Speech by H.E. Li Keqiang
Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China
At the 13th East Asia Summit
Singapore, 15 November 2018
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong,
It gives me great pleasure to join you in the Lion City. I wish to thank the Singapore government for its thoughtful arrangements for our summit.
Singapore, one of the most developed countries in Asia, stands as a fine example of mutual cultural convergence between the East and the West by retaining its rich traditional heritage of the East and embracing advanced Western ideas and technologies at the same time. The spirit of openness and inclusiveness that Singapore espouses is also an important feature of the East Asia Summit (EAS), which, over the past 13 years, has become a significant platform for dialogue and cooperation and played a substantial role in enhancing understanding and trust among participating countries and promoting development and prosperity in the region.
The international political and economic landscape has been undergoing profound adjustments. Uncertainties and destabilizing factors have been on the increase, from weak global growth, rising unilateralism and protectionism, backlash against economic globalization, to regional hotspots coupled with terrorism and other non-traditional security threats. The pursuit of peace and development remains a daunting task. In such a global context, East Asia has kept overall stability and remained a most robustly growing region and a most attractive investment destination. This has been the result of both the perseverance and enterprise of countries in the region and their joint endeavors to promote mutually beneficial cooperation and seek common ground while shelving differences. Such hard-won accomplishments need to be cherished. With a renewed commitment to amicable co-existence and win-win cooperation, we will step up consultation and dialogue and pursue greater opening-up and progress in East Asia. Together, we will strive to be a vigorous facilitator of peace and stability in East Asia, leading contributor to economic prosperity, and powerful locomotive for regional cooperation.
East Asian cooperation has come a long way in recent years. We have seen ASEAN Communities being established, frameworks such ASEAN Plus One, ASEAN Plus Three and Lancang-Mekong cooperation producing fruitful results, and growing momentum of trade and investment and integrated development in the region. EAS participating countries need to seize such precious opportunities to advance cooperation in priority areas and inject fresh impetus to East Asian cooperation. We should maintain the nature of EAS as a “leaders-led strategic forum” focusing on East Asia and on development, uphold ASEAN centrality, and advance economic development and political and security cooperation in parallel as the two wheels driving EAS forward. In this connection, I wish to make the following points.
First, we need to uphold multilateralism. In today’s world where the interests and future of countries are interconnected, only by committing to multilateralism, mutual respect and consultations on an equal footing, playing by the rules and working with one another can we effectively tackle global challenges and promote common development in the region. It was the spirit of solidarity and mutual assistance that helped us overcome the Asian and international financial crises. This same spirit of multilateralism will again be vital to our efforts to prevail over the daunting challenges today. As an advocate for upholding the international order and multilateralism, China calls for the building of a new type of international relations featuring mutual respect, fairness, justice and win-win cooperation and a community with a shared future for mankind. China will work with other countries to safeguard the rules-based international order, unswervingly pursue friendship and cooperation with our East Asian neighbors, and promote security based on rules and development through cooperation. This way, we will do our part for peace and prosperity in the region.
Second, we need to promote free trade. Free trade is a vital pillar of the modern economy and bedrock for national development and prosperity. As the global industrial, supply and value chains continue to develop, countries around the world are seeing their economies mutually interlinked and integrated. In such an interdependent relationship, any attempt to close doors and raise barriers will only backfire. Greater market openness and collaboration through division of labor is the right way to achieve win-win results. We need to focus our efforts on building an open world economy, supporting the multilateral trading system centered around the WTO, advance trade and investment liberalization and facilitation and promote steady growth of the world economy. In making necessary adjustments to improve the existing WTO rules, parties should adhere to the general direction of free trade, and see to it that the adjustments will fully accommodate the interests and concerns of all players and help narrow the North-South gap.
Third, we need to accelerate regional economic integration. Over the past 70 years and more since the end of the World War II, Asia has achieved progress and prosperity thanks to economic globalization and opening-up and cooperation among countries in the region. For East Asia to keep its role as a main engine for global growth and realize a higher level of development, economic integration would be a natural choice. Regional free trade arrangements have picked up pace. ASEAN has established the AEC. China, Japan and the ROK have all established free trade areas with ASEAN. China and ASEAN have completed negotiations to upgrade their FTA. Positive steps have been taken in developing an East Asia Economic Community. The RCEP is the biggest free trade agreement in East Asia that meets the development needs of its extensive membership. At this crucial moment, what is needed is political resolve to conclude the negotiations as quickly as possible to deliver early benefits to people and businesses in the region. China holds an open attitude toward the CPTPP and hopes that when effective, it will be conducive to East Asian cooperation and inclusive development.
