China, ASEAN looking to green collaboration
Belt and Road's fruitful outcomes should be expanded, forum told
The Belt and Road Initiative has yielded fruitful, tangible outcomes over the past decade, and now is the time to look to green energy projects to maximize the initiative beyond connectivity, said officials from China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
They made the remarks on Monday in Vientiane, the capital of Laos, during the opening ceremony of a forum hosted by the Beijing-based ASEAN-China Centre. The theme of the forum is "Enhancing Connectivity and Sharing Prosperity: Achievements and Prospects of Aligning BRI with MPAC 2025".
MPAC 2025, the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity 2025, was put forward by the 10 ASEAN member states in 2016 to boost regional connectivity.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the one-day forum, Saleumxay Kommasith, Laos' deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs, said the BRI has made outstanding contributions to boosting regional connectivity and has promoted economic and trade development, investment, people-to-people exchanges and economic and social development among ASEAN countries.
Laos will be the rotating chair of ASEAN In 2024.
Saleumxay said Laos has benefited considerably from its collaboration with China, and has "responded to the BRI and achieved tangible results".
"Together with China, it implemented the China-Laos railway project, the Laos expressway project and the economic corridor project, which have made positive contributions to the strategy of 'changing a landlocked country into a land-linked country' in Laos," he said.
Saleumxay added that over the past 10 years, the BRI has not only promoted regional development in areas such as infrastructure, interconnection, economic development and investment cooperation, but has also facilitated the adoption of advanced science and technology. He said it has promoted social and cultural exchanges, personnel exchanges, tourism development and mutual understanding and trust among countries.
Shen Yueyue, vice-chairwoman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, China's top political advisory body, said that landmark projects, including the Jakarta-Bandung High-Speed Railway, Cambodia's Golden Port Expressway, and the China-Laos Railway, have not only benefited local residents, but have also played a pivotal role in narrowing regional development gaps and promoting economic integration of the region.
Shen also highlighted the rapid development of China-ASEAN relations over the past decade, with trade volume expanding significantly and cumulative two-way investment exceeding $380 billion as of July.
In 2022, China-ASEAN trade exceeded $970 billion, up 11.2 percent year-on-year. In 2013, the figure was $443.6 billion. ASEAN member countries are also home to about 6,500 Chinese companies.
Shen said she would welcome stronger collaboration in various fields, including youth, tourism, education, culture and think tanks, to foster people-to-people connectivity and enhance friendly relations between China and ASEAN.The 2024 China-ASEAN Year of Cultural Exchanges is seen as an excellent opportunity to promote mutual understanding and cultural ties.
Thet Thet Khine, Myanmar's union minister for hotels and tourism, emphasized the benefits of enhancing ASEAN connectivity through improved physical, institutional and people-to-people links.
She highlighted the inauguration of the China-Laos Railway, which has served as a significant milestone in aligning MPAC 2025 with the BRI.
Khine also mentioned ongoing infrastructure projects, such as the Myanmar-Laos power interconnection projects, which further exemplify the commitment to connectivity.
Shi Zhongjun, secretary-general of the ASEAN-China Centre, discussed the importance of innovation, stressing the significance of green and low-carbon development for sustainable and high-quality economic growth in the region.
He highlighted the need for cooperation in areas such as green infrastructure, green energy and green transportation, saying that dialogue mechanisms are being established to facilitate discussions between stakeholders in ASEAN and China regarding the application of smart technologies, the orderly and secure development of artificial intelligence, and other related topics.
Myanmar's Deputy Foreign Minister Kyaw Myo Htut emphasized Myanmar's dedication to cultural exchanges, personnel mobility and vocational education. Myanmar has actively participated in joint education projects with other ASEAN member countries, while also focusing on digital connectivity, maritime interconnectivity and the Maritime Silk Road.
Guo Yanjun, director of the Institute of Asian Studies at China Foreign Affairs University, stressed the importance of taking a cooperative approach that balances security and development.
Recognizing the challenges posed by regional conflicts and competition among major powers, Guo emphasized the need for regional peace and collaboration in addressing issues such as public health, climate change, food and energy security, and nontraditional security concerns. Regional peace and collaboration are crucial to the region's development and prosperity, Guo added.