The China-ASEAN Information Harbor Forum on Internet and e-commerce cooperation between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was held in Nanning, capital of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, south China, from Sunday to Monday.
More than 200 people attended the event including senior Chinese leaders, Southeast Asian ministers, and representatives from China's Internet and telecommunication giants such as Tencent, Alibaba and China Unicom.
The two-day forum seeks to encourage cooperation between governments, enterprises and academics in the fields of infrastructure, e-commerce, Internet security and cultural industry.
The China-ASEAN Information Harbor initiative, an economic and technology cooperation project that includes China-ASEAN Internet Plus new economy, China-ASEAN cross-border e-commerce base, China-ASEAN trade information sharing center, and China-ASEAN innovation startups, was lauded by attendees.
"China aspires to work closely with ASEAN to cooperate in cyberspace, and to turn the initiative into an tangible information sharing hub for the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road," said Lu Wei, minister of the State Council's Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC).
China will set up a special fund for Internet and telecom infrastructure to link China and ASEAN, said Lu, adding that plans for a center, consisting of 34 projects worth 20.9 billion yuan (3.3 billion U.S. dollars), in Nanning were already in the pipeline.
Lu's announcement was warmly welcomed and echoed by ASEAN officials and enterprises, who voiced their hopes to extend cyberspace cooperation with China.
"We're very grateful for China's support in developing our information technology system," said Laos Post and Telecommunications Minister Hiem Phommachanh, who signed a memorandum of understanding on cyberspace cooperation and development with the CAC on Sunday.
Hiem said China helped Laos, an inland nation without the ability to lay submarine cables, now had a fiber access system connecting Thailand and Vietnam. Laos is upbeat about future cooperation with China, he said.
"We want to learn from successful Internet companies such as Alibaba to cut down operational costs, understand our customers better, and provide them with a safe and convenient payment method, " said Vichitkulwongsa Punnamas, president of Thailand's Ascend Corp.
Singapore would like to build on its experience of smart-city building, and cooperate with China and other ASEAN members on the establishment of a data center as well as telecom infrastructure, said Michelle Chow, regional director of Singapore International Enterprise Development Council.
Enhanced common e-commerce infrastructure will bring about closer and more efficient cooperation for information sharing and cost reduction between China and ASEAN, achieving win-win results at a higher level, said Xu Yu, director of the Digital Economy Bureau of the CAC.
Guangxi geographic position along the Belt and Road route makes it a gateway for cooperation with Southeast Asia, said Peng Qinghua, Communist Party chief of the region.
Guangxi reported 210 billion yuan in e-commerce trade volume last year, up 65.9 percent from 2013, thanks to ever-deepening cooperation with ASEAN members, Peng said.
Guangxi now boasts direct Internet connection with ASEAN countries such as Vietnam and Malaysia through land and submarine cable networks, said Zhang Xiaoqin, vice chairman of Guangxi.
In addition, Guangxi's commercial banks have established cross-border RMB settlement with Singapore and Cambodia, and cross-border RMB settlement through Guangxi exceeded 156 billion yuan in 2014, surpassing U.S. dollar settlement for the first time.
"Guangxi will build a cross-border e-commerce information platform, and a China-ASEAN e-commerce trading experiment zone to deepen business integration with Southeast Asia," said Ma Jixian, deputy director of Guangxi's commerce department.
Many Chinese enterprises are keen to tap into the ASEAN market with its 200 million Internet users.
State-run telecom operator China Unicom is building China's first overseas international submarine cable network with Myanmar telecom operators, said Jiang Zhengxin, senior vice president of China Unicom.
"We will prioritize Southeast Asia as our focus area in the group's overseas strategy," said Sun Weimin, vice president of Suning, an online retail giant.
Sunning grosses annual sales revenue of more than 10 billion yuan through Hong Kong, 40 percent of which were made by the ASEAN consumers, Sun said.
Suning have already cooperated with some ASEAN enterprises, and is looking forward to using our platforms to demonstrate and sell their merchandise to China, Sun said.
The two-day forum was jointly held by the CAC, the National Development and Reform Commission of China and the regional government of Guangxi as part of the annual China-ASEAN Expo.