ASEAN trade corridor could ease regional tensions

Brushing aside dispute over the South China Sea, China on Friday called for the fuller economic integration with the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), steered by the Nanning-Singapore Economic Corridor under the framework of the Maritime Silk Road (MSR).

Soon after the 12th edition of the China-ASEAN Business and Investment Summit began, delegates from China and ASEAN arrived at the “Nanning Consensus” to build the Nanning-Singapore Economic Corridor, more formally dubbed as the China-Indo-China Peninsula International Corridor.

The core initiative aimed at economic integration, would connect eight major cities — Singapore, Kuala Lampur, Bangkok, Phnom Penh, Ho Chi Minh City, Vientiane, Hanoi and Nanning.

From Nanning, further connectivity nodes would be extended to coastal Guangzhou and Hong Kong, thus forming a pattern of “one corridor connecting 10 cities.” Analysts say that project fits into integrated regional plans to develop western and central China.

Nanning is geographically well positioned to link up through a waterway with the prosperous Pearl River Delta region of Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao.

Besides, the Nanjing-Singapore corridor will cover two related trajectories. While one line will head towards Vietnam, the other would be expended to the less developed Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar.

Observers point out that the corridor is being structured to help China, which wishes to revamp its economy to a more developed “new normal” plain, shift its excess manufacturing capacity to the less developed zones in the ASEAN.

Once the corridor enters implementation phase “labour-intensive and resource-intensive industries” would cascade in the direction of Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar.

In his inaugural address, Chinese Vice Prime Minister Zhang Gaoli, unveiled Beijing’s aspiration for shaping a common future in Southeast Asia, which included economic integration and cultural inclusivity, well-shielded from unfolding global turbulence.

“At present, profound changes are taking place in global political and economic patterns. China and ASEAN have to strengthen cooperation, build a community of common interest, common destiny and common responsibility with political mutual trust, integrated economies and inclusive culture,” Mr. Zhang observed.

The Chinese leader signaled to the assembled ASEAN representatives, that common stakes in political stability and economic prosperity, far overrode differences over the boundary alignment in the South China Sea. In the presence of representatives from the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei — countries which dispute Beijing’s interpretation of maritime boundaries in the South China Sea, Mr. Zhang stressed Beijing’s commitment to a tension-easing code of conduct in these waters.

Opposed to the presence of the militarisation of the Pacific by the U.S., Mr. Zhang stressed that Asians should themselves take charge of security in their backyard.

“China stands ready to work with the Asian countries to implement the declaration of the code of conduct of the countries of the South China Sea in a full, effective and comprehensive manner,” he observed.