Remarks at the 10th East Asia Summit
H.E. Li Keqiang, Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China
Kuala Lumpur, 22 November 2015
Prime Minister Najib,
It gives me great pleasure to join you in Kuala Lumpur, the birthplace of the East Asia Summit. I would like to thank Prime Minister Najib and the Malaysian government for making thoughtful arrangements for this meeting. This year marks the tenth anniversary of the EAS. As an old Chinese saying goes, “One reviews the old to know the new”. We have come back to where we started, and progress has already been made. As we speak, cooperation in our region has reached a new level and is embracing a brighter prospect.
Thanks to our geographical affinity and cultural bond, East Asian countries have all along enjoyed friendly exchanges. More than 600 years ago, Zheng He, a famous Chinese navigator and diplomat, made seven voyages to the western seas. He passed Malacca five times and went to most countries in Southeast Asia. He brought to the local people silk, porcelain, tea, and agricultural know-how and spread culture and art, leaving touching stories behind. Temples have been built by people of East Asian countries to remember him and they are still visited by many till this day. It was stated in Zheng He’s credentials that “all under heaven are equal. The strong must not bully the weak.” In 28 years, Zheng He’s fleet, the strongest in the world back then, visited more than 30 countries and went as far as to the east coast of Africa. Everywhere he went, he showed full respect for local religion and culture without taking a single inch of land. He conducted trade and friendly cultural and technological exchanges with the local people, thus becoming a celebrated “envoy of peace”. It is fair to say that Zheng He, with his voyages to the western seas, was among the first to practice the proud tradition of good-neighborliness through good virtue and peaceful co-existence among countries in Asia.
Time goes on. East Asian countries have now embarked on a path of peace, development and cooperation after hard struggle. In the 21st century, a new page has been turned in the development of East Asia and there have been more and better cooperation mechanisms at various levels. In the past decade since the inception of the EAS, its member states, working in the spirit of openness, inclusiveness, cooperation and mutual benefit, have engaged each other in effective cooperation in trade, investment, finance, culture and regarding security matters, giving strong boost to peace, stability and economic prosperity of the region. The past decade witnessed booming development of East Asia cooperation, shared prosperity among East Asian countries and rising influence of the EAS.
Today, as we stand at a new starting point, we are all thinking of where we should go next. China supports the issuance of the Kuala Lumpur Declaration on the Tenth Anniversary of the East Asia Summit. The most valuable experience we gained in the past decade should be inherited and carried forward. We should continue to keep the EAS as a leaders-led strategic forum, focus on major issues of overarching importance and find ways to increase consensus and properly manage differences. We should continue to adhere to ASEAN centrality, be sensitive to the comfort level of all parties and ensure equal participation by all countries, big or small, in regional affairs. We should continue to give importance to both development and security, earnestly implement the Phnom Penh Declaration on the East Asia Summit Development Initiatives and its action plan, focus on economic and social development and at the same time, strengthen security dialogue and cooperation. We should continue to facilitate coordinated development of all the mechanisms and improve the multi-tiered regional cooperation architecture. These four points, acceptable to all parties, constitute the main experience of the growth of the EAS over the past decade, and the important basis for EAS to go far in the future.
Currently, global economic recovery remains difficult. Regional conflicts and hotspots keep flaring up. If East Asia is to remain an anchor for peace and stability and a source of growth for the world, we must doubly cherish the hard-won situation, and cement its three pillars of economy, security and culture to inject new impetus to regional cooperation. I appreciate the Chair’s choice of sustainable growth, financial stability and regional security policies and initiatives as the indicative topics for this meeting and would like to make the following observations on EAS cooperation going forward:
First, we need to accelerate regional economic integration and make East Asia a pole of steady growth for the world economy. Globalization represents an irresistible trend. Facing grave and complex global economic and financial situation, countries need to strengthen coordination and jointly overcome difficulties. The ASEAN Plus One is the basis for East Asia cooperation and China is ready to better align development strategies with ASEAN to build a closer China-ASEAN community of shared future. The ASEAN Plus Three is the main vehicle of East Asia cooperation, and China suggests that a blueprint be drawn up for achieving the goal of an East Asia Economic Community by 2020. The development of FTA is an important step for East Asia economic integration. China and ASEAN are about to sign the outcome document for the negotiations on an upgraded FTA, and need to finish necessary procedures so that it could be implemented. Parties need to advance negotiations on the China-Japan-ROK FTA and the RCEP to jointly promote the development of the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific. Under the initiative of China and Indonesia, this meeting will adopt a statement on maritime cooperation, which, I believe, will boost maritime cooperation in wider areas of the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean.
China is firm in upholding peace and promoting cooperation in the region. China is working with East Asian countries to advance the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road as well as international cooperation on production capacity. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Silk Road Fund will provide financing support to these initiatives. China proposes that an Asia Financial Cooperation Association be jointly established by financial institutions of countries in this region to support the growth of the real economy. China remains an important engine driving world economic growth. The implementation of its 13th Five-Year Plan and the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects by 2020 will bring more cooperation opportunities to countries in East Asia and beyond.
Second, we need to carry out political and security dialogue to explore a security architecture that fits the region. China maintains that all parties need to increase exchanges and communication on their respective development strategies and policies, increase political mutual trust, dispel suspicion and misgivings, and avoid misinterpretation and miscalculation. China advocates a new security vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security, and supports discussions on security concept and architecture within the EAS framework. China will host the fifth Workshop on Regional Security Architecture next year.
