Premier Wen Jiabao Gives a Joint Interview to Journalists from Malaysia and Indonesia

Shortly before his official visits to Malaysia and Indonesia, Premier Wen Jiabao gave a joint interview to journalists from the National News Agency and the Star of Malaysia, and the SCTV, Kompass and the Jakarta Post of Indonesia, and answered their questions at Ziguangge, Zhongnanhai on 25 April. The following is the transcript of the interview.

Wen Jiabao: First, I would like to extend warm welcome to the friends from the press of Indonesia and Malaysia. In a couple of days, I will visit Indonesia and Malaysia. It will be my first official visit to Indonesia as the Chinese Premier and my second visit to Malaysia in six years. I feel delighted to have the opportunity to visit these two countries because both countries have a long history of exchanges with China and both are China's good brothers and close neighbors. I hope that the friends from the press of the two countries will convey my cordial greetings and best wishes to the people of Indonesia and Malaysia. Now I am ready to answer your questions.

Journalist: Could you tell our audience your impression about Indonesia and how do you comment on the current Indonesia-China relations? The Chinese government has mapped out its 12th five-year plan on economic and social development and the Indonesian government has determined its medium and long-term economic blueprint. How will the two countries develop their bilateral relations and translate the opportunities they face into real benefits for both China and Indonesia?

Wen Jiabao: Indonesia is a country with vast expanse of territory, rich natural resources and a big population. With a long coastline and a lot of islands, it is renowned as "Emerald of the Equator". Exchanges between China and Indonesia have a time-honored history. In recent years, relations between the two countries have enjoyed more rapid development. I had come to know this country when I was very young and could hum the tune of such famous Indonesian folk songs as "Buteh" and "Ayo Mama". Contacts between our two countries date back to 2,000 years ago. The eminent Chinese monk Fahien visited Indonesia in the 4th century AD. In the 8th century AD, the eminent Chinese monk Yijing visited Indonesia and during that time, a large number of Chinese started to migrate to Indonesia. In my meeting with Speaker Marzuki Alie of the Indonesian House of Representatives a few days ago, he told me some historical episodes between China and Indonesia. He said that he was born in Sumatra and many of the local Sumatra people look very much like Chinese, and that he thought that he is of Chinese descent too. The most famous historical episode in our exchanges is the Western Seas voyages by Zheng He, the famous Chinese navigator, a Muslim, in fact, in the early 15th century. He helped build several mosques in Indonesia and some of these mosques are still well preserved.

I believe the most important and memorable episode in our exchanges in the 20th century is the Bandung Conference. Premier Zhou Enlai and President Sukarno made tremendous joint efforts for the success of the conference. And the ten important principles for the peaceful coexistence of Asian and African countries were inaugurated there. In order to know more about that important historical event, I once paid a special trip to Bandung. I cherish a very fond impression of Indonesia.

You mentioned in your questions that China has formulated its 12th five-year plan on economic and social development and Indonesia has set out its blueprint for medium and long-term economic development. I believe they represent important opportunities for cooperation between our two countries. To seize these opportunities and translate them into concrete results, I believe we need to take steps in the following six areas:

First, we should enhance high-level exchanges, establish a mechanism for regular mutual visits at the leadership level and increase mutual political trust. Second, we should enhance economic cooperation and trade. The two countries can make use of the China-ASEAN FTA and other mechanisms to intensify cooperation in energy, infrastructure development and such important sectors as manufacturing, agriculture and fishery. Third, we need to step up maritime cooperation, including maritime security, navy-to-navy exchanges, anti-terrorism joint exercises and military drill. We also need to pay attention to the marine economy, marine resources development and marine science and technology, and forecasting and disaster relief of earthquakes and tsunamis. Fourth, we need to strengthen cultural and people-to-people exchanges. We need to enhance our exchanges in science, technology, culture and education and increase personnel interflow. Educational cooperation and people-to-people exchanges represent the future of our friendship and form the foundation of our cooperation. We need to work together for early conclusion of the agreement on mutual recognition of degrees and diplomas, and increase the exchange of students. This is highly meaningful for both countries. Fifth, we need to enhance our cooperation under the China-ASEAN framework. Indonesia holds the presidency of ASEAN this year and we hope 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 the Group of 20. It is now a major emerging market economy. The country enjoys increasingly extensive influence in Asia and beyond. We hope that our two countries will step up consultation and cooperation in international affairs and make joint contribution to promoting world peace, prosperity and progress. Thank you.

Journalist: Malaysia-China relationship has been raised to a higher level, evidenced by the fact that Malaysia has become China's biggest trading partner in ASEAN, and soon the two countries will sign the agreement on mutual recognition of academic degrees. What should the two countries do to further enhance their bilateral relationship at present and in the next ten years and in what areas should they strengthen cooperation? Prime Minister Najib once said that future success of Malaysia-China relationship should be based on mutual trust between the two countries. What do you think are the key factors in pushing forward the Malaysia-China relationship?

