railway jointly constructed by China and Indonesia is about to see trains run at full steam.

The Jakarta-Bandung high-speed railway heralds more concrete cooperation between China and ASEAN. On the journey toward common prosperity, ASEAN will find China a reliable partner.

(Web editor: Zhong Wenxing, Sheng Chuyi)


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