MANILA, Nov. 1 (Xinhua) -- China can greatly help the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in its efforts to build a closer community as the world's second-largest economy focuses on strengthening trade and investments with the 10-nation grouping, a Philippine scholar said.
Ahead of the 35th ASEAN Summit and related meetings in Bangkok, Thailand, Lucio Pitlo, a lecturer from the Chinese Studies Program at the Ateneo de Manila University, told Xinhua in a recent interview that China is an important partner of ASEAN and can greatly help ASEAN in poverty alleviation, infrastructure, and renewable energy and other areas.
Indeed, Pitlo said China's strategic partnership with ASEAN, which groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, is vital in promoting development and stability in the region.
"China's poverty alleviation experience, huge market, infrastructure and manufacturing capacity, outbound investment, renewable energy technology and e-commerce is a boon for ASEAN," he said, adding that cooperation in these areas will benefit both sides.
Pitlo said China's success in uplifting 800 million people out of poverty in its 40 years of reform and opening-up offers plenty of experiences that ASEAN countries can draw from.
Sharing his view on infrastructure cooperation, Pitlo said China's emergence as a major infrastructure builder and renewable energy technology exporter also bode well for ASEAN.
Pitlo said the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity (MPAC) and China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has clear convergence, adding that he is optimistic on railway, port and other infrastructure construction between China and ASEAN.
"Chinese mass production made renewable energy technologies more accessible to developing countries. Low and flexible financing terms coupled with competent and fast construction enable ASEAN countries to build and rehabilitate their infrastructure and utilities," Pitlo added.
In November 2018, both sides agreed on ASEAN-China Strategic Partnership Vision 2030 supporting China's vision to build an ASEAN-China community with a shared future. Both sides continue to make significant progress in many areas.
"Economy will be the main driver for cooperation," Pitlo said.
In the economy and trade sector, data showed that the China-ASEAN trade volume reached a record high of 587.8 billion U.S. dollars in 2018, a year-on-year increase of 14.1 percent.
In the first half of this year, ASEAN for the first time overtook the United States to become China's second-largest trading partner, and trade volume of the whole year is expected to reach 600 billion dollars.
"China is ASEAN's largest trade partner consistently for a decade now, while ASEAN recently emerged as China's second-largest trade partner. China has also become ASEAN's largest inbound tourism market," Pitlo said, adding that more and more ASEAN people are choosing to work or study in China.
The upgraded protocol of China-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement fully took effect on Oct. 22. Pitlo said this will greatly expand the two-way trade between China and ASEAN and make more ASEAN's agricultural products and intermediate goods enjoy greater market access to China.
Southeast Asia's booming market may encourage more Chinese firms to give greater thought to investing in ASEAN countries, he added.
In the security area, he said China and ASEAN opted to dialogue and consultation to handle differences and are jointly committed to safeguarding peace and stability in the South China Sea.
The first reading of the Single Draft Negotiating Text of the Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea has been finished this July by China and ASEAN. The two sides have also carried out defence and security cooperation, such as their first joint maritime exercise.
"Increased confidence-building, such as ASEAN-China naval exercises, and dialogue mechanisms, such as the COC negotiations, contribute to enhancing the political and security climate between the two sides," Pitlo said.