Wen Jiabao: Before answering your questions, let me recall two major historical events in the history of China-Malaysia relations. The first is that when China was in great difficulty, Malaysia was the first ASEAN member to establish diplomatic relations with China after ASEAN was established. Thirty-seven years ago, the then Malaysian Prime Minister Abdul Razak, father of current Prime Minister Najib, and Premier Zhou Enlai, signed the joint communiqué on the establishment of diplomatic ties between our two countries. The second is that it was at the proposal of Malaysia 20 years ago that the dialogue process between China and ASEAN was launched. As an ancient Chinese proverb goes, "Forget not the favors that others have done you." We have never forgotten these historical episodes between our two countries.

You talked about the future of China-Malaysia relationship in your questions. I agree with you that mutual trust comes first and foremost in China-Malaysia relations. As an old Chinese maxim goes, "In all human relations, if the two parties are living close to each other, they may form a bond through personal trust. If they are far apart, they should use words to communicate their loyalty."

Mutual trust forms the bedrock of our cooperation, and I believe China-Malaysia cooperation enjoys a bright future. I think the following three areas are the priority areas in China-Malaysia cooperation. First, our two countries need to enhance business cooperation. As you mentioned, Malaysia has become China's biggest trading partner among ASEAN countries. According to Chinese statistics, our two-way trade volume reached US$74.2 billion last year. What we need to do is to sustain the momentum of balanced, coordinated and sustainable growth of trade, and at the same time increase the science and technology content in trade.

Second, we should promote cooperation in science, technology and education. I noticed a couple of days ago that some local Malaysian newspapers had already shown a keen interest in the fact that the two countries will, during my visit to Malaysia, sign the agreement on mutual recognition of academic degrees. So why have those papers paid so much attention to this? I believe it is because exchanges in education, science and technology represent the future of our bilateral relationship. Exchanges between the young people are of particular importance because they carry the historical mission of enhancing the friendship and cooperation between our two countries.

Third, we need to increase mutual investment. That includes those key projects that Malaysia has paid much attention to, such as the Penang Second Bridge and the Sarawat paper pulp mill as well as other cooperation in infrastructural development and key areas. The recent progress we have made in enhancing bilateral cooperation is to strengthen the financial support for our cooperation. I will put forward concrete proposals for better integration of financial cooperation and business cooperation between us. In a word, I believe that through cooperation in these areas, we will open a new page in China-Malaysia relations.

Journalist: ASEAN-China relationship has made big progress in the recent years. Do you see any challenges in ASEAN-China relationship? What steps will China take to promote ASEAN-China relationship? Some countries, including Indonesia, have some concern over the implementation of CAFTA. What's your view on that?

Wen Jiabao: You asked a big question, that is the relationship between China and ASEAN. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the establishment of dialogue relationship between China and ASEAN. Over the past 20 years, we have moved from a dialogue relationship to good-neighborly relations and to a relationship of strategic cooperation. China and ASEAN now enjoy all-round cooperation. Take China-Indonesia relations for example. Our two countries established the strategic partnership in 2005, and later we formulated the plan of action for the implementation of the strategic partnership, bringing our bilateral relations into a new stage.

Now China-ASEAN relationship has entered a stage of forging ahead in all respects. ASEAN integration has made steady progress. The China-ASEAN FTA has been established. And our cooperation in finance, infrastructure, connectivity and other areas has deepened. Although ASEAN members are at different stages of development, I believe we can all benefit from our cooperation on the basis of mutual benefit and win-win results.

I had the privilege of attending all China-ASEAN leaders' meetings since 2003. I have witnessed the progress in ASEAN integration building and the gradual improvement of such cooperation mechanisms as 10+1, 10+3 and China-Japan-ROK. I believe all these cooperation mechanisms have reinforced each other by drawing upon each other's strengths and achieved common development. They have developed into fairly full-fledged cooperation mechanisms. I hope that China-ASEAN cooperation will continue to move along this healthy track in the right direction.

You are interested in the China-ASEAN FTA. I would like to say that much preparation was made before the FTA was officially inaugurated last year. I believe that the China-ASEAN FTA has brought benefits to both China and ASEAN countries. We have witnessed tremendous growth of trade between the two sides. For example, China-Indonesia trade expanded by nearly 40% in the first quarter of this year, and achieved basic balance.

I want to use this opportunity to address the concerns on the minds of some businesses and individuals with regard to CAFTA. The China-ASEAN free trade arrangement is of mutual benefit and brings win-win results to all parties concerned. We need to make full use of the favorable conditions, especially the preferential policies set out in the FTA. And in the course of China-ASEAN FTA development, we should constantly improve this arrangement in the light of actual circumstances. We need to accommodate the interests of small- and medium-sized enterprises, and work together to ensure that the FTA will contribute to the economic development of all sides. With regard to all these aspects, China has always pursued an open approach.

