China - Southeast Asia

Chronology from Jan 2021 to May 2021

: ASEAN leaders meet in Jakarta and issue a five-point consensus with regard to the post-coup situation in Myanmar. The regional consensus calls for an immediate cessation of violence and a visit by an ASEAN envoy, among other priorities. ASEAN begins laying the groundwork for a foreign ministers’ meeting with the United States and China under the ASEAN Regional Forum framework to enforce the consensus plan agreed to earlier.

: China expresses concern with the ongoing unrest in Myanmar but rejects a UN Security Council resolution condemning the military coup. Instead, China supports regional efforts spearheaded by ASEAN to take a central role in working directly with the junta.

: China hosts the annual Boao Forum for Asia. With over 3,000 participants in attendance, the forum marks one of the largest international gatherings in 2021. Chinese President Xi Jinping’s message at this year’s forum focuses on the Belt and Road Initiative, a signature program linking regional economies, and the importance of global economic governance.

: Visiting foreign ministers from Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines meet one-on-one with Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Nanping, a city in the southern province of Fujian. The bilateral meetings focus on the latest situation in Myanmar. China indicates its support for ASEAN to take the lead in managing the post-coup crisis in Myanmar.

: In response to the continuing presence of Chinese vessels in the Whitsun Reef, the Philippines National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea pledges that Manila will continue to monitor the situation and protect the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

: Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi discusses key foreign policy issues at his annual press conference at the National People’s Congress. On China’s relations with Southeast Asia, Wang emphasizes the positive aspects of regional economic and security cooperation.

: Chinese maritime militia vessels are spotted in the Whitsun Reef in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, prompting the Philippines to lodge a diplomatic protest against China for the incursion.

: China’s Maritime Safety Administration announces that the country will hold military exercises in the South China Sea throughout March 2021.

: Brunei indicates that the long-awaited Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea may not be concluded in 2021, owing to continued difficulties for convening in-person negotiations and deliberations amidst the pandemic. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang had set initially a three-year timeline to conclude the COC with ASEAN in 2018. 2021 was supposed to the year where regional negotiators begin their final reading of the text.

: China announces the passage of a new law that authorizes its Coast Guard vessels to fire on foreign ships and to destroy other countries’ structures on islands in waters claimed by China, including in the disputed areas of the South China Sea. The new law prompts the Philippine foreign minister to lodge a diplomatic protest against China.

: In the Philippines, Wang announces that his government will donate half a million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to Manila. Among other highlights, the two sides also agree to deepen infrastructure development.

: In Brunei, the third leg of his regional tour, Wang’s visit marks the 30th anniversary of bilateral ties, and the two countries pledge to work together through ASEAN, where Brunei is the rotating chair for 2021.

: Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi visits four Southeast Asian countries to kickstart the new year. In Myanmar, Wang discusses closer economic cooperation, including donations for vaccines and medical supplies, border security, and China’s role in brokering peace with Myanmar’s ethnic armed groups. In Indonesia, Wang and his counterpart discuss bilateral cooperation on trade and investment, as well as closer coordination to stem the global pandemic.

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