30 years later, China and ASEAN strengthen all-round cooperation

NANNING, Sept. 11 (Xinhua) – This is the eighth consecutive year that Malaysian entrepreneur Chai Kean King has participated in the annual China-ASEAN Expo to expand its business in China.

For this year’s exhibition, which opened in southern China’s Nanning city on Friday, Chai brought bird nests, coffee and other Malaysian specialty products made by his company. food, in the hope of captivating visitors to the exhibition and finding more business partners.

Companies from more than 40 countries and regions are participating in this year’s China-ASEAN Expo, which is held both online and offline and has a total exhibition area of ​​102,000 square meters.

For Chai, attending the show for eight consecutive years has not always been easy. Last year, he traveled from Malaysia to China to participate in the event despite travel restrictions and quarantine measures induced by COVID-19.

“We spared no effort to attend last year’s show because we found a lot of our business partners at the event,” he said. “We have sold a lot of our products in previous editions of the exhibition and have further exploited the Chinese market through this platform.”

Chai’s growing business in China reflects the boom in trade and the strong bilateral relationship between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) over the past decades.

Since China and ASEAN established a dialogue relationship in 1991, the two sides have seen their bilateral trade skyrocket from US $ 8.36 billion to US $ 685.28 billion in 2020, an increase more than 80 times, according to Chinese customs data.

The two sides resisted the global downtrend and last year became each other’s biggest trading partners. Such robust trade expansion continued in 2021, with bilateral trade volume growing 38.2% year-on-year in the first half of this year, according to official Chinese data.

In addition to trade and economic cooperation, China and ASEAN have engaged in extensive cooperation in various other fields, including security, education and tourism, in order to preserve regional stability and promote development and prosperity. common.

Official data from China shows that personnel exchanges between the two sides exceeded 65 million in 2019 before the COVID-19 attack. They exchanged more than 200,000 students and formed more than 200 pairs of sister cities.

The China-ASEAN dialogue relationship has “evolved into a multi-faceted strategic partnership and has shown tremendous progress on all fronts,” ASEAN Secretary General Dato Lim Jock Hoi said on Friday by video during the meeting. opening ceremony of the 18th China-ASEAN Expo. .

Amid the still raging pandemic and the rise of protectionism and unilateralism around the world, China-ASEAN relations have been further strengthened through comprehensive cooperation on the prevention and control of COVID-19, the commerce and other fields.

ASEAN countries donated medical supplies to support China amid peak epidemic conditions last year, and China returned the favor by sending in medical teams, providing medical supplies, sharing prevention and treatment experiences and strengthening vaccine cooperation.

As China and ASEAN mark the 30th anniversary of their dialogue relationship this year, the two sides envision closer ties and comprehensive collaboration in more areas.

Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan said at the opening ceremony of the China-ASEAN Expo on Friday that “China is committed to promoting better development of bilateral relations over the next 30 years.”

China is willing to work with ASEAN to align the Belt and Road Initiative with the development strategies of ASEAN countries to jointly foster higher-level strategic partnership and expand cooperation economic and trade, while promoting regional connectivity and economic integration, in order to improve the well-being of the people, Wang said.

In a video speech at the ceremony, Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said he expected the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) “to serve as an integral tool to guide our region on the path to recovery. recovery and growth in the near future ”.

RCEP, the world’s largest free trade agreement, was signed last year by 15 Asia-Pacific countries, including the 10 ASEAN member states and China. It is widely seen as a massive movement for regional economic integration, multilateralism and free trade.

“This agreement (RCEP) offers immense opportunities to strengthen regional supply chains and businesses to diversify production networks which are imperative for seamless integration into the global economy,” said Ismail Sabri.

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