Terrorism is not an issue about religion or ethnicity. It is against human nature and represents a common challenge facing mankind. Global counter-terrorism situation is now undergoing profound and complex changes. Terrorist activities, which are more extensive and intensive than ever before, pose serious threats to regional and international security and stability. No country could stay immune from the scourge. Not long ago, the serious terrorist attacks happened in Paris, and the heinous hostage incident happened in the capital of Mali two days ago took the lives of citizens from several countries, including three from China. This has made it a more pressing task to carry out international cooperation to tackle non-traditional security threats. China is against terrorism of all forms anywhere in the world, and China supports the EAS in issuing statements on Global Movement of Moderates and combating violent extremism. China will continue to increase exchanges and cooperation with other countries under the principle of mutual respect and equality to resolutely combat all criminal acts of violence and terror that challenge the bottom line of humanity to jointly maintain peace and tranquility of the world.
China also supports the EAS in issuing outcome documents on health security and cyber affairs, and is committed to providing more public security goods to the region. China is ready to host a Workshop on Maritime Cooperation for Security in the Indo-Pacific Ocean next year. China will co-sponsor the EAS Earthquake Response and Relief Joint Exercise with relevant EAS countries and explore the possibility of maritime search and rescue exercises. China will work with East Asian countries, especially developing countries, to tackle climate change and continue to hold the clean energy forum. China supports the goal of eliminating malaria by 2030 in the Asia Pacific region and will continue to support Mekong River countries in carrying out relevant programs.
Third, we need to strengthen dialogue and exchanges among Asian civilizations to promote harmonious co-existence of civilizations. Civilizations are only different, not superior or inferior. Diverse and unique East Asian civilizations, by learning from one another, provide inexhaustible impetus for regional development and progress and for better understanding and trust among countries. China supports dialogue among Asian civilizations. China will host a conference for dialogue among Asian civilizations next year and welcomes active participation of all countries in the conference.
At the same time, countries in this region also need to deepen exchanges and cooperation in areas such as education, science and technology, culture, media, and among think-tanks and the youth. China will continue to support the revival of Nalanda University to give a new platform for East Asia cultural exchanges. China proposes establishment of a Track II Network among EAS countries and encourages close contacts between the Boao Forum for Asia and the EAS.
Some leaders mentioned the South China Sea question. Let me say something about the truth and about China’s position on this question.
For centuries, people in the area of the South China Sea have lived in peace and harmony, and forged friendly ties of mutual assistance. Indeed, in the past several decades, problems have come along. Yet, through dialogue and communication between China and ASEAN countries, overall peace and stability in the South China Sea have been maintained without the intervention or involvement of external forces. Through consultations, China and ASEAN countries signed the DOC in 2002. China has earnestly fulfilled obligations under the DOC, including working under Article 4 to seek peaceful settlement to disputes with parties directly concerned through negotiation and consultation. In the past two years, China has identified a dual-track approach for resolving the South China Sea question, i.e., relevant disputes should be resolved by sovereign states directly concerned through negotiation and consultation, and peace and stability in the South China Sea should be jointly upheld by China and ASEAN countries working together. This approach is supported by most ASEAN countries and is consistent with international law and international practices.
At present, China and ASEAN countries are working to ensure full and effective implementation of practical cooperation within the framework of the DOC, and are actively advancing COC consultations with utmost sincerity. We have already had some early harvest. At the same time, all sides have agreed to China’s proposal to explore and formulate the Preventive Measures on Managing Risks at Sea so that we could, pending final conclusion of a COC, effectively manage maritime situation and avoid unexpected incidents. These achievements are hard-won and should be doubly cherished.
China stands firm for the freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea, as it, above all, concerns China’s own interests. China is the main trading nation in the world, and the South China Sea constitutes a major international shipping route. Should there be instability in the South China Sea, it will hurt, first and foremost, the interest of countries in the region, including China, and will do no good to other countries either. Each year, hundreds of thousands of commercial ships pass through the South China Sea, safe and sound. The fact is, there has never been any problem regarding the freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea. China and countries in the region have the capability to maintain the freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea. It needs to be pointed out that countries concerned, when exercising the freedom of navigation and overflight, need to fully respect the sovereignty and security of countries along the coast.
The relevant constructions carried out by China in the Nansha Islands are primarily for civilian purposes. They are constructed to help China better fulfill its international responsibilities and obligations, and provide more public services to vessels from other countries, including in times of maritime disasters. Such constructions are not targeted at any other country, nor does it affect any other country. We have no intention for militarization.
China hereby makes the following five proposals:
First, all countries make the commitment to observing the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, defend the outcome of WWII and post-war order, cherish hard-won peace and jointly safeguard peace and stability in the world and the region, including in the South China Sea.
Second, sovereign countries directly concerned undertake, in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law, including UNCLOS of 1982, to peacefully settle sovereign and jurisdictional disputes through friendly consultation and negotiation.
Third, China and ASEAN countries commit themselves to full and effective implementation of the DOC in its entirety, accelerate consultations to strive for early conclusion of a COC on the basis of consensus, and take steps to improve regional mechanisms for mutual trust and cooperation.
Fourth, countries from outside the region undertake to respect and support efforts by countries in the region to uphold peace and stability in the South China Sea, play a positive and constructive role and refrain from taking actions that may cause tension in the region.
Fifth, all countries undertake to exercise and uphold the freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea in accordance with international law.
As the saying goes, brick after brick make a wall, and tile after tile make a roof. East Asian countries are so interdependent that we have become a community of shared interests and responsibilities. As long as we uphold the spirit of solidarity, cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, expand our converging interests and effectively manage our differences, we will keep East Asia cooperation on the right track, make the South China Sea a sea of peace and friendship, and bring more benefits to people of our region.