|For a Stronger China-Cambodia Friendship and A Closer East Asian Cooperation|
At the invitation of Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen, I will soon pay an official visit to Cambodia, a beautiful country with an ancient civilization, and attend the leaders’ meetings on East Asian cooperation. This will be my first visit abroad in nearly three years since the outbreak of COVID-19, and my first face-to-face meeting with other East Asian leaders in two years.
Recent years have witnessed continued growth of relations between our two countries. In 2016, Chinese President Xi Jinping made a successful visit to Cambodia. In 2020, President Xi awarded Cambodian Queen Mother Norodom Monineath Sihanouk the Friendship Medal of the People’s Republic of China. Both events marked new chapters in China-Cambodia friendship.
As I write this, my memories from two years ago come flooding back. I recall the generous support King (Nododom) Sihamoni and Queen Mother Monineath kindly offered to China during our toughest days of the battle against COVID; I recall Prime Minister Hun Sen’s call on us amid heavy snow and the epidemic onslaught; and I recall how 86 Cambodian children, who had received medical treatment in China for congenital heart disease, and their families made every effort possible to pool together some 5,000 masks and donated them to China. These stories well illustrate our strong friendship and solidarity to overcome difficulties together. They still warm the hearts of hundreds of millions of people in China.
It is with warmth in heart that I am embarking on my visit. Such warmth also comes from my unforgettable experience of working together with Cambodian and other leaders in the region to promote regional cooperation and make the life of our people better.
Our sincere cooperation has produced tangible results. Such achievements are recorded in the history of our joint pursuit of common development, and will be forever etched in our memory.
Such achievements are taking forward the historic process of China and ASEAN countries working together for a shared future.
Given the profound and complex changes in our region and the world and a significant rise in factors of instability, uncertainty and insecurity, it is imperative that we the countries in the region build on our historical experience and seize the current opportunities, and open up new prospects for the future if we are to maintain stability and keep the momentum of development going.
Despite the fluid international landscape over the past years, East Asian cooperation has maintained an upward trend in general.
This is the tenth consecutive time that I attend the leaders’ meetings on East Asian cooperation.
Over the past ten years, China and other countries in the region have made the best of our geopolitical proximity, economic complementarity, cultural affinity and our potentials to promote results-oriented cooperation.
A number of major projects such as the China-Laos railway and Jakarta-Bandung high-speed railway have been delivered, providing strong underpinning for the economic growth and livelihood improvement in the region.
We have continued to push for trade and investment liberalization and facilitation. China-ASEAN trade has withstood external headwinds, and our trade volume has grown from US$400 billion to US$800 billion.
The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) has entered into force. This multilateral free trade agreement is the world’s largest in terms of both economic aggregate and population served. It has injected strong impetus to regional economic integration, economic globalization and free trade.
Despite difficulties and challenges, we the countries in the region have properly addressed issues at sea and managed our differences. We have pressed ahead with consultations on a code of conduct in the South China Sea, carried out results-oriented maritime cooperation, and worked to make the South China Sea a sea of peace, friendship and cooperation.
Faced with the persistent COVID pandemic, we the countries in the region have come together in solidarity and supported each other, adding new dimensions to our friendship.
The millennium-old friendship between China and Cambodia has withstood the test of time. This great friendship has transcended time and has remained as strong as ever. This is attributed to the efforts and commitment of generations of leaders from both sides.
We have firmly supported and spoken up for each other on issues of core interests and major concerns. The proven mutual trust and friendship have been deeply embedded in the hearts of our peoples. The deeper the roots of friendship, the lusher the foliage and the bigger the fruits of cooperation. We are heartened to see the significant progress and achievements of our bilateral cooperation in agricultural produce, industrial parks, industrial capacity and infrastructure.
In the past few years, as the China-Cambodia Free Trade Agreement was signed and entered into force, our bilateral trade has exceeded US$10 billion, two years earlier than expected.
High-quality rice, Basa fish, bananas, mangoes, and the longan from Cambodia are readily available on Chinese market and on the menu of Chinese households.