Fourth, we need to advance regional cooperation for sustainable development. Development remains the top priority of East Asian countries, many of whom are developing countries in need of sustained attention to and greater investment in people’s wellbeing. This year, China has implemented cooperation projects in such areas as environment and resource management, clean energy, tumor prevention and control and special food. Continued efforts are needed to follow through on the Manila Plan of Action, advance cooperation in the six priority areas, namely, energy, education, finance, public health, environmental protection and disaster management, and ASEAN connectivity. Exchanges and cooperation on food security and poverty reduction need to be stepped up. The Statement on ASEAN Smart Cities co-sponsored by Singapore and China will facilitate innovation cooperation among countries in the region. China will host a new energy forum and a seminar on maritime management next year, and continue to hold the clean energy forum and the seminar on natural resources and information sharing. China further calls for joint studies on geosciences to promote balanced and inclusive development of the region.
Fifth, we need to conduct dialogue and cooperation in political and security areas. A safe and stable environment is a prerequisite for development and prosperity in the region. Parties need to increase communication on development strategies and policies to dispel misgivings, reduce misjudgment and enhance political trust. China advocates the vision on common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security, supports discussions on regional security outlook and architecture that suits this region, and advocates peaceful settlement of disputes through dialogue and consultation. China will carry out non-traditional security cooperation with parties on counter-terrorism, climate change and cyber security. China supports the statement sponsored by Russia on fighting terrorism and will hold joint counter-terrorism exercises next year to promote peace and tranquillity in the region.
Major positive changes have taken place on the Korean Peninsula with improved North-South relations and advancement in the dialogue process between the DPRK and the United States. Parties need to seize the opportunities to step up dialogue and consultation, accommodate each other’s legitimate concerns, and convert political commitment into concrete actions in order to move toward the goal of complete denuclearization and a peace mechanism and achieve early, lasting peace on the Peninsula.
Tranquility in the South China Sea is the aspiration of all parties and serves the interests of countries in this region. China is the biggest littoral state with over 60 percent of its seaborne trade in goods passing through the South China Sea. China firmly supports the freedom of navigation and overflight pursuant to international law. China is probably more keen than any other country to see peace and stability in the South China Sea. In his seven voyages to Southeast Asia and onward over 600 years ago, the Chinese navigator Zheng He laid the foundations for a tradition of benevolence, neighborliness and peaceful coexistence among Asian countries.
Today, the Chinese economy has deeply integrated into the world economy and China and its neighbors live in a closely-knit community with a shared future. China will steadfastly pursue a foreign policy of building friendships and partnerships with its neighbors. We are ready to properly manage the South China Sea issue with countries in this region to turn the South China Sea into a sea of peace, friendship and cooperation. China is committed to working with ASEAN countries to fully and effectively implement the DOC, carry out practical maritime cooperation and actively advance COC consultations.
China is sincerely committed to take forward COC consultations. At the China-ASEAN Summit yesterday, all parties agreed to complete the first reading of the single draft negotiating text within 2019. And China and some ASEAN countries put forward a vision of concluding COC consultations in three years’ time through the concerted efforts of China and ASEAN countries. By working together, we are confident that China and ASEAN countries will reach a COC that reflects the realities of our region, serves our peoples, and anchors peace, stability and enduring tranquillity in the South China Sea. We also hope that non-regional states will respect and support these efforts by regional countries.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of China’s reform and opening-up. Over the past four decades, China has made remarkable achievements and contributed its share to the development and progress in East Asia and the world beyond. The just-concluded inaugural China International Import Expo fully demonstrated China’s sincere desire and voluntary steps to open up its market and share development opportunity with other countries. China will deepen reform comprehensively, advance a new round of high-standard opening-up, and move toward high-quality development. All this will only bring more opportunities to the world.
As a Chinese saying goes, “A single drop of water cannot make an ocean, nor can a single tree form a forest.” China will enhance solidarity and mutual trust and deepen dialogue and cooperation with all countries. Together, let us sustain the sound momentum of prosperity and stability in our region, and build an even brighter future of peace and development for East Asia.