Interview: China an ASEAN’s key partner in economy, tourism and security: Cambodian expert

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PHNOM PENH, Nov. 11 (Xinhua) — As the leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China are due to meet in Manila, the Philippines next week, a Cambodian expert has said that China is one of the ASEAN’s most important partners in economy, tourism and security.

Chheang Vannarith, a senior fellow of the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace, said China is the top trading partner and an emerging investor of ASEAN and the people-to-people bond has been enhanced through travel and tourism, educational and cultural exchanges, and intra-regional migration.

ASEAN data showed that bilateral trade between ASEAN and China exceeded 452 billion U.S. dollars in 2016, and foreign direct investment (FDI) flows from China to ASEAN amounted to 9.2 billion U.S. dollars last year, accounting for 9.5 percent of total ASEAN’s FDI.

On the tourism front, China is the largest source of tourists to ASEAN, with over 21 million Chinese tourists visiting the region last year.

“On the security sector, the cooperation between ASEAN and China has been remarkably strengthened, especially in capacity building on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief,” he told Xinhua.

ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

For the China’s role in ASEAN+3 (China, Japan and South Korea) cooperation, Vannarith, who is an expert at the ASEAN affairs, said China has been the core partner of the ASEAN+3 cooperation framework in forging regional connectivity, trade and investment liberalization, and cultural exchanges.

He suggested that inclusive governance and social innovation need to be strengthened to realize the vision of building people-centered East Asian community.

Vannarith also shared his view on the future of East Asia’s integration, saying that improved trilateral relations among China, Japan, and South Korea are critical to fostering the East Asia’s regional integration.

Commenting on China’s diplomatic principles of “amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness for win-win Cooperation,” he said both China and ASEAN need time to build and socialize shared images and understanding of the principles.

“Frequent, frank and open dialogue on the principles need to be nurtured,” he said.

Talking about the possible China-Cambodia cooperation in addressing challenges in non-traditional security threats, Vannarith said the two countries should further promote an open and inclusive regional integration and work together to realize a people-oriented and people-centered East Asian community.

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