Li Qiang Brings ASEAN’s Attention to Skyrocketing Trade Amid Map Controversy
Jakarta. Chinese Premier Li Qiang on Wednesday tried to bring ASEAN’s attention to the skyrocketing two-way trade with no words on Beijing’s new controversial map.
China has been under the spotlight for its new standard national map that lays claims over the crucial waterway South China Sea. The South China Morning Post wrote that the demarcation overlapped with the exclusive economic zones of several Southeast Asian nations, including Vietnam, Malaysia, and the Philippines. According to media reports, the new map already sparked protests from the said ASEAN countries.
Li has just met Southeast Asian leaders at the 26th ASEAN-China Summit in Jakarta. Neither Li nor President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo mentioned China’s controversial map, or at least during the opening session that was open for media coverage. The rest of the meeting took place behind closed doors.
Amid the rising tension over the new map, Li brought up strong relations between his country and the regional block on the economic front.
“China and ASEAN see each other’s development as important opportunities. We have kept markets open to each other. Last year, our two-way trade volume reached over $970 billion, more than double the volume a decade ago. We have been each others’ top trading partners for three years running,” Li told the forum.
In 2021, Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged to buy up to $150 billion worth of agricultural products from ASEAN over the next five years. Agricultural goods are pivotal to ASEAN-China trade. Government data shows that the two-way trade of agricultural products hit $61 billion in 2022.
“To date, over $55 billion worth of these products have been imported, faster than expected,” Li said.
He ended his remarks by saying that both ASEAN and China had a relentless pursuit of peace.
“No matter what storm may come, China-ASEAN cooperation will be as firm as ever and press ahead against all odds,” Li Qiang said.
Jokowi said that China was one of ASEAN’s four dialogue partners that had a comprehensive strategic partnership with the Southeast Asian bloc. Two decades have passed since China acceded to ASEAN’s non-aggression pact, the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC).
“We need to translate all this into mutually beneficial concrete partnerships, and this is only possible with mutual trust. And mutual trust is something that everyone must build and maintain,” Jokowi said.
Xi Jinping’s absence at the 43rd ASEAN Summit was to be expected. According to a senior diplomat Sidharto Suryodipuro over the weekend, China has always sent its premier to attend ASEAN summits.