China, ASEAN should enhance mutual understanding

By Mu Lu Source:Global Times Published: 2019/9/17 22:08:40

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha addresses the opening ceremony for the 51st ASEAN Economic Ministers' Meeting and related Meetings in Bangkok, Thailand, Sept 6, 2019.  Photo: Xinhua

China and Malaysia agreed on Thursday to establish a dialogue mechanism on the South China Sea issue. This is a very good start for regional countries to seek a benign means to increase mutual understanding and trust. This also shows the will of China and Southeast Asian countries to safeguard peace, stability and development.

Many people think there is a greater possibility of conflicts between the US and China in the South China Sea or in the Taiwan Straits. Amid the US-launched and escalating trade war against China, the US has taken various measures and policies to provoke China in these regions, which deepened concerns. 

The South China Sea has never been a US naval lake. It is only US wishful strategy to draw together regional countries to contain China and incite them to confront China even with a threat of war. But the regional countries won't follow up, as it will undoubtedly hurt the stability and peace of the region. 

According to "The State of Southeast Asia: 2019 Survey Report" released by the ASEAN Studies Centre at the Singapore-based ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, 62 percent of 1,008 respondents worry that ASEAN is "becoming the arena of major power competition" because Washington and Beijing are on a collision course. 

The survey reflects the problems triggered by US interference. Before the US actively intervened in the South China Sea, there wasn't a so-called threat of war in the region. It is US interference that has brought tensions to the region. 

In such a context, countries around the South China Sea should work together to set up a stable mechanism of dialogue and cooperation to avoid external interference. The mechanism should be coordinated by regional countries rather than led by the US or any other outside force. China and Malaysia are on the correct path to the goal. 

As a country in the South China Sea, China resolutely opposes US interference in regional affairs. China promotes a policy that focuses on cooperation and joint development with regional countries. 

China and ASEAN members are effectively implementing the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea. Both sides are effectively safeguarding peace and stability in the region by advancing practical maritime cooperation and the consultation of a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea. In the meantime, China and countries concerned in the South China Sea manage the relevant disputes through consultations and dialogue. 

In addition, China considers ASEAN an important partner under the framework of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Trade between the two sides reached $587.8 billion in 2018, up of 14.1 percent from the previous year. In the first half of 2019, ASEAN surpassed the US as China's second-largest trading partner, with total trade valued at $292 billion. 

Although many ASEAN people have a positive view of relations with China, some still worry about getting closer to China. Therefore, China needs to put more efforts in a stable mechanism with ASEAN, strengthen mutual trust and uproot misunderstandings.

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