As Asean and China leaders are meeting in Manila, a Cambodian scholar has said Asean-China relations would be closer in the future thanks to the Belt and Road Initiative.
The Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road initiative, known as the Belt and Road Initiative, was proposed by China in 2013 with the aim of building a trade, investment and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient trade routes.
To support the initiative, China has established the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the Silk Road Fund to provide finance to infrastructure projects in the Asian region.
Joseph Matthews, the director of the Asean Education Center, said the Asean-China relationship has been moving toward a new high under the landmark policy of the Belt and Road Initiative.
“This policy has invigorated the economic and infrastructure development in the region,” he told Xinhua in a recent interview. “The most beneficiaries from this policy are the least developed countries (LDCs) – Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam – within Asean.”
Mr Matthews, a professor at the Beltei International University in Phnom Penh, said the core value of the Belt and Road Initiative was the connectivity through roads, rail, waterways and airways.
“This policy is bringing different countries in the region closer and accessible to each other,” the scholar said, adding that the unprecedented infrastructure development in the region has created millions of jobs, economic opportunities and the development of industrial zones in many countries.
“This is a sincere desire of the Chinese government to liberalise trade in goods and services in the region by minimising trade barriers and maximising cooperation for mutual benefits,” he said.
Mr Matthews said currently, Asean-China have been enjoying close relations in economy, trade, investment, tourism and security, and the close ties are crucial to ensure peace, security, stability and development in the region.
He said China is the biggest trading partner of Asean and Asean has received the highest numbers of Chinese tourists.
“Chinese tourists are a driving force behind the development of hospitality and other service sectors in the region,” he said. “The region is abundantly benefiting and flourishing through the influx of Chinese tourists, who are infusing billions of US dollars in the local economy.”
Sharing his view on China’s diplomatic principles of “amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness for win-win cooperation”, the scholar said the principles have won the hearts and minds of the people in the region in particular and in the world in general.
“History has witnessed that Chinese diplomatic approach to the region has never been bullying, hegemonic or pushy,” he said.
Talking about the future of East Asia’s integration, he said he did not see any future political, social and economic stability in East Asia as long as the American army is present in the Korean Peninsula.
“For the sake of security and stability of the region, the United States needs to change its behaviour and attitudes towards the region. Otherwise, the region will remain tense and a flash-point for any possible conventional and unconventional war,” Mr Matthews said.
He added that in East Asia, Japan could play an important role by working closely with regional partners for political stability and for lasting peace.
“In my personal view, continuing Japanese strategic alliance with the United States is the biggest hindrance to regional integration and permanent peace in the region,” he said.
Commenting on Sino-Cambodian relations, Mr Matthews said China is the biggest investor and donor in Cambodia and the Southeast Asian nation has been benefiting from China’s generous and unconditional financial assistance for decades.
“China has played a very important role in stabilising the country’s economy and political stability,” he said. Xinhua