JAKARTA, Oct. 24 (Xinhua) -- The China-ASEAN relations are at a new starting point and will enter another exciting 30 years, said Chinese ambassador to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Deng Xijun.
The two sides shall further unleash the energy and potential of the relations with more active steps and more innovative measures, and build a closer community with a shared future for the benefit of the over 2 billion population in 11 countries, Deng said in a recent interview with Xinhua.
ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. China and ASEAN established dialogue relations in 1991.
Deng noted that during the past 30 years, the two sides have made a giant leap forward in economic and trade cooperation. The two-way trade increased by 85 times, making the two sides each other's largest trading partners.
In the first three quarters of this year, China-ASEAN trade totaled 630.54 billion U.S. dollars, up by 31.1 percent year-on-year and accounting for 14.4 percent of China's total foreign trade, continuing to maintain strong growth momentum, Deng said.
According to China's statistics, since the establishment of the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area 11 years ago, 90 percent of the goods between the two sides can be traded at zero tariff.
Commenting on the significance of ASEAN centrality embodied in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), Deng said that during eight years of negotiations, ASEAN has played a leading role by vigorously coordinating the positions of all parties and ensuring steady progress.
China was the first non-ASEAN member to complete ratification of RCEP, he noted.
"The agreement is of vital significance to promoting post-COVID-19 economic recovery and prosperity in the region, deepening economic integration of East Asia, and safeguarding regional peace and stability," said Deng.
"China will continue fully cooperating with ASEAN to have the RCEP take effect as scheduled early next year."
Regarding the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, Deng said China and ASEAN have been upholding the spirit of mutual assistance and solidarity as reflected by the cooperation on combating COVID-19.
To date, China has provided all ASEAN member states with over 300 million COVID-19 vaccines and a great number of emergency medical supplies. China has also sent medical expert teams to help build virus-testing labs and worked on vaccine trials with several ASEAN member states, Deng noted.
"Though the pandemic now in ASEAN is receding, the challenges including pandemic rebounding from time to time and low vaccination rate in some countries still remain and thus create uncertainties ahead," said Deng.
China is ready to explore strengthening cooperation in vaccine R&D, production, procurement, vaccination, and supervision with ASEAN countries through China-ASEAN Vaccine Friend Cooperation to enhance the affordability and accessibility of vaccines in the region, he said.
Talking about the new trilateral security partnership between the United States, Britain and Australia known as AUKUS, Deng said it is in essence another "Anglo-Saxon" circle defined by the close Anglosphere affinity and geopolitical calculations.
"These small circles would disintegrate the existing regional architecture with ASEAN in the driver's seat and thus significantly undermine ASEAN centrality," he said.
Deng stressed that what ASEAN member states and other regional countries truly long for is no other than the peaceful coexistence of major powers in East Asia, an open and inclusive regional architecture to be consolidated, and a cooperation-oriented agenda with the focus on anti-pandemic endeavors and economic recovery.
In no way would they long for "endless geopolitical rivalry, worrying military and security agenda, or being forced to side with anyone," he said.
"Unfortunately, the policy orientation of the U.S. administration is drifting further away from the wish of regional countries," he said.