2023 China-ASEAN Dialogue successfully held

Release time:2023-10-26clicks:26

On October 20-21, the 2023 China-ASEAN Dialogue, hosted by the the Collaborative Innovation Center of South China Sea Studies, Nanjing University, was grandly held at the Yifu Management Science Building in Gulou Campus, Nanjing University. This conference is the first time that the Center has fully resumed holding offline seminars and dialogues in the past three years. More than 30 Chinese and foreign scholars from universities and research institutions in China and Southeast Asia conducted comprehensive and in-depth analysis and discussions on the current situation in the South China Sea, China-ASEAN relations and other topics. Zhu Feng, Executive Director of the Center and Executive Dean of the School of International Studies, presided over the opening ceremony and delivered a speech, while Xu Bu, former Chinese Ambassador to ASEAN and former Dean of the China Institute of International Studies, delivered a special speech.

Comparing the great power relations such as the China-US Relations, China-Russian relations, and China-European Relations, Ambassador Xu Bu emphasized the uniqueness and importance of China-ASEAN Relations. He pointed out that after more than 30 years of development, total trade and mutual investment between China and ASEAN have grown at a high rate, and bilateral relations have experienced overall rapid development, but at the same time, they are also faced with challenges in terms of regional security, bloc politics and values. At the same time, Ambassador Xu pointed out the impact of the South China Sea issue on regional stability and emphasized a pragmatic and realistic approach to the issue. He emphasized the importance of economic and political relations between China and ASEAN countries and their achievements, as well as how challenges should be handled in order to secure more achievements in the future.

The China-ASEAN Dialogue is divided into four topics. During the one-and-a-half-day discussion, participants from different professional perspectives have conducted in-depth analyses and judgments on the topics of China-ASEAN Relations in the Context of China-US Strategic Competition, Geopolitical Trend Behind the South China Sea Situation in 2023, China-ASEAN Maritime Cooperation and Stabilization of the South China Sea, as well as South China Sea Arbitration and its subsequent Impact Assessment. Hu Bo, Director of the Peking University Center for Marine Strategy Studies, analyzed the strategic tactic of gray area competition adopted by countries in the South China Sea. Li Mingjiang, Associate Professor, Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, focused on ASEANs response to multilateralism for security in the Asia-Pacific or Pacific region. Xu Liping, Director of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, pointed out that ASEANs adherence to strategic autonomy and the strategy of balancing major powers, and its cooperation with the major powers without choosing sides, provide a solid political foundation and unlimited potential for deepening China-ASEAN cooperation.

Scholars from Southeast Asian countries, on the other hand, tended to look at regional countries from the perspective of International and Area Studies, exploring how regional countries can safeguard their interests in the context of the U.S.-China rivalry, as well as build and maintain relationships with the major powers. Lye Liang Fook, a senior researcher of the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore, believed that Singapore engages with all major powers in a mutually beneficial way, and that this kind of wisdom makes small countries no longer weak and helpless. Tina Clemente, Professor of the University of the Institute of Asian Studies, University of the East Philippines, pointed out that ASEAN and the Philippines face multiple challenges to deepen economic relations with China. Therefore, they need to focus on domestic reforms, increase value-added in trade, and seek broader gains under the RCEP framework, while considering sustainability and domestic and foreign policy coordination.

On the morning of October, 21st, at the roundtable conference hosted by Professor Zhu Feng, the Chinese and foreign experts expressed many insights on the prospects of cooperation between China and ASEAN, as well as the disputes and control of the South China Sea issue. Both sides agreed that there exists a certain degree of behavior and  cognitive gap between China and Southeast Asian countries, and that misconceptions can be better eliminated through dialogue. In the closing summary of the conference, Professor Zhu expressed his gratitude to the Chinese and foreign scholars who participated in this dialogue and called for a certain degree of consensus between China and ASEAN countries. Both sides should avoid pushing each other into a corner by achieving consensus, weighing domestic politics and foreign policies. (Translate/Bao Yiwen)

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