BEIJING: Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao begins his two-day visit to Kuala Lumpur Wednesday at the invitation of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.
From here he will go to Jakarta for his official visit to the republic at the invitation of Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for another two-day visit.
Wen gave a rare one-hour interview to two Malaysia media (The Star and Bernama) and three from Indonesia at the Cabinet office at the Zhong Nan Hai in Beijing on Monday.
Wen had granted only two to three such interviews since becoming premier eight years ago and Chinese officials stressed that this showed the “great significance” he attached to the official visits to the two countries.
Wen arrived for the interview 15 minutes early and officials said this showed his great interest in the visits. Here is the full text of the interview.
Question: The level of Malaysia-China relations has reached a new high and this is evident in the fact that Malaysia has become China's biggest trading partner among Asean members. Soon the two countries will sign the agreement on mutual recognition of academic degrees. What could the two countries do to further enhance the cooperation? Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak once said that the future success of Malaysia-China relations must be based on mutual trust between the two countries. What do you think are the key factors in fostering better Malaysia-China relations?
Wen: Before I answer your question, I cannot help but recall two major historical events in the history of exchanges between China and Malaysia. The first is that when China was in its most difficult moments, Malaysia was the first Asean member to establish diplomatic relations with China.
Thirty-seven years ago, the then Prime Minister of Malaysia Tun Abdul Razak - father of current Prime Minister Najib - and Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai signed the joint communique on the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries.
The second event is that Malaysia proposed to Asean 20 years ago to begin dialogue with China. As an ancient Chinese proverb goes “do not forget what favours others have done for you” (and) we have never forgotten these historical episodes between our two countries. You spoke about the future development of Sino-Malaysia relations and I agree that mutual trust comes first and foremost in developing state-to-state relationships.
As a Chinese saying goes “when developing relationships it is essential that we increase mutual communication and we tell people what are truly on our minds”. Mutual trust forms the bedrock of our bilateral relations and I believe Malaysia-China relations will enjoy a very bright future.
You have already highlighted the priority areas in Malaysia-China relations. I believe the two countries should enhance business cooperation as you mentioned that Malaysia has become China's biggest trading partner among Asean countries.
According to Chinese statistics, last year our two-way trade volume reached US$74.2bil. What we need to do now is to sustain the momentum of balanced, coordinated and sustainable growth of our trade. At the same time, we should increase the science and technological contents of our traded goods.
Secondly, the two sides should work together to promote cooperation in science and technology and education. I noticed that there has been much coverage in local Malaysian newspapers that the two countries will sign the agreement on mutual recognition of academic degrees.
Why did these papers pay so much attention to this? I believe the exchanges in education, science and technology represents the future of our bilateral ties, particularly in the exchange of young people because it is the young people who will carry the future mission of enhancing friendship and deepening cooperation between our two countries.
Thirdly, we need to increase mutual investment and this includes key projects that Malaysia has paid much attention to, such as the Second Penang Bridge project, the paper pulp mill project in Sarawak and other cooperation projects in infrastructure development.
One major progress we have made in enhancing such cooperation is to strengthen the financial support for our cooperation.
During my visit to Malaysia, the Chinese side will put forward specific proposals for better mutual reinforcements of financial and business cooperation. In other words, I believe we will open a new chapter in China-Malaysia cooperation.
Question: Although Malaysia and China have some friction over some islands and reefs in South China Sea such as the Swallow Reef (Pulau Layang Layang), the relationship between the two countries has moved forward steadily. I would like to ask whether China would hold talks on joint development in these contested islands and reefs with Malaysia and other relevant countries that have cross claims with China?
Wen: China remains committed to the Declaration of Conduct of the Parties in the South China Sea. We take the position that territorial disputes over maritime rights and interests should be peacefully addressed and resolved by the countries concerned through bilateral channels.
We disapprove of referring bilateral disputes to multi-lateral forums because that will only complicate the issue. You have rightly mentioned that although China and Malaysia have some disputes over the mentioned island and reefs in the South China Sea, these disputes have not impeded our efforts to have peaceful co-existence between the two countries.
Secondly, I totally agree that the countries concerned can and should have joint development of resources in the South China Sea because this is in the interest of regional peace in the area and it also serves the interests of all claimant countries.
Let me take this opportunity to address a very important subject related to China's development and where China is heading. I know that some Asean countries have shown a keen interest in this topic. China is a developing country. With over 30 years of reform and opening up, we have achieved much progress in economic and social development.
However, China remains a big country with a huge population and weak economic foundation. That means we still have to work hard if we are to build a moderately prosperous society in all respects and achieve our goal of modernisation.
