Monday, December 10, 2012

China Seeks ‘Good Relationship’ With Asean

 Muhamad Al Azhari | December 10, 2012

ASEAN Prime Minister and China at the 21st Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean)-China Cummit, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on Nov.19. Photo: Quoc Viet/RFA

China, the world’s most populous nation, is not likely to take any hard-line economic policy toward Indonesia and other Southeast Asia nations that make up Asean, as its incoming president, Xin Jinping, takes power in March.

“China needs to make a good relationship with Asean. Since 2000, China has seen Asean as one potential trading bloc,” Richard Tan, executive board chairman at the Indonesian Chinese Entrepreneur Association said on Friday.

“It shook hands with Asean for a free-trade pact before Asean had set up one with Japan and Korea,” he spoke after a seminar attended by Indonesian graduates of Tsinghua University in Beijing at the Borobudur Hotel.

China Daily reported on Sept. 22 on its website that Xi, in addressing the annual China-Asean Business Investment Summit in Nanning, Guangxi province, wanted a stronger trade and economic relationship between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations despite a dispute over territorial claims in the South China Sea. Asean’s 10 members are Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar.

Richard was confident that the rising tension would not derail China’s intention to forge a stronger economic tie with the bloc. The Philippines and Vietnam protest intrusions by China into areas that the two nations claim are part of their territories.

“Xi Jinping will be more moderate ... his country is getting bigger, it means a bigger responsibility and more difficult to govern. It will be hard to make any sharp maneuver, including derailing the already good relationship with overseas partners,” Richard said.

ICEA was established in Indonesia by prominent ethnic-Chinese enterpreneurs like Liem Sioe Liong, who is the founder of Salim Group; Eka Tjipta Wijaya, who is the founder of Sinar Mas; and Sukanto Tanoto, who is the founder of Royal Golden Eagle International.

The organization has played an important role in promoting Indonesia in China and abroad through trade fairs, investment and trade seminars, publications, education and training.

Asean has been among the top destinations for Chinese companies. Bilateral trade jumped to $292.78 billion in 2010 from $7.96 billion in 1991, according to Xinhua, the Chinese state media. The two economies seek to achieve $500 billion in trade by 2015, through a free-trade pact that was signed in 2004 and was implemented in 2005, according to a report by China Daily.

China confirmed its economic strength on Sunday with the release of some economic figures. Its National Bureau of Statistics announced that there was a double-digit increase in production at factories, workshops and mines for the first time since March, suggesting that the world’s second-biggest economy is weathering the effects of global slowdown.

Rizal Sukma, the executive director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies — a Jakarta-based think tank — said Asean should take advantage of a chance to boost trade with China, just as growth in western economies is slowing. China’s influence is rising and is challenging the United States’ economic dominance, he said.

“We should maintain all economic cooperations that are possible,” he said.

Indonesia had good relations with China during the presidency of Sukarno in the 1950s and early ’60s. That relationship turned under President Suharto, a strong anti-communist, but has strengthened in the past decade.

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