The Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies Malaysia (ISIS Malaysia), in cooperation with the China Foreign Affairs University (CFAU), conducted the 2nd Network of ASEAN-China Think-Thank (NACT) Seminar at the Sheraton Imperial, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on 15-17 November 2015.
FSI Deputy Director-General Julio Amador III and Foreign Affairs Research Specialists Eileene Arquiza, Joycee Teodoro, and Jeremie Credo attended the seminar.
Themed “ASEAN-China Relations: Cooperation, Community, and Connectivity,” the Seminar discussed the political, economic, and socio-cultural dimensions of ASEAN-China relations today. Mr. Amador served as one of the discussants on the session “The security dimension – maritime security and cooperation: Prerequisites for successful outcomes,” while Ms. Credo was one of the speakers on “The social dimension – education as a means of connecting China-ASEAN economies.”
In his discussion, Mr. Amador noted that despite the existence of international conventions, laws, and frameworks that serve as foundations for regional maritime cooperation, tensions among littoral states have persisted. He stated that the low level of trust among governments is a great factor contributing to this reality. Thus, in order to prevent further conflict, existing treaties and documents must be translated into effective and functioning mechanisms of cooperation. Track II can play a role by conducting studies on existing mechanisms that will identify gaps in policies, assess existing modes of cooperation, and propose new initiatives on how to successfully implement them in the region. Likewise, Track II could serve as a link between governments by promoting functional cooperation in areas that are less sensitive such as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, search and rescue, and mainstreaming environment education.
Beyond the political and economic areas of cooperation, of equal importance is the socio-cultural cooperation dimension, especially the people-to-people linkages. One way of deepening mutual understanding between states is through the utilization of educational cooperation as it forges friendship for the future. In her presentation, Ms. Credo emphasized the need for governments to provide their people access to training and education and investment in research and development as these would result in human and social capital building. Educational cooperation enhances productivity, steady supply of skilled individuals, and increases connectivity between and among people.
On the area of ASEAN-China education cooperation, Ms. Credo pointed out that there are plenty of existing programs and initiatives. In fact, there are approximately thirty Confucius Institutes and twenty Confucius classrooms in all ten ASEAN Member States and educational exchanges between ASEAN and China that are set to expand. However, despite the existence of these platforms, language barriers continue to hinder the flow of students from one place to another. On this note, Ms. Credo suggested the need to establish Southeast Asian Language Centers in China that could function as a counterpart to the Confucius Institutes in Southeast Asia. She acknowledged that China’s openness in strengthening ties with ASEAN by focusing on the social foundations of relations is a positive sign for future engagement.
The seminar was attended by think-tanks from ASEAN and China, the diplomatic corps, and representatives from the academe.