By Yang Jian (People’s Daily)
Photo taken in northeast of Brunei’s capital Bandar Seri Begawan, on Nov. 17, 2018, shows the construction site of the Phase 1 of Zhejiang Hengyi Petrochemical Project on Pulau Muara Besar (PMB). Undertaken by China’s Hengyi Petrochemical Co. Ltd, the future modern petrochemical industrial base is expected to become a strong driving force for Brunei’s industrial upgrading, and help the country free itself from the dependence on resources export. (Xinhua/Wang Shen)
Brunei Darussalam, located in northern part of the Kalimantan Island, has long been praised as the “abode of peace”, and often referred to as “the pearl of Borneo”.
According to scholars, the exchanges between China and Brunei could date back to China’s Western Han Dynasty, which is over 2,000 years from now. And trade contacts between the two countries have sprung up since China’s Song Dynasty in over 1,000 years ago.
Several hundred years later in China’s Ming Dynasty, Chinese navigator Zheng He, well-known for his seven maritime expeditions, visited Brunei with his fleet.
Since the year 1991 when the two nations officially established diplomatic relations, China and Brunei have witnessed frequent high-level contacts and rapid development in bilateral ties.
In 2013, the two countries upgraded the China-Brunei ties to a strategic cooperative relationship. With the care of leaders from both countries, China-Brunei ties have become a model of relations between big and small countries featuring equal treatment, mutual benefit, win-win cooperation, and common development.
Five years ago, Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed the important Belt and Road Initiative, injecting unprecedented strong impetus to a deepened cooperation between China and Brunei.
Since Brunei, together with other Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries, joined the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) as a founding member, economic and trade cooperation between China and Brunei has ridden the wave of momentum for a dramatic growth.
China is now Brunei’s largest source of imports. More and more Chinese enterprises are attracted to Brunei, whether for investment or expanding businesses.
The Zhejiang Hengyi Petrochemical Project on Pulau Muara Besar (PMB), the largest joint venture project between China and Brunei, is now under construction in full swing. Once put into operation next year, the project will generate substantial economic and social benefits and boost local employment.
At the same time, the Guangxi-Brunei Economic Corridor, another flagship project of China and Brunei, is under accelerated construction, thanks to which bilateral cooperation in such fields as harbor operation, sea farming, spices processing, and trade has moved forward steadily.
Their cultural and people-to-people exchanges have been intensified as well. In 2003, China granted the visa-free access to Bruneian citizens, and since 2016, Brunei has offered convenience to Chinese residents with the visa-on-arrival rule.
A growing number of direct flights have also been launched between their cities in recent years. Last year, 52,000 Chinese tourists visited Brunei, a record-breaking number that made China the largest source of international tourists to Brunei.
Their increasingly dynamic exchanges in education, culture, media, youth, and sister cities have also drawn the peoples of two countries closer and closer day by day.
Sharing a wide range of common interests in international and regional affairs, China and Brunei have understood and supported each other on issues involving each other’s core interests and major concerns, and have pushed China-ASEAN relations for steady development.
Moreover, China and Brunei have jointly safeguarded the peace and stability of the South China Sea by sticking to the “dual-track” approach in dealing with the issue.
Geographically located in the central area of the ASEAN, Brunei is the core of the East ASEAN Growth Area (Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area, also referred to as “BIMP-EAGA” for short) and also an important partner of China in jointly building the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road with the ASEAN and other parties.
President Xi’s state visit to Brunei, the first one by a Chinese President in thirteen years, is of milestone significance in lifting the China-Brunei relations in the new period.
I believe that this visit will bring China-Brunei relations to a new historical point, starting from which they will usher their peoples into a brighter future and make new contributions to regional prosperity and stability.
(The author Yang Jian is the Chinese Ambassador to Brunei.)