December 13, 2021
At the China-ASEAN Special Summit on Nov 22, 2021, Chinese President Xi Jinping set out a roadmap for further strengthening China-ASEAN bilateral economic relations, under the framework of the new China-ASEAN Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. The enhanced bilateral relationship reflects the rapid growth in bilateral economic ties.
China-ASEAN bilateral economic ties have grown at a very rapid rate over the past three decades. Bilateral trade in goods between China and ASEAN has risen at a remarkable rate, increasing from just $9 billion in 1991 to $685 billion in 2020.
In 2020, ASEAN also surpassed the EU to become China’s largest trading partner for the first time. From the ASEAN perspective, China has already been the largest market for ASEAN exports for the past 12 years.
China will buy $150 billion of agricultural products from ASEAN over the next five years. The agricultural sector remains a key part of the economy for many ASEAN nations, so the initiatives will be an important new opportunity for ASEAN’s farming and agricultural processing sector
Bilateral investment ties have also soared. In 2020, China’s direct investment in ASEAN reached $14.4 billion, up by 52 percent, and ASEAN’s actual investment in China reached $8 billion dollars.
According to preliminary statistics, in the first half of 2021, Chinese companies invested $6.8 billion in ASEAN, and ASEAN investment in China was $5.6 billion.
Against this backdrop of rapidly strengthening economic ties, President Xi noted that China and ASEAN have taken strides toward building a closer community with a shared future and made important contributions to the cause of human progress, and stressed upgrading China-ASEAN bilateral economic relations.
A wide range of new economic initiatives are proposed under the framework of the new China-ASEAN Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.
Thanks to strong bilateral efforts to build economic cooperation, China and ASEAN have built a very strong economic partnership. One important pathway to strengthening economic cooperation over the past decade or so has been through the establishment of free trade areas.
A key trade agreement that has helped to foster bilateral trade has been the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area. The new RCEP trade agreement among 15 APAC nations, including China and all 10 ASEAN members, will help to further build trade and investment ties.
As part of China’s bilateral trade initiatives with ASEAN, China will buy $150 billion of agricultural products from ASEAN over the next five years.
The agricultural sector remains a key part of the economy for many ASEAN nations, so the initiatives will be an important new opportunity for ASEAN’s farming and agricultural processing sector.
Another key platform for bilateral economic cooperation over the past decade has been through infrastructure development across ASEAN through China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
Many infrastructure projects have already been built or are under construction in ASEAN as part of the Belt and Road Initiative. Under the China-ASEAN Comprehensive Economic Partnership, China is offering additional high-quality BRI partnership projects to ASEAN. China is also proposing a new China-ASEAN Digital Governance Dialogue to deepen co-operation in digital technology.
The additional $1.5 billion of development assistance announced by President Xi for ASEAN over the next three years will support Southeast Asia’s economic recovery from the global COVID-19 pandemic. The additional 150 million COVID-19 vaccines to ASEAN not only can help increase vaccination rates, but also show the mutual assistance within the larger East Asian community.
East Asian nations have increasingly been helping each other through many forms of crises, including the current pandemic, as well as natural disasters and economic crises.
The wide range of Chinese new initiatives will accelerate trade and investment flows and boost ASEAN economic recovery from the global pandemic, which bodes well for favorable prospects greater economic co-operation between China and ASEAN economies over the decade ahead.
In a broader perspective, following the Asian tradition of “sharing bliss and misfortune together”, President Xi has outlined a vision for China and ASEAN to work for building a peaceful, safe and secure, prosperous, beautiful and amicable home together, which reflects China’s policy proposals and goals for the Global Development Initiative.
China’s GDP is forecast to increase from $14.7 trillion in 2020 to $32.4 trillion by 2030. Meanwhile ASEAN GDP is projected to increase from $3 trillion in 2020 to $6.8 trillion by 2030. These will help to underpin sustainable future growth not only for trade and investment ties between the two sides, but also for inclusive and common development with shared benefits.