By Yu Qianliang, Zheng Shibo
JAKARTA, Sept. 8 (Xinhua) -- "Facing the test of the pandemic, China and ASEAN have more deeply realized the importance of promoting the building of a China-ASEAN community with a shared future. The strategic mutual trust between the two sides has reached a new level," Chinese Ambassador to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Deng Xijun said.
In a written interview with Xinhua, Deng said China and ASEAN have set a fine example in anti-pandemic cooperation since the outbreak of the COVID-19 and the cooperation has injected a new strong impetus into two sides' future endeavors of building a closer China-ASEAN community with a shared future.
Chinese leaders conducted frequent "cloud diplomacy" with leaders of ASEAN countries to provide confidence, support and political guidance that are most needed, he added.
Deng said China looks forward to working together with all other parties to pool consensus and boost confidence and is ready to work concertedly to strengthen counter-pandemic cooperation, revive regional economy at a faster pace and renew shared commitment to multilateralism and free trade.
"We would also champion openness and inclusiveness for win-win cooperation. Together we would further move East Asian cooperation forward, which will contribute more to regional peace, stability and prosperity," He said.
Deng said the China-ASEAN Health Ministerial Conference, Senior Officials' Meeting and expert meetings were held one after another since the outbreak of COVID-19. Both sides have shared anti-pandemic experience, carried out vaccine cooperation, and promoted to build a global community of health for all.
Besides, Chinese central and local governments, the military, the business community and private entities donated a large number of anti-epidemic materials such as masks, protective clothing and testing kits to ASEAN countries.
China also sent medical expert teams to five ASEAN countries, namely Cambodia, the Philippines, Myanmar, Laos and Malaysia, and helped the Philippines and Myanmar build urgently needed virus-testing labs.
Talking about the China-ASEAN relation, the ambassador said ASEAN is a priority in China's neighborhood diplomacy and a key area of the Belt and Road cooperation. "China highly values cooperation with ASEAN and firmly supports ASEAN's centrality in East Asia cooperation. China has been actively engaged in East Asian cooperation by playing an important promoting role in it."
Deng said China and ASEAN countries including Singapore, Laos, Myanmar and Indonesia have established "fast lanes" and "green lanes" for personnel and goods movement respectively to take care of social and economic recovery both during the pandemic and in the post-pandemic era.
Besides, China has resumed direct international flights with Vietnam and some other ASEAN countries. China has been actively exploring with ASEAN countries the establishment of networks of fast and green lanes between China and ASEAN and in East Asia at large.
"Together we are also working on a regional financial safety net that stabilizes regional supply and industrial chains as well as the financial sector," said Deng.
Despite the global downward pressure, China-ASEAN trade and investment has witnessed remarkable growth. Deng said in the first half of this year, the trade in goods between China and ASEAN reached 2.09 trillion RMB yuan (about 298 billion U.S. dollars), representing a 5.6 percent year-on-year increase.
ASEAN has overtaken the European Union to become China's largest trading partner for the first time, showing the strong resilience of China-ASEAN economic and trade relations and contributing to the recovery of regional and global economy.
Deng said China and ASEAN will continue to firmly support multilateralism and free trade, and maintain close cooperation to further facilitate bilateral trade and economic cooperation. China will work with the other parties towards the signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Agreement within this year as planned.
For the on-going developments in the South China Sea, Deng said thanks to the concerted efforts of China and ASEAN countries, the situation in the South China Sea remains stable on the whole.
He also said good progress has been made as countries concerned have effectively managed their maritime differences and disputes and carried out step by step dialogue and cooperation on maritime issues.
China and ASEAN countries are committed to the full and effective implementation of the Declaration of Conduct (DOC) and have stayed in close touch to advance consultations on the Code of Conduct (COC).
Deng said China and ASEAN countries have the confidence, capability and wisdom to stay clear of disruptions. "We will stick to the dual-track approach, resolve disputes by countries directly concerned through consultations and negotiations, accelerate the COC consultations, and advance joint maritime development while setting aside disputes. Together we would maintain a peaceful and stable South China Sea and build it into a sea of peace, friendship and cooperation."
"I believe China and ASEAN countries will once again send a clear and strong message of jointly safeguarding peace and stability in the South China Sea in the upcoming China-ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting," He added. Enditem