ASEAN and China have stood with each other in tiding over the difficulties of the two financial crises. When Indonesia was struck by severe tsunamis and when China was hit by a devastating earthquake in Wenchuan, we helped and supported each other through those tough times. I believe that all these fully demonstrate the strong brotherly bond between China and ASEAN and between China and Indonesia. Thank you.

Journalist: Malaysia and China have had some frictions over some islands and reefs of the Nansha Islands, such as the Swallow Reef. However, the relationship between Malaysia and China has moved forward steadily. I would like to ask whether China will hold talks with Malaysia and other countries who have sovereignty disputes with China in the South China Sea on the joint development in the South China Sea?

Wen Jiabao: China remains committed to the Declaration of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea. Territorial disputes and disputes over maritime rights and interests should be resolved between the countries concerned through peaceful consultations. We disapprove of referring bilateral disputes to multilateral forums because that will only make these issues bigger and more complicated. As you rightly pointed out, although China and Malaysia have some territorial disputes over some islands and reefs in the South China Sea, this has not prevented us from peaceful coexistence.

Second, I fully believe that in spite of their territorial disputes and disputes over maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea, the countries concerned should and can carry out joint development in the South China Sea. This is in the interest of peace and stability in the South China Sea. It also serves the interests of the countries concerned and all relevant parties.

Let me address a subject that I deem very important, that is China's development and where China is heading. I know some ASEAN countries have shown a keen interest in this topic. I would like to say that China remains a developing country. With over 30 years of reform and opening-up, we have achieved much progress in our economic and social development. However, China remains a big country with a large population and a weak economic foundation. That means we still have to work long and hard if we are to build a moderately prosperous society in all respects and achieve our goal of modernization. China adheres to an independent foreign policy of peace, and the policy of building good-neighborly relationships and partnerships with neighboring countries. This is our policy when China is not a developed country. It will remain to be our policy even when China becomes a developed country in the future. China will never seek hegemony.

China's development in itself is a major contribution to human progress and prosperity. China's development also represents an opportunity for its neighboring countries, especially ASEAN countries. China is a big country that does not shirk its responsibilities. We have played our part in upholding world peace, security and stability. We are of the view that only by maintaining a peaceful external environment and a stable domestic environment can China and ASEAN countries enjoy continuous development and progress. I believe that on this subject we will have the long-term understanding and cooperation of ASEAN countries.

Journalist: Great changes have taken place in the region of East Asia. How will China handle its relations with extra regional powers like the United States which has been included in the East Asia Summit? The second is what responsibility and obligation will China undertake to maintain the regional peace and stability. And also since the United States and Russia have joined the East Asia Summit, the regional mechanism of cooperation has changed and adjusted. What is your view on this issue?

Wen Jiabao: I have personally experienced the entire course of development of the East Asia Summit. In approaching the new dynamics in East Asian cooperation, I believe it is important that we follow the following three principles: First, we need to consolidate, enhance and further develop the existing cooperation mechanisms. This is of the highest and most practical significance. We need to work together to establish and improve long-term cooperation plans, increase input in cooperation and work for the full implementation of all cooperation plans with a view to delivering real benefits to people of all East Asian countries. Second, we need to respect the diversity of East Asian cooperation. New dynamics in our cooperation mechanisms reflect the diversity of East Asian cooperation. In carrying out East Asian cooperation, China has always advocated and adhered to the one important principle, that is, East Asian cooperation should always have ASEAN play the leading role, and contribute to the progress of ASEAN integration and development of all ASEAN countries. Third, East Asian cooperation should stay open and inclusive. Our cooperation has been constantly expanded. And from this year, leaders of the Untied States and Russia will attend the East Asia Summit. I believe the East Asia Summit should stick to its nature as a leaders-led strategic forum. This forum should be conducive to peace and stability in East Asia and contribute to stronger East Asian cooperation and development and progress of East Asia.

China is a responsible country. China adheres to its path of peaceful development, and assumes its due responsibilities for regional security and stability in such areas as counter terrorism and maritime security. China has always advocated that efforts should be made to ensure navigation freedom and safety in accordance with the relevant principles of international law. And China has contributed its part to this end. China has been a beneficiary of the international shipping lanes in the South China Sea. As known to many people, many of China's goods, including energy imports are transported through the Malacca Strait. We want to enhance cooperation with other countries to uphold navigation security in the South China Sea and security in the Malacca Strait.

I will soon start my visits to Malaysia and Indonesia. I believe that with sincere and in-depth exchange of views with leaders of the two countries and extensive engagement with people from various sectors, my visits will achieve full success and boost the friendship and cooperation between China and Malaysia and between China and Indonesia. Thank you.

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