China's partnership with ASEAN will be elevated to a higher level, when Beijing opens its mission to the Southeast Asian grouping next year.
In a meeting with the Secretary-General of ASEAN, Dr Surin Pitsuwan, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said "developing the strategic relationship with ASEAN is an important platform of China's diplomacy," and other than the opening of the mission in Jakarta, the inauguration of the ASEAN Centre in Beijing is another indication of the importance China places on its relations with Southeast Asia.
Premier Wen also said the 6th East Asia Summit (EAS) in November is a significant commemorative forum for China and ASEAN leaders and, on the 20th anniversary of China-ASEAN ties, Beijing is looking forward to making a joint declaration in November.
Dr Surin agreed that the upcoming EAS in November marks an important landmark, and it opens a new chapter. He also urged China to boost its investments in ASEAN.
To date, total bilateral trade is close to US$300 billion, while Chinese investments in ASEAN totaled about US$12 billion. Dr Surin said going by boosting its investments in ASEAN, China would help to ease domestic anxieties among some ASEAN nations, about opening their economies.
On the pace of bilateral trade, Dr Surin said Premier Wen's target of total trade hitting US$500 billion by 2015, appears to be on track. Total trade between China and ASEAN had grown 37 times over the past two decades, and the earlier trade targets were achieved ahead of schedule.
Responding to Dr Surin's call, Premier Wen said he will announce some major initiatives when he attends the EAS in Bali. He also expressed his appreciation to Dr Surin for his efforts to promote bilateral ties.
The two leaders also exchanged views on regional developments, as well as developments in ASEAN.
They had met on the sidelines of the 8th China-ASEAN Expo (CAEXPO) today. Six heads of ASEAN governments attended the official opening of the Expo in Nanning, in the Autonomous Region of Guangxi.
In an earlier meeting with leaders of Guangxi, Dr Surin noted the CAEXPO had grown to be a very important conduit for trade and investments between the two sides. The leaders agreed that the Expo has become a priority event for other Chinese provinces and cities seeking an inroad into ASEAN.
Other than the CAEXPO, the opening of the 8th China-ASEAN Business & Investment Summit also attracted business leaders from ASEAN, China and beyond.
To facilitate the movement of officials, and to encourage its residents to visit the various Expo sites, the Nanning government had declared a two-day holiday for 20 and 21 October.