Co-chaired by the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) China Foreign Affairs University (CFAU), the Network of ASEAN-China Think Tanks (NACT) First Working Group Meeting was held at Hotel Jen, Pasay City, on 19 May 2016.
Themed “ASEAN and China: Deepening the Strategic Partnership–NACT Working Group Meetings in Commemoration of the 25th Anniversary of ASEAN-China Dialogue Partnership,” the meeting reviewed the past 25 years of ASEAN-China relations in order to further move cooperation as well as consolidate and deepen their strategic partnership.
The meeting was divided into four sessions. In the first session, “Overview of ASEAN-China Relations in the Past 25 Years,” the participants highlighted China and ASEAN’s partnership, which herald relations that are no longer solely confined to the political or economic aspects of their relations, but also extend to cultural and people-to-people exchanges. However, significant challenges remain, including growing concerns among individual ASEAN member states of the asymmetry of ASEAN-China relations, trajectory of US-China dynamics in the region, China’s ascendancy and overall regional strategy, territorial disputes in the South China Sea, and the enduring trend of violent extremism.
The second session, “Economic Cooperation: The Belt And Road Initiative and Economic Progress,” was about the opportunities for economic cooperation in the construction of regional infrastructures. The participants delved into the parallel economic goals of Lao PDR’s Land-Linked Strategy and China’s One Belt and One Road Initiative, and into Thailand’s development policies which are underpinned by the aim of enhancing connectivity and opening economic borders.
The third session, “Security Cooperation: From Confidence-Building to Strategic Trust,” discussed the status of ASEAN-China security cooperation and building strategic trust. According to the participants, ASEAN and China must seek to apply mutual empathy in order to understand the perspectives of all ASEAN member states and China especially when dealing with the South China Sea disputes.
The fourth and last session, “Socio-Cultural Exchanges: Fostering People-to-People Ties,” explored the socio-cultural dimension of the ASEAN-China partnership, in particular, the pivotal role education plays in promoting people-to-people connectivity, economic growth, and human security.
The NACT Working Group Meeting was attended by representatives from the NACT Country Coordinators from ASEAN member states and China.