Over 170 companies from around the world have settled in the Sihanoukville Special Economic Zone, which was jointly developed by our two countries, creating nearly 30,000 job opportunities for local people.
Construction of the new international airport in Siem Reap is well underway. The expressway from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville, the first of its kind in Cambodia, has been completed. I am convinced that Cambodia will be well on track to achieve rapid overall development.
Today’s world, albeit rife with challenges, is brimming with hope. In a great era like ours, China-Cambodia friendship and the broad vision, foresight and wisdom featured in East Asian cooperation, such as mutual respect, equality, mutual learning, cooperation, mutual benefit, openness and inclusiveness, all represent a powerful force to lead the way forward, heal the differences, and inspire the pursuit of the greater good for the region and beyond. We need to build on and carry forward this valuable spirit, and take up the responsibilities of our times that are entrusted to us by the people.
Faced with the volatile international landscape and the treacherous global economic situation, we need to stay committed to multilateralism and economic globalization, which represents the way forward.
We need to strengthen complementarity between our development strategies, earnestly implement the RCEP, drive our cooperation on the two wheels of regional trade and free trade, and work together to build an open regional economy.
We need to seize the opportunities created by the new revolution in science, technology and industry, foster new drivers for cooperation in such areas as 5G, artificial intelligence and smart cities.
We need to accelerate the transition toward a digital economy and a digital society. More importantly, we need to carry out extensive international cooperation on technology and innovation, and rise above high walls to share technological breakthroughs so that the entire humanity could reap benefits.
We need to rise to the challenges of climate change and the crisis of energy security. China will work with ASEAN to make the clean energy cooperation center a success, and promote green, low-carbon and sustainable development in the region.
We need to address the impacts of the pandemic on people’s livelihood. To this end, China is willing to contribute to the improvement of people’s livelihood in the region. And we will do so, among others, through demonstration projects such as the China-Laos Railway and the East Asia Cooperation Initiative on Poverty Reduction.
China will do its part to help ensure a stable supply in food and energy. China will also do what it can to help international students from ASEAN countries to return to Chinese schools as early as possible. We will continue to deepen people-to-people exchanges by promoting cultural and tourism cooperation.
China always firmly supports ASEAN unity and centrality. Our respective circles of friends may well engage in constructive interactions and develop in parallel. Our ASEAN friends can rest assured that there will be no pressure from China for you to take sides, only encouragement for common progress in solidarity.
As readers may be aware, the Communist Party of China (CPC) convened its 20th National Congress last month. The Congress drew the strategic roadmap for building China into a modern socialist country in all respects and for advancing China’s national rejuvenation on all fronts. As the largest developing country in the world, China will remain focused on running our own affairs well to deliver a better life for the Chinese people.
The Chinese economy has gone through an unusual journey this year. Confronted with complex and intricate factors at home and abroad, the economy once came under downward pressure beyond expectation. We responded swiftly and resolutely, and introduced a policy package for stabilizing the economy and follow-up measures.
Our macro policies were both robust and effective, well-calibrated and appropriate, without compromising the prospects of future growth. We focused our efforts on helping market entities stay afloat and keeping employment and prices stable. This enabled us to keep the major economic indicators within an appropriate range.
Going forward, we will take strong measures to ensure steady, sound and sustainable growth of China’s economy. Openness brings progress, promotes growth, and inspires innovation. China will stay committed to its fundamental state policy of opening up, and will open still wider to the world. We will intensify reforms to streamline government administration, delegate power, improve regulation, and upgrade services.
China will continue to foster an enabling business environment that is based on market principles, governed by law, and up to international standards. China will reach new heights in opening up, remain a popular destination for investment, and share development opportunities with the world.
As a Cambodian proverb goes, “Where there is road, there is hope.” The road ahead may not be smooth. That said, “No mountain is higher than a climber, and no road is longer than a marcher”, as a Chinese contemporary poet wrote. China will stand together through times of adversity with Cambodia and other countries in the region, and work together to build a stronger China-Cambodia friendship and a closer East Asian cooperation.