Full text: Speech by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang at 23rd China-ASEAN Summit

Xinhua, November 16, 2020

Speech by H.E. Li Keqiang

Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China

At the 23rd China-ASEAN Summit

November 12, 2020

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc,


It is a great pleasure to meet you all again. I would like to thank the Vietnamese government and Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc for your hard work in putting this meeting together. I look forward to our in-depth discussion on China-ASEAN cooperation and common development into the future.

This has been an unusual year for the world as COVID-19 seriously affected the development and external interactions of all countries. Either in combating the coronavirus or recovering the economy, we must stay the course of openness and cooperation. In his keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the third China International Import Expo, President Xi Jinping reaffirmed that China will join hands with all other countries to create opportunities in opening-up and tackle difficult problems through cooperation.

Since the start of COVID-19, China and ASEAN have taken the lead in conducting regional anti-epidemic cooperation. We have met online several times and discussed in-depth ways for tackling the immediate challenge. Thanks to our joint efforts, we have overcome the impact of the pandemic and resumed the growth of China-ASEAN economic cooperation and trade. In the first three quarters, China-ASEAN trade reached 481.81 billion US dollars, up by five percent year-on-year, making ASEAN China’s largest trading partner. China’s industry-wide foreign direct investment in ASEAN topped 10.72 billion US dollars, jumping 76.6 percent year-on-year. These figures speak volumes about the strong foundation and potential of our cooperation.

Such achievements are a further testament to the growing maturity and stability of China-ASEAN relations after three decades of development. Among ASEAN’s dialogue partners, China has been number one on many fronts. China was the first to join the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia, the first to forge strategic partnership with ASEAN, the first to start FTA negotiations with ASEAN, and the first to give unequivocal support for ASEAN centrality in East Asian regional cooperation. China and ASEAN working in concert has been a key underlying factor behind the strong momentum of China-ASEAN cooperation and its important role in ensuring regional stability and prosperity.

First, we have pursued the path of solidarity and development by upholding good neighborliness and friendship. China and ASEAN are permanent neighbors and close partners, and our people enjoy a deep bond of friendship. In times of adversities, from the two financial crises, to major natural disasters such as tsunamis and SARS and to the sudden onslaught of COVID-19, we have always stood together and looked out for each other in the spirit of a community with a shared future.

Second, we have pursued the path of common development by promoting win-win cooperation. China-ASEAN cooperation is open, inclusive and delivers benefits to both sides. Seeing each other’s development as crucial opportunities, we have promoted integrated and interconnected development by synergizing development plans and strengthening connectivity, and advocated multilateralism and free trade. These common endeavors have made the pie of shared interests bigger; they have not only facilitated our own development, but also injected a strong impetus into the stable economic development of the region and beyond.

Third, we have pursued the path of peaceful development by adhering to dialogue and consultation. Peace and stability are the preconditions for development and prosperity. It is natural for neighbors to sometimes run into frictions. But, if handled properly, these frictions will not disrupt the course of development. We all believe that countries should respect each other, seek common ground while putting aside differences and settle differences and disputes through friendly consultations. Such shared commitments have fostered a regional environment of peace and stability.

Fourth, we have pursued the path of coordinated development by putting people first. For us, the fundamental interests of the two billion people of China and ASEAN countries are always the top-order priority. In the face of COVID-19, we have cared deeply about life and livelihood, extended a helping hand to those most in need and made joint efforts to protect the life, security and health of all our peoples. We have also facilitated practical cooperation to safeguard and enhance peoples’ well-being in light of their real needs.


As the pandemic continues to spread across the world, global recovery will be a difficult and tortuous process. Rising protectionism and unilateralism have put the global governance system and multilateral institutions in jeopardy. Economic and social development at the regional and international levels face serious challenges.

It is encouraging to see that the pandemic situation has largely stabilized in East Asia and is turning for the better. Countries in our region are reopening economies in an orderly manner with normalized containment measures in place. More and more positive factors indicate a steady return to economic and social progress.

Last month, the Communist Party of China (CPC) convened the Fifth Plenum of its 19th Central Committee and adopted the Recommendations of the CPC Central Committee on Formulating the 14th Five-Year Plan for Economic and Social Development and the Long-Range Goals for 2035. The Recommendations proposed that China embrace a new development philosophy for high-quality development and move expeditiously to forge a new development paradigm. As China strives to expand domestic demand, we will pursue opening-up at a higher level. This will enable us to better match the two huge markets of China and ASEAN, bring out greater dynamism from within our economies, and contribute to regional economic recovery and sustainable development. As China’s close economic and trading partner, ASEAN will be the first to benefit from this development strategy.

