Global Times investigates: Nine out of 10 Chinese see friendly China-ASEAN ties

Published 3 days ago on 13 May 2022
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BEIJING, May 13, 2022 /PRNewswire/ -- A recent survey from Global Times showed that nearly 80 percent of Chinese respondents said about 90 percent considered the China-ASEAN ties as friendly and over 75 percent hold a positive attitude toward their future.

The survey was jointly conducted by the Global Times Research Center and Centre for Chinese Foreign Strategy Studies, Renmin University of China between March 15 and April 15 in 31 Chinese provinces, regions and municipalities among the general public aged 18 to 69 and college students. It collected 2,012 valid questionnaires from the general public and 1,150 from college students.

About 61.8 percent of the respondents said they have a good impression of ASEAN, and those who have visited ASEAN members share high scores in terms of the impression about the region. On average, the level of affection of the Chinese public toward ASEAN, with a 3.8 score, is much higher than the other blocs and countries. 

Most of the college students are impressed by the ASEAN's rich resources and culture. They also share a high level of affection.

"Those results showed that China and ASEAN have developed very successful relations in the past two to three decades," Lu Xiang, research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times. This results from the ramped-up efforts of China's diplomacy toward Southeast Asia.

The survey also shows that although fewer Southeast Asian countries share divergences with China on questions like the South China Sea, those conflicts are under control, and have not become "the mainstream tone" for bilateral ties. The Chinese public supports and trusts China's policy and its relations with ASEAN, Lu said.

Positive momentum

Although 10 ASEAN members share vast differences, China has been handling the relations with them pretty well, either from diplomatic efforts or the infrastructure cooperation under the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative, which all laid the foundation for the positive momentum in China-ASEAN ties, experts said.

Over 90 percent of the respondents said they are interested in ASEAN, and nearly two-third of them share very high interests. For example, the culture and arts of the region have become a great attraction for the Chinese public. The region's business and trade, technology, nature, history and sports attract about 40 percent of the respondents, according to the survey.

Among the surveyed college students, 54.3 percent said they know ASEAN and over 50 percent said they know the region's politics, geography, culture and economy.

Some 90.4 percent of the respondents said China-ASEAN relations are "friendly" and over two-thirds took it as "very friendly" and "relatively friendly."

"Those survey results are in line with Chinese people's objective perception of the development of China-ASEAN relations," Xu Liping, a research fellow on Southeast Asian studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, told the Global Times recently.

In China's neighboring diplomacy, ASEAN occupies a very important position, Xu said, noting that ordinary Chinese will have a high degree of favorability and affinity for ASEAN.

"This objectively shows that there is a strong internal driving force for the development of China-ASEAN relations, and strengthening cooperation and friendly people-to-people exchanges will continue to be the mainstream of bilateral relations," he said.

In responding to the question about "whether China and ASEAN can properly handle the South China Sea question," 26.9 percent of the respondents said the two sides can always handle it well while 67.3 percent believed that although there are divergences, they can generally handle it properly, the survey showed. It also means that 94.2 percent of the respondents hold a positive attitude toward the two sides handling the South China Sea question well.

The survey also shows that the majority of the respondents attach importance to economic cooperation between China and ASEAN, followed by the public health sector. In emerging industries, most of them value energy and green development cooperation.

ASEAN and China reaffirmed their commitment to further strengthen their partnership and cooperation in line with the ASEAN-China Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP) established in 2021, as officials of both sides met at the 23rd ASEAN-China Joint Cooperation Committee Meeting in April 2022.

The meeting also discussed developments in ASEAN and China and the continued progress of cooperation over the past year. Substantive progress has been made in various areas of the ASEAN-China Plan of Action 2021-2025, such as trade, ICT, digital economy, education, public health, culture and information, media, environment and sustainable development, and narrowing the development gap.

In the education sector, 88.4 percent of the college students surveyed showed a positive attitude toward exchange activities with universities in the region. Activities related to culture and arts are considered the most popular ones, as 61.6 percent of the respondents mentioned, followed by language study activities.

Singapore as top interest

While the Chinese public shares high interests in ASEAN members, Singapore has become the country that attracted them the most. The average score of affection and interest for Singapore is above 4, with the highest score of 5, followed by Malaysia and Thailand, which both scored 3.8.

Chinese students are most attracted by Singapore, and then Thailand and Malaysia.

"Such interest in Singapore is in line with the general perception," Lu said. He noted that as a Chinese-dominated society, Singapore shares many similarities with China. 

ASEAN remains China's largest trade partner, accounting for 14.6 percent of China's total foreign trade in the first four months of 2022, with the EU and the US ranking second and third, according to the latest Chinese customs data released on Monday.

China-ASEAN trade totaled 1.84 trillion yuan ($274.5 billion) from January to April 2022 up 7.2 percent year-on-year.

While Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand were the three countries considered to be the most friendly with China, as the GT survey showed, nearly 96 percent of the respondents said they support China and ASEAN to further develop friendly neighborly relations. The Chinese public will better understand those countries with more economic and cultural exchanges with China, and it's not strange that Chinese people are interested in the above-mentioned three Southeast Asian countries as the tour packages of those three are the most common in China, experts said.

"It's believed that with the further development of the Belt and Road projects, the public will know other ASEAN members better, with a more favorable attitude," Lu said.