Closer cooperation between ASEAN and China could contribute to a global post-pandemic recovery.

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Closer cooperation between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China, supported, among other things, by the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement, would contribute to the post-COVID-19 global economic recovery, a Malaysian expert said.

“Cooperation and interaction between China and ASEAN is now even more important as the world is seeking an economic recovery,” said Ong Tee Keat, founding chairman of the Center for New Inclusive Asia, a think tank based in Kuala Lumpur.

In a recent interview with Xinhua, Ong welcomed China’s position that the country continues to regard ASEAN as a high-quality Belt and Road cooperation priority in its neighborhood diplomacy and as a key region. He also pointed out that the trend to continue on a growth trajectory has bucked trade and investment between China and ASEAN, as both sides have become the largest trading partners of each other.

The signing of the RCEP came at a time when unilateralism is on the rise in many parts of the world, Ong said, adding that the agreement would encourage further regional cooperation, allow participating economies to explore larger and more open markets together, and thus contribute to the recovery after the pandemic.

The RCEP would also help unlock ASEAN’s enormous potential and give new impetus to economic cooperation between ASEAN and China, and Malaysia could expect closer ties with China as an ASEAN member, he said.

The digital economy is an indispensable part of the post-pandemic economy and could be a focal point for Malaysia and China’s bilateral economic cooperation. “Malaysia could introduce China’s advanced technology to meet our need to develop our digital economy,” Ong said.

He hopes China could strengthen cooperation in areas such as artificial intelligence (AI), cloud computing, drones, among others, by transferring and sharing technology with Malaysia.

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