China - Southeast Asia

Chronology from Oct 2002 to Dec 2002

:   Jose Ramos Horta, foreign minister of East Timor, calls on Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan during his visit to Beijing.  Tang recalls that China was the first nation to establish diplomatic relations with East Timor after independence, and states that a solid political foundation has been set.  Horta says East Timor attaches great importance to its relations with China, pledges to continue its “one China” policy, and hopes for cooperation in infrastructure construction, health care, natural oil and gas exploration, and in agriculture.

:   China joins Thailand, Vietnam, India, and Pakistan in establishing an information exchange system in rice trade, centered in Thailand, to enable the five countries, responsible together for 70 percent of the world’s rice exports, to maintain market stability and protect farm incomes by setting prices jointly.

:   Meeting with Thura Shwe Mann, Burmese army chief of staff, in Beijing, Vice Chairman of China’s Central Military Commission Cao Gangchuan and PLA Chief of General Staff Liang Guanglie pledge that cooperation between the two nations’ armies will increase.

:   Singapore Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong states that relations among the major powers in Asia are stable, and he does not foresee serious problems between China and the U.S. in the next 5 to 10 years.  Goh asserts that China’s growth will have a positive impact on Singapore and the region at large, if the Southeast Asian countries respond the right way.

:   Vietnamese cyber-dissident Le Chi Quang is sentenced to four years in prison for disseminating antigovernment views, including criticism of Vietnam’s 1999 land border agreement with China.

:   Chinese state corporations sign an agreement with the Philippine National Railways to finance and carry out the rehabilitation of 400 km. of railroads in northern Luzon, adding to earlier Chinese railway construction commitments.

:   The Communist Party of Vietnam sends a congratulatory message to the Chinese Communist Party on the opening of its 16th National Congress, noting (without evident irony) that “the Vietnamese people and the Chinese people have been bound by time-honored traditional friendship and solidarity … by generations after generations.”

:   In response to the ASEAN-China Declaration on Conduct in the South China Sea, Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry declares Republic of China sovereignty over the Spratly, Paracel, and Pratas islands and the Macclesfield Bank, and protests Taiwan’s exclusion from the declaration.  (The basis for Taiwan’s current claim to South China Sea islands is not clear, since the ROC government in Taiwan no longer claims to be the government of all of China.)

:   ASEAN Plus Three and ASEAN-China summits held in Phnom Penh.

:   Chinese business analysts report that China’s currency, the renminbi, is increasing accepted as hard currency in neighboring countries including Vietnam, Malaysia, and Singapore, and is used to settle accounts in much of China’s southern border trade. China has, however, indicated no plans to make the renminbi fully convertible.

:   Officials in Xishuangbanna region in Yunnan province announce the expansion of port services and transportation routes into Laos and Thailand.  (Coincidentally, on Nov. 2, Vietnamese officials announce that Lao Cai, adjacent to Yunnan province, will become a “border gate” for trade with China, with a new international trade center, an industrial center for export goods, and preferential tax and regulatory measures for new trade entities.)

:   Chinese media report that Beijing, pleased with the success of its first Peace Corps-like program that sent five volunteers to work in Laos, will expand the program to more than 10 additional nations, including Burma. The program also envisages foreign volunteers coming to work in northwestern China.

:   China’s Defense Minister Chi Haotian tells visiting senior Cambodian army commanders that the bilateral friendship forged by King Norodom Sihanouk and three generations of Chinese leaders is a model for state-to-state relations, and expresses gratitude for Cambodia’s support for China’s policies on Taiwan, Tibet, and the Falungong sect banned in China.

:   China, Thailand, Laos, and Burma agree to increase joint patrols against narcotics trafficking along the upper Mekong River, beginning with a joint survey of drug smuggling routes.

: A Yunnan province economic official, meeting with ASEAN counterparts in Kunming, reportedly proposes that Yunnan should become a demonstration zone for the future ASEAN-China FTA, with Kunming as a financial and information center covering south China and all of ASEAN.

: Zeng Qinghong, a senior CCP official, meeting with a visiting Singaporean People’s Action Party (PAP) delegation, tells his guests that the CCP has benefited from the opportunity to learn from the PAP’s experience in party and national government.

:   Gen. Endriartono Sutarto, commander of the Indonesia National Military (TNI), welcomes a proposal by China’s ambassador to Indonesia to set up an exchange program between the PLA and the TNI.

:   Lt. Gen. Le Van Dung, director of the General Political Department of the Vietnam People’s Army, holds talk with Senior Lt. Gen. Yu Yongbo, his People’s Liberation Army (PLA) counterpart.  They agree to increase the frequency of exchanges and to enhance cooperation between their two departments.

:   Wei Jianxing, a member of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Politburo Standing Committee, meets in Beijing with Jose Maria Dos Reis, deputy secretary general of the Independent East Timor Revolutionary Front (Fretilin).  Dos Reis tells Wei that his party’s choice of China for its first overseas visit since independence signals the party’s commitment to developing bilateral and party-to-party relations.

:   Thai Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, making her 15th visit to China, meets with Standing Committee Chairman Li Peng.  Li notes that China and Thailand are “good neighbors, good friends, and good relatives,” and says that the royal family of Thailand has played an irreplaceable role in advancing bilateral relations.

:   The Chinese Foreign Ministry strongly condemns the Oct. 12 terrorist bombings in Bali, Indonesia.  China offers $100,000 in aid for the victims, including two Chinese nationals who were slightly wounded.

:   Laos signs on to a Thai-Chinese project for a 700 km. road network that will link Thailand with Kunming, in southern China, expected to open within five years.  The Asian Development Bank and the Chinese government are helping finance the Lao portion of the route.

:   The Philippines releases 122 Chinese fishermen detained six months earlier for poaching in Manila’s claimed exclusive economic zone (EEZ) near Palawan.  The fishermen had pled guilty and agreed to pay fines.  Another 38 fishermen await trial.

:   Hanoi National University opens a center for Chinese studies, to organize research and conferences on Vietnam-China cooperation, and train students in the Chinese language.  China has offered a $2.4 million grant to Vietnam to send students to China for study in a variety of fields.

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