China will adhere to an independent foreign policy and maintain the policy of building neighbourly relations and partnership with neighbouring countries. This is our policy now when we are not a developed country and even if one day China becomes a developed country, we will still adhere to such policy and China will never seek domination.
China's development itself is a major contribution to the prosperity of the world. China's development also represents an opportunity for its neighbouring countries like Asean. China is a big country that does not shirk from its responsibilities.
China is committed to play its part in promoting world peace, security and stability. We are of the view that for such a large developing country like China, it must have a peaceful external environment and stable domestic environment so that it will be able to sustain the momentum of development and progress. I believe that on this subject we will have a long understanding of Asean countries and their cooperation too.
Question: Can you tell us your impression of Indonesia? The Chinese government has set out its 12th Five-Year Plan and so has Indonesia announced its mid-term and long-term economic blueprint. How will the two countries deepen their bilateral relations and translate these opportunities into real benefits?
Wen: Indonesia is a country with a vast expanse of territories, rich natural resources and a huge population. It has long coastline and a lot of islands. It is renowned as the emerald of the equator.
Exchanges between China and Indonesia have a time-honoured history. In recent years, relations between two countries have enjoyed rapid development. I came to know the country by the name of Indonesia when I was a child. Even when I was very young, I could hum some famous Indonesia folk songs including Baby (Butet) and Aiyo Mama. When it comes to exchanges between two countries, we can trace it back to the 4th century when the eminent monk, Fa-Hien, visited Indonesia.
In the 8th century, there was a famous Chinese called Yi Jing who visited Indonesia and it was during that time that a large number of Chinese started to go to Indonesia and settled down there. A few days ago I had a meeting with the Indonesian Foreign Minister.
In our meeting, the minister told me some historical episodes between China and Indonesia. He told me that he was born in Sumatra and many of the local Sumatra people actually look very much like Chinese. He told me that he suspected he has some Chinese roots as well.
The most famous historical episode in the exchanges between China and Indonesia was the Western Seas voyages by Admiral Zheng He who was a famous Muslim navigator in the early 15th century. He helped established several mosques in Indonesia during these visits and many of them are still very much preserved.
In modern times, the most memorable episode in our exchanges is the Bandung Conference in which Zhou Enlai and the then Indonesian President Sukarno made tremendous efforts to bring about the successful Asia-Africa conference there.
Together they worked to initiate 10 important principles for the peaceful co-existence of Asian and African countries.
In order to gain a better knowledge and understanding about those historical events, I once paid a special visit to the relevant venue in Bandung. I cherish friendly sentiments and have a fond impression of Indonesia.
You mentioned in your question that China is implementing the 12th Five-Year Plan on economic and social development and Indonesia has set out its blueprint for long-term economic development.
I believe they represent tremendous opportunities for cooperation between the two countries. What we need to do now is to seize these opportunities and translate them into concrete results. To do this I think it is important for us to take the following steps in six areas.
First, we should enhance high-level of exchanges, establish a mechanism for regular mutual visits at the leadership level and increase our mutual political trust.
Second, we need to carry out closer economic cooperation and trade. The two countries can make full use of the China-Asean cooperation mechanism on the China-Asean Free Trade Area (Cafta) and we can enhance our cooperation in energy, infrastructure development and important sectors like manufacturing, agriculture and fishery.
Third, we need to step up maritime cooperation including maritime security, military exchanges, joint anti-terrorism exercises, military drills and marine economy which includes the development of marine resources ad research and development of the marine science and technology. We should also enhance our cooperation in the forecast of disasters as well as preparedness of tsunami and earthquake.
Fourth, we need to intensify our cultural and people-to-people exchanges and exchanges in science and technology and education. Talking about education, I believe both educational and cultural exchanges represent the future of our friendship and form the foundation of our cooperation. We need to work together for the agreement on mutual recognition of academic degrees and diplomas of higher education. We should also increase the visits by our students and it means a lot to both countries.
Fifth, we need to enhance our cooperation in Asean. Indonesia will assume the rotating presidency of Asean and I hope that Indonesia will continue to play an active and constructive role in promoting China-Asean cooperation.
Sixth, we should step up cooperation on major international and regional issues. Indonesia is a member of G20 and it is an emerging economy. The country has extensive and increasing influence not only in Asia but also in the world. We hope that both countries will step up consultations and cooperation in international affairs and make joint efforts to promote world peace and prosperity.
Question: It is interesting that you said you know the Indonesian song Aiyo Mama. Do you still remember the song? Asean and China have made tremendous progress in recent years. Do you see any challenges in China-Asean relationship? What effort will China take to enhance China-Asean relationship? Some countries including Indonesia have some concerns on the implementation of the Cafta, what do you think about that?
