People walk out of the venue of the 18th China-ASEAN Expo in Nanning, capital of south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Sept. 13, 2021. (Xinhua/Lu Boan)
NANNING, Nov. 24 (Xinhua) -- At a warehouse in the southern Chinese city of Nanning, dozens of tonnes of durian fruit products imported from Malaysia are boxed shortly after arrival, ready to be delivered across China.
"That's the first batch of durian this winter," said Yao Hai, who trades in fruit between China and Southeast Asian countries.
With durian becoming increasingly popular with Chinese consumers, Yao's business has boomed this year, despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"From March to May this year, the sales of durian products grew tenfold, compared with the same period last year, and I expect the momentum to continue in the coming years," said Yao, adding that he has benefited greatly from the closer economic and trade relations between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
On Monday, China and ASEAN jointly announced the establishment of a comprehensive strategic partnership, a move that is expected to inject new impetus into the peace, stability, prosperity and development of both the region and the world.
Zhou Fangyin, dean of the school of international relations at Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, said China and ASEAN share profound common interests, and the establishment of the comprehensive strategic partnership will help boost post-pandemic regional economic recovery.
Last year, China remained ASEAN's largest trading partner for 12 consecutive years, while ASEAN became China's largest trading partner. Customs data show that from January to October this year, trade between China and ASEAN reached 4.55 trillion yuan (about 711.7 billion U.S. dollars), up 20.4 percent year on year.
The two-way investment between China and ASEAN has also seen notable progress, according to Deng Xijun, Chinese ambassador to the ASEAN. By the end of June this year, the total accumulated mutual investment topped 310 billion U.S. dollars.
The robust trade and investment growth came in spite of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the ASEAN-China Special Summit to Commemorate the 30th Anniversary of ASEAN-China Dialogue Relations on Monday, China pledged to provide ASEAN with another 1.5 billion U.S. dollars of development assistance in the next three years to support ASEAN countries' fight against COVID-19 and boost economic recovery.
The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), experts believe, has contributed greatly to the sustainable growth for China and the ASEAN. The China-proposed BRI has grown into the world's largest international cooperation platform, with 141 countries and 32 international organizations having signed relevant cooperation documents with China, including all ASEAN countries.
In recent years, the two sides have seen deepening cooperation in new economic sectors such as high-tech, the digital economy, and the green economy.
At the summit, China proposed the launch of the China-ASEAN Science, Technology and Innovation Enhancing Program, which will provide 1,000 items of advanced and applicable technologies to ASEAN and support a program for 300 young scientists from ASEAN to come to China for exchanges over the next five years.
Outhay, a young scientist of Laos, has benefited from the science and technology exchange between the two sides.
"What I learned in China is really useful. I have used advanced environmental protection equipment and learned rural sewage treatment methods, which will come in handy when I return to Laos," said Outhay, adding that it is in the interests of both sides to develop and exchange environmental technologies.
The China-ASEAN Expo and China-ASEAN Business and Investment Summit, which has been held for 18 consecutive years, serves as an important platform for comprehensive cooperation between the two sides.
"The establishment of the comprehensive strategic partnership provides valuable opportunities for us to upgrade the China-ASEAN Expo to better serve the cooperation between the two sides and the construction of the BRI," said Wang Lei, secretary-general of the expo's secretariat.
Initiated by the 10 ASEAN countries to establish a unified market by reducing tariffs and non-tariff barriers, the RCEP will take effect on Jan. 1, 2022, and more than 90 percent of merchandise trade in the region will be eventually subject to zero tariffs.
The RCEP includes 10 ASEAN members, China, Japan, the Republic of Korea (ROK), Australia and New Zealand. The 15 states' total population, gross domestic product and trade all account for about 30 percent of the world total.
RCEP is especially useful in reducing and removing trade obstacles, creating the world's largest common market, where goods and services could be more freely traded, thus accelerating the regional and world economic revivals, noted Oh Ei Sun, a senior fellow at Singapore Institute of International Affairs.