by: Mr. Ovais Ali Khokhar, Chairman, Board of Experts, Pakistan Research Center for a Community with Shared Future (PRCCSF), Islamabad:
China and ASEAN Forge Strong Ties Across Economic, Strategic, and Defense Fronts: Beijing, Date – In a testament to the enduring and robust relationship between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the two entities continue to strengthen ties across various domains, ranging from economic collaboration to strategic and defense partnerships.
Economic Integration: China’s engagement with ASEAN has evolved into a multifaceted collaboration, with a particular focus on strategic and economic development. Over the past three decades, the economic cooperation between China and ASEAN member states has flourished, resulting in significant economic growth for both parties. China has emerged as ASEAN’s leading trading partner, surpassing Japan, the USA, and the European Union.
The dialogue between the two sides extends beyond economics, encompassing people-to-people connectivity, increased leadership exchanges, and visits. China’s keen interest in interacting with ASEAN counterparts at various levels has fostered a comprehensive and mutually beneficial partnership.
Defense Cooperation: China’s involvement in ASEAN defense activities has deepened since the early 2000s. Collaborative efforts led to the establishment of the ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting Plus (ADMM-Plus) in 2010. China and ASEAN have organized joint military exercises, including maritime exercises in the Southern Zhanjiang city of China. The establishment of a comprehensive strategic partnership in 2021 underscores the commitment to defense cooperation, further solidified by the 13th informal meeting of Defense Ministers in June 2022.
Recent joint multinational military exercises, such as the Aman Youvi exercises, demonstrate positive signs of peace in the region, with participation from Southeast Asian nations.
Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) Projects: China’s engagement with ASEAN extends to infrastructure development under the Belt and Road Initiative. Highways, roads, and railways projects in Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, and other ASEAN countries promote regional connectivity and economic development. Notable projects include the Bandung-Jakarta high-speed railway in Indonesia, the East Coast Rail link in Malaysia, and the Malacca port project in Singapore.
BRI projects contribute not only to regional connectivity but also provide employment opportunities, promote education, and enhance the skills of locals. These initiatives solidify China’s position as the largest trading partner of ASEAN.
Conclusion: The rich history of diplomatic ties between China and ASEAN has evolved into a comprehensive collaboration that spans economic, strategic, and defense dimensions. The enduring relationship, marked by sustained cooperation and shared interests, contributes to regional security, stability, and prosperity. As both sides continue to foster a win-win situation, the China-ASEAN partnership remains a cornerstone for peace and economic development in the Asia-Pacific region.