China has always regarded ASEAN as a priority in our neighborhood diplomacy. We firmly support ASEAN’s community-building, support ASEAN’s efforts in strengthening its centrality in regional cooperation, and support ASEAN’s greater role in building an open and inclusive regional architecture.

We are ready to work with ASEAN to cement good-neighbourliness, uphold multilateralism and free trade, and push for more concrete outcomes in various areas of our cooperation by implementing the Strategic Partnership Vision 2030, and the recently finalized Plan of Action to Implement the Joint Declaration on China-ASEAN Strategic Partnership for Peace and Prosperity (2021-2025). These joint efforts will not only boost development on both sides, but also facilitate economic recovery within the region and safeguard regional and global peace and stability.

To achieve this goal, I propose that China and ASEAN work together in the following areas:

First, we need to defeat COVID-19 together and upgrade public health cooperation. As there appears to be no end in sight to the pandemic, vaccine R&D will be key to a complete victory against the virus. China is reaching out to several ASEAN countries on vaccine R&D and production cooperation, and will actively consider ASEAN countries’ needs when our COVID vaccines are developed and deployed. This will be China’s concrete action to promote vaccine accessibility and affordability.

China is ready to hold more “Friends of Vaccines” activities in collaboration with the ASEAN Committee in Beijing or through other channels to promote information sharing and cooperation. We would like to launch the Liaison Mechanism for Public Health Emergencies with ASEAN at an early date, earnestly implement the China-ASEAN Cooperation Program on Public Health Management, and ensure the success of the third China-ASEAN Health Cooperation Forum. We will carry out more practical cooperation projects with ASEAN, including the China-ASEAN Human Resources Training Program of Health Silk Road, the China-ASEAN Training Program for Public Health Executives and other similar programs to help ASEAN countries build capacity. We support ASEAN in establishing the COVID-19 ASEAN Response Fund and the ASEAN Regional Reserve of Medical Supplies for Public Health Emergencies. China offers to lead efforts in setting up an APT reserve of essential medical supplies to pool resources from different quarters and optimize the distribution and utilization of emergency response supplies in our region. We will continue to support WHO in playing its role, enhance international cooperation and joint pandemic response, and work for a global community of health for all.

Second, we need to focus on economic cooperation and trade and boost regional economic recovery. China actively supports ASEAN in adopting and implementing the Comprehensive Recovery Framework and steadily reopening the economy. We welcome the signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). It will be an important step for regional countries to uphold the multilateral trading system and build an open world economy, which is vital to deepening regional economic integration and stabilizing the global economy.

China is ready to work with ASEAN to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the full establishment of the China-ASEAN FTA and release a report on its 10-year development. Going forward, we need to further implement our free trade agreement and the upgrading protocol, and promote trade and investment liberalization and facilitation in the region. China will import more high-quality agricultural products from ASEAN and encourage Chinese businesses to increase investment in ASEAN. We also welcome your active participation in the 17th China-ASEAN Expo to share in our market opportunities.

China wishes to further leverage the bilateral “fast tracks” and build a regional “fast track” network. Our two sides need to further synergize the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) with ASEAN’s development plans, hold the meeting of the Connectivity Cooperation Committee at an early date to discuss priority cooperation areas and projects, and steadily advance the China-Laos Railway, the China-Thailand Railway, the Jakarta-Bundung Railway and other major projects. China has completed the first stage of fund-raising of the China-ASEAN Investment Cooperation Fund II, totaling one billion US dollars. The Fund will be officially established and put into operation as soon as possible to support ASEAN’s major projects in such fields as infrastructure, energy and resources, and boost regional economic and trade exchanges.

Third, we need to create highlights in digital economy and foster new sources of growth for cooperation. The importance of digital economy has been further revealed in the context of COVID-19. ASEAN has adopted the ASEAN Digital Masterplan 2025, and China is formulating a national plan on IT application for the 14th Five-Year Plan period (2021-2025). On such basis, our two sides need to leverage the opportunities of the Year of Digital Economy Cooperation to synergize digital development strategies and boost infrastructure development and transformation in this field. We need to intensify cooperation on innovation in e-commerce, smart city, big data, 5G and other areas, and promote joint R&D, technological exchanges and human resources development. In this connection, China welcomes the release of the Initiative on Building China-ASEAN Partnership on Digital Economy. Now what is needed is to work out follow-up plans to put it into practice.

