Speech at the 12th East Asia Summit
H.E. Li Keqiang, Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China
Manila, 14 November 2017
We live in a time of great progress, huge change and major adjustment. Peace and development remain the prevailing trend, yet the world still faces enormous uncertainties and destabilizing factors. World economic recovery remains fragile; economic globalization and regional integration are encountering headwinds; regional hotspots flare up one after another; and non-traditional security threats such as terrorism keep rising. It is against this background that East Asia has emerged as an important engine for global growth and a leading force for international cooperation. This has not come without an effort and must not be taken for granted. The achievement of our region is attributable to the common efforts of regional countries to grow the economy and improve people’s lives, to the East Asian cultural traits of mutual accommodation and mutual learning, and to our shared commitment to a harmonious and prosperous Asia.
Peace and stability in East Asia have not come easily and should be cherished. East Asian countries suffered greatly from wars and conflicts in history, thus what our people want the most is peace and stability. Over the years, despite the differences in social system, development stage and basic national conditions, countries in the region have embraced the spirit of seeking common ground while shelving and overcoming differences. We all believe in properly tackling differences and frictions through dialogue and consultation and enhancing good-neighborliness and political mutual trust, and have identified a path of peaceful coexistence with East Asian features. We have all benefited from the hard-won peace and stability in our region, and we must work together to firmly uphold and actively contribute to the peace and stability in our region.
The economic success of East Asia has not come easily and should be further built upon with great vigor. Recent centuries have seen East Asian countries miss too many opportunities for self-enhancement through unity and for national development and rejuvenation. With tremendous efforts, we have found a path of development that suits our own realities and created the East Asian miracle, which increased our weight in the world economic landscape and transformed the destiny of our countries and peoples. We all have the duty to sustain this sound momentum, and meet challenges with mutual help. While pursuing our own interests and development, we also need to accommodate the interests of others and work for common development. This will deliver more benefits to the over two billion people in our region and inject a strong impetus into global growth.
Regional integration in East Asia has not come easily and should be taken forward continuously. In keeping with the trend of economic globalization and regional integration, countries in the region have over the years vigorously pursued trade and investment liberalization and facilitation. An ASEAN-centered regional cooperation architecture with the broad participation of other regional countries has been established. A variety of bilateral and multilateral free trade arrangements have prospered. East Asia now stands as a leading advocate of regional integration. We must uphold this open, inclusive and win-win spirit, follow the trend of the world, pursue opening-up and cooperation at a higher level and work toward an early establishment of an East Asia Economic Community.
Since its inception 12 years ago, the East Asia Summit has, with its commitment to regional development, security and stability, grown into an important platform for dialogue and cooperation for countries from within and outside the region. We should maintain the nature of the EAS as a “leaders-led strategic forum”, uphold ASEAN centrality, and advance economic development and political and security cooperation in parallel, as the two wheels driving EAS forward. We need to keep to the right direction, enhance overall planning and improve institution building to bring about sound and sustained development of the EAS. I wish to make the following six-point proposal for our future cooperation.
First, speed up regional integration. China hopes to enhance the synergy between the Belt and Road Initiative and the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity 2025, and deliver the benefits of the upgraded China-ASEAN Free Trade Area at a faster pace. We will work with relevant parties for early conclusion of the negotiations on the China-Japan-ROK Free Trade Area and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
Second, promote sustainable development. To implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, China, the Philippines and Lao PDR co-sponsored the EAS Leaders’ Statement on Cooperation in Poverty Alleviation. China will host a seminar on environment and resources management, and continue to hold the Clean Energy Forum and New Energy Forum. China is ready to step up maritime dialogue and cooperation with other parties under the EAS framework, and will host seminars on maritime management and microplastics in the sea.
Third, advance social development. China highly values its cooperation in health, education and other fields with EAS members. We will actively consider hosting cooperation programs on tumor prevention and control and the special food regulation, and continue to advance cultural and people-to-people exchanges and cooperation such as technical and vocational education and training.
Fourth, jointly tackle non-traditional security threats. China supports the EAS leaders in issuing a statement on counter-terrorism cooperation and commends the Philippine government in its effort to fight terrorists. China is ready to enhance counter-terrorism dialogue and cooperation with other parties to jointly uphold regional security and stability. China will continue to support the UN agency in hosting the EAS Exercise on Earthquake Emergency Search and Rescue.
Fifth, develop new approaches to security. We need to advocate and follow a common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security concept and work for win-win security. The white paper on China’s Policies on Asia-Pacific Security Cooperation published earlier this year laid out in full China’s new security concept, and demonstrated China’s positive approach to regional security cooperation. We call upon various parties to properly handle hotspot and sensitive issues and settle differences through dialogue and consultation.
Sixth, improve regional security architecture. We need to improve our approach to regional security governance to tackle security challenges. China supports continued discussion on a regional security architecture. We propose that a joint study be conducted by regional countries on improving the Asia-Pacific security architecture.
A peaceful South China Sea is a blessing for all countries, whereas turbulence serves no one’s interests. China, as the biggest littoral state and a main user of the shipping lanes in the South China Sea, hopes to see peace, stability and freedom of navigation and overflight there more than any other country.
With the joint efforts of China and ASEAN countries, the situation in the South China Sea has notably eased and is showing a positive momentum. The relevant parties have come back to the right track of resolving disputes through consultation and negotiation and improved their relations with countries concerned.
In particular, China and ASEAN countries have been fully and effectively implementing the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), and agreed on the framework of a Code of Conduct (COC) last May. Yesterday, ASEAN leaders and I announced the commencement of the next-step consultations on the COC text. Such progress is indeed heartening. It speaks volumes about the shared desire of regional countries to properly handle differences through dialogue and consultation for peace and stability in the South China Sea. It also fully demonstrates that regional countries have the confidence, wisdom and ability to properly address the South China Sea issue and make the South China Sea a sea of peace, friendship and cooperation.
Going forward, China will continue to work with ASEAN countries to fully and effectively implement the DOC, deepen maritime cooperation and actively pursue the COC consultation, for the early conclusion of the COC on the basis of consensus. We hope non-littoral countries will respect the efforts of regional countries to this end.
The 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China held last month has clearly articulated China’s firm commitment to peaceful development and to the development of friendship and cooperation with all other countries on the basis of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence. It has also called for vigorous promotion of international cooperation on the Belt and Road Initiative, continued participation by China in the reform and development of the global governance system, and efforts to forge a new form of international relations featuring mutual respect, fairness, justice and win-win cooperation, with a view to building a community of shared future for mankind.
These policies and objectives can be implemented in Asia, China’s neighborhood, first and foremost. In keeping with the principle of amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness, China will continue to implement the policy of building friendship and partnership with its neighbors and the win-win strategy of opening-up, and pursue its own development and security in the broader context of promoting development and security for all in the region. China’s development will only bring opportunities for the development and prosperity of East Asia and the world, and will not pose a threat to any country. China wishes to work with all other EAS members to uphold the good momentum of regional peace, development and cooperation, advance the building of the East Asia Economic Community, and open new prospects for East Asian cooperation and development.