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Southeast Asia an important base for ‘Belt and Road’: HK scholar

Updated: Aug 3,2015 8:50 AM     Xinhua

KUALA LUMPUR — Southeast Asia is an important base for the China-proposed Belt and Road initiative, and the upcoming establishment of the ASEAN Community will benefit both the bloc and its partners including China, a Hong Kong scholar said.

Ding Xueliang, a politics expert at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, said in an interview with Xinhua ahead of the 48th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM) that ASEAN’s community building is of great significance to the Belt and Road Initiative, especially the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road which sees Southeast Asia as a starting point.

The ten-member Southeast Asian bloc is looking to build an ASEAN Community by the end of this year, which involves a plan to create a common economic, political-security and socio-cultural region.

This will deepen ASEAN’s cooperation with China, as community building will help the region solve differences in economic development and legal systems between its members and thus facilitate cooperation with its partners, said Ding.

There is huge potential for China and ASEAN countries to cooperate in infrastructure construction and cross-border trade cooperation, he added, noting that the Chinese communities in Southeast Asian countries who are active in trade and entrepreneurship can be a strong support.

The Belt and Road Initiative, proposed by China in 2013, is a trade and infrastructure network that includes the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road to connect Asia, Europe and Africa.

Ding particularly mentioned that booming cross-border trade would make Southeast Asia a perfect market for China to promote the internationalization of RMB, which also provides opportunities for China and ASEAN to work together in the financial field.

The 48th AMM is set to kick off in Kuala Lumpur on Aug 4, drawing foreign ministers and representatives from the 10 Southeast Asian countries and ASEAN’s dialogue partners including China and the United States. The establishment of the ASEAN Community and ASEAN’ s post-2015 Vision will be discussed at the meeting, among other regional issues.

ASEAN, established in 1967, comprises 10 Southeast Asian countries — Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.