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China-ASEAN Relation and Lancang Mekong Cooperation (LMC)

China-ASEAN Relation and Lancang Mekong Cooperation (LMC) 

Context:

  • China hosted 10 Foreign Ministers from the Southeast Asian grouping and offered ASEAN countries its vaccines as well as closer cooperation on joint vaccine development and production.

    • It marks the 30th anniversary of ties.

See the source image

China – ASEAN Convergences of Ideas:

  • China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi told the visiting Ministers that China and ASEAN should “jointly carry forward Asian values” in a subtle dig at the West.

  • President Xi Jinping had in 2014 put forward the idea that it was for “Asian people to uphold Asia’s security”.

  • Asian Values: China said that “taking root in the Oriental tradition, both sides should strengthen mutual learning and cultural exchanges, and carry forward Asian values, instilling positive energy to global and regional governance.”

  • Asian Way: “Both sides should continue to embrace the ‘Asian Way’ of consensus building and accommodating each other’s comfort levels, build an inclusive and co-existed family, and forge a cooperation circle featuring common development.”

  • We should adhere to independence, self-reliance and self-strengthening to support the ASEAN integration, and forge a closer community with a shared future.”

Quad – ASEAN – China:

  • China has in recent weeks stepped up criticism of the Quad — the informal India, Australia, Japan and United States grouping — and of Washington in particular.

  • Sri Lanka and Bangladesh: China’s Defence Minister called on both countries to reject “military alliances” — as being part of Quad.

  • ASEAN into Quad: China “cannot rule out the possibilities that Quad members will further rope in ASEAN members to counter China as Southeast Asia is of great significance to the US’ Indo-Pacific Strategy.”

    • “Yet ASEAN will not easily take sides.”

  • Asian NATO: The framing of the Quad as “an Asian NATO” by Beijing has been criticised by the Quad members.

  • India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar in April described the using of words such as “Asian NATO” as “a mind game which people are playing”.

China – ASEAN Relations:

  • Code of Conduct in the South China Sea: They reiterated the need to “advance consultations on the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea”.

  • Economic link v. Maritime Disputes: Beijing is banking on deep economic links to both:

    • Offset maritime disputes and

    • Push among some ASEAN countries for closer defence ties with the U.S. amid their concerns about China’s growing military footprint in the South China Sea.

  • Trade and RCEP: China-ASEAN trade had grown to $ 684.6 billion and the expectation is for that to only grow following the signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade deal.

  • COVID-19 Vaccine: China would provide vaccines to ASEAN countries and strengthen cooperation in vaccine R&D, production, procurement, vaccination, and supervision with other countries”.

  • China-ASEAN Public Health Cooperation Initiative: China also put forward a proposal to implement a “China-ASEAN Public Health Cooperation Initiative” and an “ASEAN Regional Reserve of Medical Supplies for Public Health Emergencies.”

  • Lancang-Mekong Cooperation: China will also chair a meeting of the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation (LMC) with Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.

  • Maritime Disputes: China and the Philippines have clashed over the presence of Chinese vessels near a disputed reef, while Malaysia alleged the intrusion of 16 Chinese aircraft into its airspace.

Lancang-Mekong Cooperation:

  • It is a multilateral format established in 2016 for cooperation between the riparian states of the Lancang River and Mekong River.

  • The Lancang is the part of the Mekong that flows through China.

  • Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand are five downstream countries of the Mekong River.

See the source image

  • Purpose: The central purpose of the format is for China to manage water flow from its hydropower dams with the other riparian states.

  • China has built seven megadams on the Lancang-Mekong and according to the US-based NGO International Rivers 20 are under construction or planned in Yunnan, Tibet and Qinghai.

  • LMC Special Fund: A fund was created in 2016 to aid in small and medium-sized projects by the Lancang-Mekong countries.

Source: The Hindu