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Pulling China and Asean together for prosperity

The US Secretary of State John Kerry recently proclaimed that the era of the Monroe Doctrine is over. But it remains to be seen whether this is so. Meanwhile, Washington is sparing no efforts in claiming China is pursuing its own version of the Monroe Doctrine with its vision of a China-Asean community of common destiny.

This is totally ridiculous, as the China-Asean community of common destiny and the Monroe Doctrine are different in nature. The proposal to establish a community of common destiny and shared benefits with the members of Asean represents Beijing's desire for greater regional cooperation in pursuit of common development and prosperity. Of course, there is a long way to go to reach that goal, but this is clearly different from the Monroe Doctrine, which was a product of the US' pursuit of hegemony.

This year, China's new leaders have creatively built on the long-standing foundations of its foreign policy, good-neighbourly relations and the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, and put forward a series of new policy proposals, including the establishment of a new type of relationship among major powers and new international organisations. And further demonstrating China's affinity with other countries, President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang have between them visited Russia, Africa, Latin America, the United States, Central Asia, Southeast Asia and Europe, where they received warm welcomes.

It is particularly worth mentioning that in October a high-level seminar was convened in Beijing to map out the strategic goals, basic principles and overall plan of China's periphery diplomacy for the next decade. China put forward a lot of proposals and ideas conducive to the common development and prosperity of the whole region. In addition to the proposal to work with Asean countries to build a "maritime Silk Road" and establish an Asian infrastructure investment bank, the most remarkable initiative was the proposal to jointly build a more close-knit China-Asean community.

Some observers have suggested that this is just wishful thinking on China's part, because although Asean countries depend on China's economic development for their own, many seek security guarantees from the US. This is simply not true. In spite of some disputes with individual members, China and Asean countries have been engaging in closer cooperation and friendly exchanges in the economic, cultural and security fields.

With the rising of its comprehensive national strength and corresponding military strength, China is becoming more confident and is more willing to have its voice heard in international affairs, but China has never taken Southeast Asia or any neighbouring regions as its own "backyard" or "sphere of influence", nor does it oppose neighbours developing normal relations with other powers. Pakistan, for example, has strong relations with the US.

Some people say that the proposal to build a community of common destiny is an "olive branch" extended by China to Asean in response to Japan's idea of establishing an "arc of freedom and prosperity". However, the China-Asean community of common destiny is a natural extension and development of China's established periphery policy of developing good neighbourly and friendly relations, rather than an expedient knee-jerk action like Japan's so-called arc of freedom and prosperity, which is a product of its Cold War mentality and aimed at hooking the US into backing it in its territorial dispute with China.

It is simply a joke to say that Asean will side with Japan to contain China. Asean is an important regional organisation with its own principled stand. While the bloc is ready to accept Japan's aid and investment if it is unconditional, it will by no means be bought for nefarious purposes.

The author is executive director of the Strategy Study Centre at the China Foundation for International Studies.

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