China wants to boost cooperation with ASEAN

Singapore – China is keen to work with its Southeast Asian neighbours to promote regional stability and boost the economy, Beijing’s top diplomat said in Singapore. In a meeting with the city state’s prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong, Yang Jiechi, a member of the Chinese Communist Party’s Politburo, said Beijing was willing to increase trust with Singapore and other countries in Southeast Asia.

China and Singapore “have been helping each other ensure industrial and supply chains are stable and smooth” he was quoted as saying by state news agency Xinhua.

Cooperation was key, “as uncertainties and instabilities have been aggregating in international relations amid the Covid-19 pandemic”, he said. China is willing tow work with Singapore and members of the 

Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to deepen strategic mutual trust and pragmatic cooperation, to jointly safeguard economic globalisation, and defend international fairness and peace so as to make new contributions in promoting regional and global peace, stability, development and prosperity,” Yang said.

Lee said “rational communication” was needed in the face of the challenges posed by the global health crisis and that Singapore “is willing to maintain high-level exchanges” with China.

As its relationship with Washington has steadily deteriorated, Beijing has sought to bolster ties with its regional neighbours.

“China values its relationship with Singapore deeply,” said Dylan Loh, an assistant professor of public policy and global affairs at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

“And this relationship has taken on extra significance in light of deteriorating 

US-China dynamics and [US Secretary of State] Mike Pompeo’s overtures to Singapore and ASEAN.

“In that sense, China knows it has to invest diplomatic work to deepen cooperation and reduce mistrust. Just as American goodwill is not pre-given, Chinese influence requires sustained work,” he said.

Chong Ja Ian, an associate professor of political science at the National University of Singapore, said the city state might seek to “move forward on economic cooperation to make up for the negative economic consequences stemming from the Covid-19 pandemic”.

Meanwhile, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi hosted his Indonesian counterpart, Retno Marsudi, on the Chinese island province of Hainan on Thursday.

Wang said “external forces” were stirring up trouble in the South China Sea and threatening regional stability.

He said also the two countries should continue to promote their “iconic projects”, like the high-speed railway between Jakarta and Bandung in Indonesia, and the so-called Regional Comprehensive Economic Corridor under Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative.

Retno, who is the first foreign minister to visit China since the country reopened its borders, said on Twitter that Indonesia had signed a memorandum of understanding with Sinovac Biotech, which is working on a coronavirus vaccine, under which the Chinese company “committed to provide vaccines in bulk to Indonesia as well as technological transfer for developing a Covid-19 vaccine and other future cooperation”.

China and Indonesia also recently agreed to open a “fast-lane channel” for people exchanges “to ensure smooth industry and supply chains, and support each other’s economic recoveries”, the foreign ministry in Beijing said. (SCMP)