China economy

China to strengthen regional exchanges amid rising trade

Economic exchange in the region is higher than bilateral trade with United States and Europe

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 10 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 10 March, 2013, 6:56am

Beijing will look to enhance exchanges with neighbouring countries as trade between China and the region exceeded the volume of bilateral trade with the United States and Europe, Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said yesterday.

The new administration will also consolidate its presence in Russia and Africa, with China's new president to pay a state visit to Moscow and three African countries, Yang said.

China's relations with its neighbours are tense, especially with the Philippines and Vietnam over disputed territory in the South China Sea, prompting calls for Beijing to get tougher on those countries.

But Yang said China has to consider the "whole picture" when planning its diplomatic strategies.

Yang also said China will step up consular protection services with more Chinese companies and citizens going abroad.

Last year, up to 20,000 Chinese companies had an overseas presence, and Chinese missions overseas handled about 100 consular protection cases on average each day.

Trade between China and its neighbours reached US$1.2 trillion last year, exceeding the combined amount of trade between China, the US and Europe.

China has already established a free trade zone with members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and is in negotiation to establish free trade areas with South Korea and Japan.

"People of Asia are smart, and they are no less good than people in other regions," Yang said at a press conference.

"Countries in the region believe that their co-operation with China has been result-oriented and based on mutual benefit."

China is also stepping up its ties with Russia and Africa with Xi Jinping, who is due to be named China's president during the annual National People's Congress, set to visit Moscow, South Africa, Tanzania and the Republic of Congo.

The trip to Africa comes amid increasing demand within China for energy to fuel its economic development, leading to concerns that Beijing is exploiting the African nations.

But Yang said China-Africa co-operation should be assessed objectively.

"We hope that there will be more exchanges and mutual learning, but less suspicions or accusations in [our] co-operation with Africa," he said.