China- ASEAN Relations: paving way for a Regional Power

The relationship between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is getting deeper, and enhancing economic and political strength in the region. A new regional power is gaining stability in this part of the world.

“After nearly two decades of development, the relation between China and the ASEAN has become one of the most comprehensive and active one in ASEAN’s relations with dialogue partners,” said Prime Minister of Vietnam, Nguyen Tan Dung in an exclusive interview with Xinhua.

Dung said that the cooperation between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is becoming increasingly cemented and playing a key role in maintaining regional peace, stability and development.

Although there are still some significant differences, relations between China and ASEAN have largely improved over the past few years.

One of the most important results of China- ASEAN cooperation is the establishment of China- ASEAN free trade area (CAFTA). It was formally launched on January 1, 2010. It is considered to be the first free trade area established among developing countries and the third largest FTA in terms of trade volume, after the North American FTA and the European FTA, according to People’s Daily. The CAFTA provides zero tariffs on 90 percent of the products traded by China and ASEAN. The accumulative investment between China and ASEAN had reached more than $64 billion at the end of June2010, according to the Chinese Ministry of Commerce. Over this time, ASEAN has become China’s third largest importing market and the fourth largest exporting market as China-ASEAN trade topped $185.38 billion in the first 8 months of 2010.

These results are quite impressive and could in the future signify a new beginning for East Asia. If it is the third largest free trade zone in the world, it could mean that there is a new and powerful economic zone in the region, as opposed to those in the west. This in the future might play a key economic role.

The goal is to establish an ASEAN community by 2015. If this goal is met, then it could really divide the most powerful economic zones: one in North America, one in Europe and the other one in South East Asia. Beyond economic cooperation, China and ASEAN also work together in developing areas such as environment, science and technology and non-traditional security areas and other related legal issues. In the longer run, this could also bring geo-political and geo-economic transformation in this region.

Although the cooperation begins with trade and other economic issues, it is important to note that it has established even stronger ties between the nations, and increasing cooperation is something that could mean entering a new stage in the future.

In the past decades, few relationships in East Asia have developed as much as China- ASEAN relations.

There are however, still a few challenges that the group has to face, such as the fact that regional integration could pose a difficulty; connectivity and the impact of global economic and financial crisis could also be a problem, according a People’s Daily report. Another problem that could occur is that not all of the participating nations have the socioeconomic development to participate in regional projects.

* Ekaterina Volozova is an international reporter at M4 Media

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