China has put forward the Global Initiative on Data Security, and it would be useful for our two sides to establish a China-ASEAN Cyber Dialogue mechanism to share experience and enhance capacity building cooperation in areas such as cybersecurity and digital governance. We need to release the Plan of Action on a Closer Partnership of Science, Technology and Innovation for Future (2021-2025) as early as possible. China hopes to make the China-ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Science and Technology Cooperation a regular one and stands ready to host its second meeting in 2021 for in-depth communication and exchanges on scientific and technological innovation.

Fourth, we need to promote sustainable development and strengthen preparedness for risks. Pursuing sustainable economic and social development is our shared objective. China welcomes the decision to make 2021 the China-ASEAN Year of Sustainable Development Cooperation and stands ready to step up cooperation on ecological conservation, environmental protection, disaster prevention and mitigation, climate change, and poverty reduction. China will ensure the success of the China-ASEAN Social Development and Poverty Reduction Forum as a platform for us to share experience on digitally enabled poverty reduction. We look forward to the early adoption and implementation of the China-ASEAN Environmental Cooperation Strategy and Action Plan (2021-2025), and stand ready to hold the China-ASEAN High-level Forum on Green and Sustainable Development. We also welcome your active participation in the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP15) to be held next year in Kunming.

China welcomes the establishment of a China-ASEAN Ministers’ Meeting on Disaster Management and expects the first meeting to be held as early as possible. China is ready to work with ASEAN to build a Partnership on Blue Economy. We look to work with you to put it into practice in an expeditious manner. China will make good use of the China-ASEAN Maritime Cooperation Fund and other resources to support early harvest projects in relevant fields. The Lancang-Mekong cooperation and China and BIMP-EAGA cooperation are important components of China-ASEAN cooperation. We will encourage greater synergy between these cooperation mechanisms and the New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor to help facilitate ASEAN integration and promote balanced and coordinated development of the region.

Our two sides need to further enrich cooperation in other areas. To build up cooperation on defense and non-traditional security issues, China will continue to hold the China-ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting, the exchange programs for Chinese and ASEAN military think tanks and young and middle-aged officers, and the joint naval exercise of China and Southeast Asian countries. We will continue to work for a direct hot line between our defense departments and will convene the second “Security for Prosperity” China-ASEAN Ministerial Dialogue on Law Enforcement and Security Cooperation in China next year.

Our two sides need to keep working closely for the approval and implementation of the Outreach Program on Revised Rules of Origin under CAFTA Upgrading Protocol and the program on building ASEAN Tourism Digital Platform, as part of Chinese assistance. Next year, China will contribute another 10 million US dollars to the China-ASEAN Cooperation Fund to support the China-ASEAN Young Leaders Scholarship and other signature projects on cultural exchanges. This will provide impetus to social and cultural cooperation, the third pillar of China-ASEAN relations.


The South China Sea is the shared home for countries in the region. The situation there has on the whole been stable. This is attributable to the fact that China and ASEAN countries, bearing in mind the larger interests, have actively managed differences with the “dual-track” approach, deepened cooperation, fully and effectively implemented the DOC and steadily advanced the COC consultations.

Over the past 18 years, the DOC has served as a guide for the parties to enhance dialogue, trust and cooperation. As an upgraded version of the DOC, the COC will be a more substantive, effective and operable document that provides further institutional safeguards for peace and stability in the South China Sea. China remains firmly committed and determined to conclude the COC consultations at an early date. We call on all parties to overcome the impact of COVID-19, think creatively, and accelerate the consultations in a flexible and pragmatic way. By so doing, we will demonstrate to the international community that we have the wisdom and capability to properly manage the situation in the South China Sea and safeguard its peace and stability. China will positively consider convening face-to-face consultations in China, as soon as the COVID-19 situation allows, to advance the second reading of the COC. Safeguarding peace and stability in the South China Sea is the shared aspiration of countries in the region, and dialogue is the right way forward to resolve disputes.


Next year will mark the 30th anniversary of China-ASEAN dialogue relations. Our friendship and cooperation, which is fully established, will move toward greater maturity as we both enter an important period of development. Taking the 30th anniversary as an opportunity, we proposed elevating our relations to a comprehensive strategic partnership. China will stand in solidarity with ASEAN countries to address the difficulties head on. Together, we will usher in even brighter prospects for the China-ASEAN strategic partnership and contribute even more to peace, stability, development and prosperity of the region.

Thank you.