Strong bilateral ties based on mutual respect

James Kon

Brunei Darussalam and the People’s Republic of China this year celebrate the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic and ASEAN-China dialogue relations and Brunei assuming the Chair of ASEAN for 2021.

Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Brunei Darussalam Yu Hong in a recent message said China-Brunei relations are now at a new starting point of history.

“Both countries are committed to improving the people’s livelihood and overall economic development, to win-win cooperation and regional peace, stability and prosperity. Looking ahead to the next five years or even further, the friendly exchanges and mutually-beneficial cooperation between our two sides enjoy broad prospects and huge potential.

“China stands ready to work with Brunei, on the basis of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit, taking the opportunity of the ‘Double 30’ celebrations, to promote the synergies between China’s 2035 Long-Range Objectives and Brunei Vision 2035, and to develop high-quality Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) cooperation between our two countries, to constantly scale the bilateral Strategic Cooperative Partnership and the China-ASEAN relations to new heights.”

The Chinese Ambassador underlined the strong bilateral ties between Brunei Darussalam and China, noting that the two countries have a long history of friendship.

“Over the past five years, great strides have been made in the China-Brunei cooperation, and the bilateral relations are in the best period of history. During Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Brunei in 2018, bilateral relations were upgraded to Strategic Cooperative Partnership. His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam visited China in 2017 and 2019, and attended the 2nd Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation. Heads of state of both countries charted the development course for bilateral relations from a strategic perspective.”

File photo shows His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a state visit in 2018. Also seen in the photo is His Royal Highness Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office. PHOTO: INFOFOTO

In January 2021, she said, “State Councillor and Foreign Minister of China Wang Yi visited Brunei, further consolidating mutual trust. China-Brunei cooperation on the BRI has been increasingly deepened, bilateral economic and trade volume has increased from USD719 million in 2016 to USD1.91 billion in 2020. In particular, bilateral cooperation grew against all the odds in 2020, with trade volume up by 72.5 per cent, China’s imports from Brunei up by a remarkable 217.1 per cent, both rates ranking first among ASEAN member countries.

“China’s investment in Brunei covers a multitude of areas, which have not only helped expand downstream oil and gas industries, improve port operation efficiency, and increase employment of Brunei, but also brought new methods of digital epidemic responses, strongly bolstering Brunei’s efforts in achieving economic diversification, digital Brunei, and healthy Brunei.”

She said that as the people-to-people exchanges between two countries continue to deepen, so does the mutual understanding.

“Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 epidemic, our two countries have shown great sympathy and support to each other, and carried out effective cooperation in epidemic responses. When the vaccination programmes were being rolled out around the world, with most faced with severe vaccine shortages, China donated vaccines to Brunei despite its own strong domestic demand, which fully reflects the solidarity and profound friendship between China and Brunei in sharing weal and woe.”

The ambassador also touched on the latest developments in China and its economic progress, sharing that in the first half of March, the 4th Session of the 13th National People’s Congress and the 4th Session of the 13th National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (the Two Sessions) were successfully held in China.

“At the year of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China, the Two Sessions this year deliberated and approved the Report on the Work of the Government, the Outline of the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) for National Economic and Social Development and the Long-Range Objectives Through the Year 2035, and the Decision of the National People’s Congress on Improving the Electoral System of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and other important documents, sending a strong signal that China is committed to improving the development quality, realising common prosperity for its people, and collaborating with countries in the world to achieve win-win cooperation and common development.”

Over the past five years, China has scored new achievements in economic and social development. The economy performed stably overall, and its structure was continuously improved. The gross domestic product (GDP) increased from less than CNY70 trillion to over CNY100 trillion.

She said much was accomplished toward making China a country of innovators, with major advances in manned spaceflight, lunar exploration, deep-sea engineering, supercomputing, quantum information, and other areas.

“With its entire rural poor population, 55.75 million in number, lifted out of poverty, the daunting task China set itself to eliminate absolute poverty has been successfully accomplished. Pollution prevention and control efforts were intensified, resources and energy were used more efficiently, and there was a notable improvement in the environment. China continued to open its door wider to the world, the joint pursuit of the BRI yielded solid outcomes. The living standards of our people rose significantly. Over 60 million urban jobs were added, and the world’s largest social security system was established.”

The ambassador shared that, thanks to the Chinese people’s hard work in these five years, China accomplished the major goals and tasks of the 13th Five-Year Plan. She said that especially in 2020, facing the severe combined impact of a sudden coronavirus epidemic and a deep global economic recession, the Chinese people, under the strong leadership of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China with Party Secretary Xi Jinping at its core, responded with tremendous tenacity.

“We achieved major strategic success in our response to COVID-19 and China was the world’s only major economy to achieve growth. Meanwhile, China upheld multilateralism and endeavoured to build a human community with a shared future, making important contributions to advancing global peace and development. We supported global cooperation on combatting COVID-19, has carried out the largest emergency humanitarian action since the founding of the People’s Republic of China, and has worked in real earnest to improve vaccine accessibility and affordability in developing countries.”

She said, “We have undertaken to provide an initial 10 million doses vaccines under COVAX for emergency use in developing countries. So far, we have donated or are donating COVID vaccines to 80 countries including Brunei, and are exporting to 47 countries.”

Looking ahead, the ambassador noted that starting this year China will implement its 14th Five-Year Plan, and highlighted that China will stay true to the new development philosophy and strive to achieve higher-quality development that is more efficient, equitable, sustainable, and secure. She said China will pursue innovation-driven development and accelerate the modernisation of the industrial system.

“We will continue to prioritise the development of the real economy, upgrade the industrial base and modernise industrial chains. We will remove impediments to the rational flow of production factors along all links of production, allocation, distribution and consumption, and work to build a strong domestic market and turn China into a trader of quality, thereby promoting positive interplay between domestic and international circulation, fostering a new development pattern.”

She said China will prioritise the development of agriculture and rural areas, and advance rural revitalisation across the board.

“We will move faster to grant permanent urban residency to people who move to cities from rural areas, and will continue to pursue new strategy of people-centred urbanisation. We will continue to implement the major regional development strategies as well as the strategies for coordinated regional development and functional zoning, so as to create regional economic structures and a territorial space system that will sustain high-quality development, so as to promote coordinated regional development.

“China will advance reform and opening up across the board, develop a high-standard socialist market economy, and foster a world-class business environment,” she said. “We will promote the high-quality development of the Belt and Road cooperation, and build a globally oriented network of high-standard free trade zones. We will deepen multilateral, bilateral, and regional economic cooperation and continue to uphold the multilateral trading regime.

“We will work for the early entry into force and implementation of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Agreement, the signing of the China-European Union (EU) Comprehensive Agreement on Investment, accelerating free trade negotiations with Japan and the Republic of Korea, and actively considering joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership. China will promote the growth of mutually beneficial China-United States (US) business relations on the basis of equality and mutual respect.”

The ambassador also mentioned that China will draw up an action plan for carbon emissions to peak by 2030 and ensure that China meets the targets for its intended nationally determined contributions in response to climate change by 2030.

“We will expedite the transition of China’s growth model to one of green development, and promote both high-quality economic growth and high-standard environmental protection. Energy consumption per unit of GDP and carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP will be reduced by 13.5 per cent and 18 per cent.

“China will continue to improve people’s well-being. We will implement the employment-first strategy, build a high-quality education system, make all-round efforts to build a Healthy China, and improve the multi-tiered social security system. We will also improve public cultural services, and modern systems for cultural industries.

“China will ensure both development and security, and usher in a new stage in building a peaceful China,” said the ambassador.