China - Southeast Asia
Chronology from May 2021 to Aug 2021
: Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh meets Chinese Ambassador to Vietnam Xiong Bo and explains that his country would not enter into a formal alliance with any country. Pham insists that Vietnam would maintain an independent foreign policy that prioritizes self-reliance, multilateralism, and diversification of ties with all countries, including the US and China. Pham’s high-profile meeting with the Chinese envoy is scheduled before he meets Vice President Harris.
: China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Y-20 transport plane arrives in Vietnam to deliver 200,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines. Vietnam had approved China’s Sinopharm vaccine in early June, the last ASEAN country to do so. Senior officials from both sides cite the delivery as a sign of strengthening bilateral cooperation. The delivery arrives on the eve of US Vice President Kamala Harris’ visit to Vietnam.
: Chinese Minister of Commerce Wang Wentao and Singapore’s Minister for Trade and Industry Gan Kim Yong meet virtually to convene the 6th Investment Promotion Committee. The two sides pledge to strengthen bilateral economic relations and agree to cooperate in digital trade and the green economy.
: China and Myanmar announce that they will continue to deepen bilateral economic relations. China announces that it will transfer over $6 million to Myanmar to support nearly two dozen development projects in the country under the Mekong-Lancang Cooperation framework.
: Brunei hosts a number of ASEAN-related meetings. They include the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, East Asia Summit, and the ASEAN Regional Forum. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi participates in high-level discussions with regional counterparts, focusing on the post-pandemic recovery, regional trade and economic integration, and regional security.
: Philippines President Duterte announces decision to restore the Visiting Forces Agreement with the US. The agreement would continue to allow the rotation of thousands of US troops in and out of the Philippines for military exercises. The decision is announced during US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s visit to Manila.
: Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi attends a virtual symposium marking three decades of ASEAN-China dialogue. In remarks, Wang says that ASEAN remains a priority for China’s diplomacy in the region and that his country would support ASEAN centrality in regional cooperation.
: A report in the South China Morning Post notes that regional concerns over China’s assertiveness mean rival claimants are becoming less willing to negotiate the code of conduct on activities in the South China Sea. Wu Shicun, president of China’s National Institute for South China Sea Studies, observes: “The rise in China’s hard power in the South China Sea has not led to a parallel rise in soft power. Also there is still this unease and hostility from littoral countries towards China’s rise, so they’re still apprehensive about whether China is seeking regional rule-making dominance through the code of conduct negotiations.”
: Chinese President Xi Jinping’s remarks at the APEC Informal Economic Leaders’ Retreat highlightChina’s vaccine diplomacy and contributions to the Global South, as well as China’s commitment to strengthening regional and global trade and economic recovery through such trade initiatives as RCEP.
: Manila accuses Chinese fishing boats and trawlers of dumping raw sewage on coral reefs in the South China Sea. Using satellite data and imagery, there are signs of sewage from the anchored ships in the Spratlys damaging the coral reefs.
: A Financial Times report finds that trade and diplomatic relations between China and Myanmar are resuming since the military coup in Myanmar in February. According to China’s customs data, imports from Myanmar for the first five months in 2021 were $3.38 billion, a 40% increase from 2020.
: China convenes a virtual conference on the Belt and Road Initiative with representatives from more than 30 countries and regional and international organizations in attendance. The focus of the conference is on supporting a sustainable recovery from the global pandemic.
: Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Locsin announces that Manila will further delay its decision to suspend the Visiting Forces Agreement with the US, citing tension in disputed waters in the South China Sea between the Philippines and China.
: Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi meets with his 10 counterparts from ASEAN in Chongqing for the Special ASEAN-China Foreign Ministers’ Meeting to discuss regional issues, including the situation in Myanmar. Indonesian foreign minister Retno Marsudi says that ASEAN will appreciate China’s support to ASEAN to implement the five-point consensus to resolve the Myanmar crisis.
: Cambodian Defense Minister Tea Banh announces that China will help expand and modernize Ream port, Cambodia’s largest naval base. The minister explains that development of the port facilities will provide a new base for ship repairs and docking; beyond upgrading the port, China will not be given access to the facility.
: Royal Malaysian Air Force confirms reports that 16 Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) aircraft flying in formation are detected by radar near the Malaysian coast of Sarawak, an incursion in its air space.
: China and the Philippines hold talks on the South China Sea under a bilateral consultation mechanism set up in 2016 to address tensions in the maritime dispute. Senior officials from both sides confirm that the talks are “friendly and candid.” The discussion is convened just days after Philippines Foreign Minister Teodoro Locsin shared his frustration and ordered Chinese fishing boats out of the disputed areas in his personal Twitter account that was laced with expletives.
: Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin hold a virtual conference to discuss bilateral cooperation on the pandemic, digital economy, agriculture, and food security, and building a resilient supply chain.
: China and Indonesia conduct a joint naval exercise off the coast of Jakarta. The exercise is aimed to deepen military-to-military cooperation and to repair bilateral ties following a tense standoff between the two countries 16 months ago when Indonesian President Joko Widodo deployed warships to the Natuna Islands in a dispute with China over fishing rights in areas claimed by Indonesia.
: China’s UN Ambassador Zhang Jun urges diplomatic channels to resolve the confrontation in Myanmar, warning that further violence could lead to civil war. Zhang backs ASEAN’s efforts to mediate the crisis but indicates that China would not support sanctions.