Wen: To answer your first question, I can still hum the tunes of Aiyo Mama and Baby (Butet). Maybe, when we have some time later, I can sing them to you.
You asked a couple of very big questions. Talking about the relationship between China and Asean, I would like to say our relationship has come a long way in the past 20 years. We have moved from dialogue relationship to good neighbourly relationship to now strategic cooperation.
China and Asean now enjoy all-round cooperation. For example, in 2004, Indonesia and China established strategic partnership and after that we together formulated the plans of action for strategic partnership bringing our bilateral ties to a new stage.
Now China-Asean relationship has entered a stage of forging ahead across the board. I believe we have worked together well in terms of the FTA development, financial cooperation, infrastructure connectivity and many other areas.
Although Asean members are at different stages of development, I believe we can all benefit from our cooperation on the basis of mutual respect and win-win results. I believe the cooperation between the two sides will extend to concrete results to all relevant parties.
I have the privilege of attending all China-Asean leaders meetings since 2003 as Chinese Premier. I have witnessed the progress of Asean integration and the formation and improvement in such cooperation mechanism as 10+1, 10+3 and the mechanism of China, Japan and South Korea cooperation.
I believe these mechanisms have complemented each other, drawn upon each other's comparative advantages and achieved common development. They have developed into fairly full-fledged and effective cooperation mechanisms. I hope that China-Asean cooperation will continue to move in the right direction.
You asked the question on Cafta. I would like to say that much preparation have been made before the FTA was inaugurated. Last year, we reached the consensus on the FTA and signed relevant agreements.
I believe Cafta has brought benefits to China and Asean countries. We have witnessed a surge in trade between the two sides. For example last year, trade between China and Indonesia expanded by 50% and in the first quarter of this year trade between the two countries has achieved a balanced trade with the trade volume of about US$12bil.
I would like to take this opportunity to clear some of the concerns raised by some businesses on Cafta. I do believe that the realisation of Cafta has brought mutual benefits and win-win results to all parties.
What we need to do is make full use of the favourable conditions, especially the preferential policies set out in the FTA.
In the course of the Cafta development, we should make timely adjustments in the light of current circumstances. We need to accommodate the interests of small-and-medium enterprises and we need to work together to ensure that Cafta will continue to benefit all sides. In this regard, China has always pursued an open approach.
Asean and China have stood by each other in difficult times during the two financial crises. When Indonesia was struck by the severe tsunami and China was hit by the devastating earthquake in Wenchuan, we helped each other in those tough times.
I believe all these fully demonstrate the strong brotherly bond between China and Asean.
Question: Great changes have taken place in East Asia. How will China deal with the relationship especially with the inclusion of external powers like the United States in the East Asia Summit? What responsibilities will China undertake to maintain the regional peace and security? Since the US and Russia have joined the East Asia Summit, regional cooperation has changed. What do you think about this?
Wen: Personally, I have experienced the entire course of development of the East Asia Summit mechanism. In approaching the new dynamics in East Asian cooperation, I believe that it is important we follow the following three principles.
First, we need to consolidate, enhance and develop the existing cooperation mechanism. We need to work together to establish and improve long-term cooperation plans. We should ensure the plans are fully implemented and deliver real benefits to the people of all East Asian countries.
Second, we should respect the diversity of the East Asian cooperation. The new dynamics in our regional cooperation structure actually reflect the diversity of East Asian cooperation. In carrying out the East Asian cooperation, China has always advocated the principles that the East Asian cooperation should always have Asean to play a leading role. The East Asian cooperation should contribute to the Asean integration process and the development of all East Asian countries.
Third, we should ensure that our cooperation would remain open and inclusive. East Asian cooperation has been constantly expanded and this year the leaders of US and Russia will attend the East Asian Summit. I believe the East Asian Summit should stick to its nature as a leaders-led strategic forum. In this forum, we should work together to promote peace and stability of East Asia and promote development and progress of East Asia.
China is a responsible country and adheres to the path of peaceful development. China also assumes its responsibilities for regional security and stability such as in the areas of counter terrorism and maritime security.
Talking about maritime security, China has always advocated that efforts should be made to ensure navigation freedom and security in accordance with the international laws. China has contributed its part to this end. China has been a beneficiary of the safety and security of the international shipping routes in the South China Sea.
Many of China's goods and energy imports go through the Straits of Malacca. We want to enhance cooperation with other countries to ensure navigation freedom and security in the South China Sea.
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