As China and ASEAN are going to celebrate their 20th anniversary of dialogue at a commemorative summit in the Indonesian resort island of Bali this week, China-ASEAN relations have all evolved to a stage better than ever.
ASEAN, the then 6-member bloc, is dubbed now as the growth engine for the world and China, who just began economic reforms toward a market economy in those days, ranks the 2nd largest economy. Their relations also prove to emerge stronger from all the changes they encountered over the period.
The year of 1997 is the watershed in the history of China and ASEAN relations. Despite its own financial difficulties, China resisted pressures to depreciate its currency renminbi and offered more than 4-billion-U.S. dollar assistance and export credit to help Southeast Asian countries to recover,which later resulted in the establishment of good-neighborly and mutual-trust partnership. Both sides also signed an initial framework in 2002 to build a Free Trade Area (FTA).
In the face of the following 2008 international financial crisis, they did not retreat but signed the crucial investment agreement on the FTA, to join hands to combat the crisis and promote free trade and investment. With the FTA coming into effect in 2010, it boosted trade among the 11 nations while cushioning the slowing demand from the traditional export destinations of Europe and the United States.
ASEAN and China have been cooperating on 11 priority areas of cooperation, namely agriculture, information and communication technology, human resource development, Mekong Basin Development, investment, energy, transport, culture, public health, tourism and environment.