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Peace, Stability and Sustainable Development in the South China Sea: Through Strengthened Dialogue and Cooperation

2022-04-28 15:51:13       source:NISCSS


Peace, Stability and Sustainable Development in the South China Sea: Through Strengthened Dialogue and Cooperation


Keynote Speech by Mr. Tan Qingsheng

Representative of Boundary and Ocean Affairs, MFA

At the South China Sea Sub-forum of

Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2022

(Boao, 21 April 2022)



Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,


Good afternoon! It is my great pleasure to attend the South China Sea Sub-forum of the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2022. On behalf of the Department of Boundary and Ocean Affairs of China’s Foreign Ministry, I would like to extend my congratulations on the opening of the sub-forum! 


Having taken place seven times since 2014, the South China Sea sub-forum has grown to be an inspiring platform for in-depth discussions on the South China Sea and has thus become a highlight at the Boao Forum every year.


Colleagues and friends,


Today we are living in a world that has ever-increasing complexities, in particular with the unprecedented changes unseen in a century and the COVID-19 pandemic that has been raging worldwide for over two years. Given such a big picture, the theme of our discussion today cannot be more relevant. That is to explore the new vision and new path of the sustainable development of the South China Sea. And I wish to take this opportunity to share my thoughts on what is required for the sustainable development of the South China Sea, with the following three points:


First, sustained peace. Peace, as the foundation of development, cannot be absent for the sustainable development in the South China Sea. Fortunately, despite the fluid global landscape in recent years, there has been overall peace and stability in the South China Sea. And the joint efforts of regional countries must be given the credit. 


And we are heartened to see that one of the main anchors of regional stability has been the DOC, signed 20 years ago as the first political document on the South China Sea issue among China and ASEAN Member States. Over the past 20 years, China and ASEAN Member States have stayed committed to the spirit and principles of the DOC, such as settling disputes by peaceful means and through negotiation and consultation, handling differences properly and exercising self-restraint. These joint endeavors have contributed significantly to regional peace and stability, and the spirit and principles of the DOC have been proved to be important guidance for sustaining peace in the South China Sea.


The second point would be sustained cooperation. For sustainable development to happen, cooperation remains the key, an idea that has been well applied to the sustainable development of the South China Sea. For instance, in recent years, regional countries have been engaged in practical cooperation at multilateral and bilateral levels and under the framework of implementing the DOC, with the fields of cooperation ranging widely, including marine fisheries, environmental protection, search and rescue, disaster prevention and mitigation, marine scientific research and maritime law enforcement. 


Moreover, China and ASEAN Member States adopted the Guidelines for the Implementation of the DOC, set up the Hotline Communications among senior officials of the foreign ministries in response to maritime emergencies, agreed to apply the Code of Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUEs) in the South China Sea, and issued the Declaration for a Decade of Coastal and Marine Environmental Protection (2017-2027). We are also working together to explore joint development while shelving differences, which might turn out to be a new pathway of cooperation. These endeavors have laid a solid foundation for and injected strong impetus to the peace, stability and sustainable development of the South China Sea.


The third point is sustained institution-building. The signing and implementation of the DOC have been strong safeguards of regional development for the past two decades. On the basis of implementing the DOC, China and ASEAN Member States are deeply engaged in the COC negotiations. And I am happy to inform my colleagues and friends that good progress continues to be made in the second reading of the text, and an early conclusion of the COC remains our shared aspiration. The COC, when implemented after conclusion, will provide more solid institutional guarantee for the sustainable development of the South China Sea and will be conducive to the sound interactions in the South China Sea. With the COC in place, mutual trust will be better enhanced, risks better managed, cooperation among coastal countries better strengthened, and the lawful rights and interests of non-regional countries better protected.


Yet, one has to recognise the daunting challenges on the way ahead. The most prominent one is the intensified manipulation and intervention of some non-regional countries in the South China Sea disputes, all in mere pursuit of their geopolitical self-interests. They have significantly increased military deployment and activities in the South China Sea, abused the international law, and meddled in the COC negotiations, in an attempt to sow discord among regional countries and undermine regional peace, stability and cooperation. Fortunately, regional countries have been clear-eyed and sober-minded of such intensions.  


Ladies and gentlemen,


Sustainable development of the South China Sea concerns the well-being of more than two billion people in the region as well as the future of the Asia-Pacific and beyond. China stands ready to work with ASEAN Member States to make unremitting efforts for the lasting stability, prosperity and development in the South China Sea. We welcome any constructive ideas that are conducive to the sustainable development of the South China Sea, but firmly oppose any attempt to disrupt dialogue and cooperation. In this regard, I wish to envision what could be done for the sustainable development of the South China Sea. Another three points to share:


First, proper management of differences is the precondition. It’s a fact that there are territorial and maritime disputes in the South China Sea. However, conflict and confrontation are in no way good solutions. In his remarks at the opening ceremony of the Boao Forum this morning, President Xi Jinping put forward the Global Security Initiative, which emphasized the peaceful settlement of differences and disputes between countries through dialogue and consultation. This helps chart the course for enduring stability in the South China Sea.


While efforts to look for solutions continue, one must not deviate from the spirit and principles of the DOC. Dialogue, consultation and negotiation shall in no way be discarded for the sake of advancing unilateral claims. Nor shall bilateral relations and regional cooperation be sacrificed for the sake of pursuing one’s own interests. Pending the settlement of disputes, all parties should put differences in a proper place and handle them sensibly, avoid unilateral actions that may escalate disputes and complicate the situation, and jointly uphold peace and stability.


Second, dialogue and cooperation are the best option. Security in the South China Sea can only be achieved through dialogue and cooperation. While resources in the South China Sea might be limited, the space of cooperation isn’t. Bearing in mind the overall interests of the region, regional countries could strengthen exchanges and mutual learning in less sensitive areas, such as marine scientific research, environmental protection and resource conservation. Wider and deeper cooperation could better tap the potential of scientific and technological progress and thus better serve regional countries. Moreover, creative thinking is expected to enable countries to go beyond disputes and accelerate the joint development of resources in the South China Sea for mutual benefits.


Third, collective governance is a new trail worth blazing. Countries across the world, closely connected by seas and oceans, the South China Sea included, are all part of the global community with a shared future. We regional countries could learn from the large number of best practices of cooperation in enclosed and semi-enclosed seas worldwide and explore the possible way of governing the South China Sea with an open, inclusive and constructive approach. At the end of the day, a “South China Sea model” of maritime cooperation and ocean governance might be developed by building on the DOC- and COC-based regional framework and establishing a cooperation mechanism among the coastal states of the South China Sea.


Colleagues and friends,


So much for me to share today. I look forward to listening to your insightful views on the topic. And I believe our collective wisdom will contribute fresh momentum to the sustainable development of the South China Sea. Last but not least, I wish the sub-forum a complete success! Thank you for your attention.