by Zhao Qing, Gao Jie
MANILA, Nov. 12 (Xinhua) -- China will continue prioritizing the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in its neighborhood diplomacy and firmly supporting the building of the ASEAN Community, said Chinese Ambassador to ASEAN Xu Bu.
In an interview with Xinhua ahead of the 31st ASEAN Summit and related meetings held here, Xu said "China appreciates the grand vision of ASEAN and is looking forward to and has every reason to believe that ASEAN will make new and greater accomplishments in the next 50 years."
ASEAN celebrates the 50 years' anniversary this year and the Philippines, the rotating chair of this year, has proposed the theme "Partnering for Change, Engaging the World", which envisions an integrated, peaceful, stable and resilient ASEAN.
The establishment of the ASEAN Community at the end of 2015 marked a new milestone in the process of regional integration of Southeast Asia. ASEAN has become the most important regional bloc, and a model of union and self-reliance of countries with different social systems and at different levels of development, the ambassador said.
Politically, countries in Southeast Asia have creatively initiated "the ASEAN Way", which features mutual respect, consensus through consultation, non-interference in each other's internal affairs and accommodating each party's comfort level.
Regional cooperation has been pursued in a constructive way, making positive contribution to the region's stability, peace and development, Xu noted.
Economically, with a total population of over 630 million and a combined GDP of over 2.5 trillion U.S. dollars, ASEAN has grown to be the world's sixth largest economy. With its economic growth rate reaching 4.8 percent in 2016, ASEAN has abundant momentum and huge potential for economic development, the ambassador said.
On the aspect of regional cooperation, "the ASEAN Way" has been widely accepted by countries in the region as an important principle for pushing forward the regional cooperation in Southeast Asia.
Currently, East Asia and Southeast Asia have formed ASEAN-centered regional cooperation frameworks such as ASEAN+1, ASEAN+3 (China, Japan and South Korea), East Asia Summit, and ASEAN Regional Forum, providing important platforms for countries in and close to the ASEAN region to jointly discuss affairs and tackle challenges in the area.
Established in 1967, ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Leaders from the 10 ASEAN member countries and ASEAN dialogue partners gather in Manila from Nov. 10 to Nov. 14 for the 31st ASEAN summit, 12th East Asia summit and related meetings. Strengthening regional integration and global free trade, security issues, among others, will be the major topics.