Skip to main content

Advertisement

Advertisement

Xi urges greater ASEAN-China cooperation in landmark speech in Jakarta

JAKARTA — China’s President Xi Jinping made history in Indonesia yesterday by becoming the first foreign leader to address the country’s Parliament, using the platform to call for greater cooperation with South-east Asia’s biggest economy and the region as a whole.

JAKARTA — China’s President Xi Jinping made history in Indonesia yesterday by becoming the first foreign leader to address the country’s Parliament, using the platform to call for greater cooperation with South-east Asia’s biggest economy and the region as a whole.

China “is ready to work together with Indonesia and other ASEAN countries to make the two sides share the same prosperity (and) stick together through thick and thin so that we can become good friends and good neighbours,” Mr Xi said, referring to the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

China’s economic development will bring opportunities rather than threats as it seeks to boost trade with South-east Asia, Mr Xi said on his first visit to the region since taking office in March.

Mr Xi said China hoped trade with ASEAN would reach US$1 trillion (S$1.25 trillion) by 2020, from US$320 billion in 2012, according to the ASEAN website.

Mr Xi, however, made no reference to regional demands, echoed in Washington, that Beijing deal with territorial disputes in the South China Sea through multilateral talks rather than with individual negotiations.

The issue is certain to overshadow two regional summits next week that Mr Xi will attend. China is vying with the United States for influence in the economically dynamic region amid concerns about China’s growing assertiveness in the South China Sea.

But while Mr Xi is touring South-east Asia, including signing off on multi-billion-dollar deals with Indonesia, US President Barack Obama has had to cancel trips to the Philippines and Malaysia because of the US government shutdown.

“We should abandon the cold war mentality, and cooperate to build security and jointly safeguard regional peace and stability,” said Mr Xi.

“For the territorial and maritime disputes between China and ASEAN, the two sides should adhere to the principle of peaceful consultation and frank dialogue and resolve these disputes in a peaceful manner so as to safeguard regional stability and peace,’’ he told lawmakers. “China’s development is a force for peace and friendship in the world, bringing development opportunities for Asia and the world and not threats.”

Indonesian legislator Tantowi Yahya told Reuters: “What we wanted to hear from President Xi Jinping was whether China has the goodwill to resolve the South China Sea issue ... But he didn’t address the issue at all, so I’m disappointed.”

Only about a third of the members of the combined houses attended the speech, the first such address by a foreign leader.

Mr Xi’s speech came a day after he met with his Indonesian counterpart, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and signed agreements to jointly develop industries including fisheries, tourism and aerospace, the Presidential Palace said.

A currency swap was also signed worth US$16 billion for three years that could be utilised to support Indonesia’s sliding rupiah in a crisis. Mr Xi also proposed creating an infrastructure investment bank that would help fund development projects in the region.

Four of the 10 members of ASEAN, including Vietnam and the Philippines but not Indonesia, have overlapping claims with China in the strategic and resource-rich South China Sea. Indonesia has offered to mediate but has in the past criticised China for not showing more restraint over the disputes, which have raised concerns about potential violence.

Mr Xi also met business leaders during his two-day visit. He left Indonesia and arrived in Malaysia yesterday. He is expected to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit next week in Bali. After that, Mr Xi and several other leaders will head to Brunei for the East Asia summit.

Indonesian companies secured US$32.8 billion of financing and investment from Chinese firms yesterday during Mr Xi’s state visit, an Indonesian government official said.

Indonesian hopes to get a favoured trade status and Chinese demand for its coal. “So much else is at stake in the relationship,” said Mr Keith Loveard, head of risk analysis at Jakarta-based security company Concord Consulting. “Indonesia knows very well that it is dealing with the big boy on the block and will tread cautiously.”

China is already Indonesia’s biggest trading partner after Japan. Two-way trade reached US$66 billion last year, while Chinese direct investment rose to US$2 billion. AGENCIES

Read more of the latest in

Advertisement

Popular

Advertisement

Stay in the know. Anytime. Anywhere.

Subscribe to get daily news updates, insights and must reads delivered straight to your inbox.

By clicking subscribe, I agree for my personal data to be used to send me TODAY newsletters, promotional offers and for research and analysis.