The SCS Sub-forum of the BFA annual conference 2017 Took Place in Boao

March 25, 2017

On 25-26 March 2017, the CSARC and the National Institute for South China Sea Studies (NISCSS) held the South China Sea-themed sub-forum as part of the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) annual conference (2017), bringing together nearly 100 scholars and experts from over ten countries and regions. The sub-forum was themed “21st-Century Maritime Silk Road and Common Development of the Greater South China Sea Region”, and included a closed-door session and an open-door session.

Mr. Liu Zhenmin, Vice Foreign Minister of China, delivered a keynote speech at the opening ceremony. The open-door session was chaired by Ms. Fu Ying, Chairperson of the Foreign Affairs Committee of Chinese National People’s Congress. At the open-door session, remarks were made by the speakers  including Dr. Wu Shicun, president of the NISCSS and chairman of the board of directors of the CSARC; Tan Sri Rastam Mohd Isa, Chairman and Chief Executive of Malaysian Institute of Strategic and International Studies; Prof. James Laurenceson, Deputy Director of Australia-China Relations Institute at Australian University of Technology; and Prof. Zheng Yongnian, Director of the East Asian Institute at the National University of Singapore.

The close-door session covered three panels: “South China Sea: what’s happening and what’s next”, “21st-Century Maritime Silk Road and connectivity of development strategies among South China Sea States: challenges and opportunities”, and “Functional cooperation under the DOC framework & cooperation mechanisms in enclosed and semi-enclosed sea: existing practices and applicable approaches for the South China Sea”. The exchanges and discussions brought about positive consensuses and constructive opinions.

The participants agreed that the South China Sea situation is undergoing profound and complex changes, has become a hot spot in the international community, and is an increasingly important factor influencing regional security situation. Therefore, it is necessary for the parties concerned to make further efforts to build consensuses, dispel misgivings, strengthen dialogues and exchanges, accommodate each other’s interests and concerns, and promote pragmatic maritime cooperation. Now it is the right time to build the 21st-Century maritime silk road and establish cooperation mechanisms in the greater South China Sea region. As a pragmatic and effective dialogue, this conference is believed to play a positive and important role in stabilizing the South China Sea, promoting cooperation and bolstering mutual trust.

As Dr. Wu remarked in his speech, since the second half of 2016, thanks to the joint efforts by China and ASEAN countries, the overall situation in the South China Sea region has steadily progressed towards detente, and has returned to the right track of consultation and cooperation. The year of 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of the ASEAN. China and ASEAN countries should think about how to further enhance mutual trust, deepen cooperation, manage disputes, and stabilize the South China Sea. We should also think about how to promote the common development in the greater South China Sea region and develop a China-ASEAN community of destiny and interests. To this end, President Wu made three proposals.

First, littoral countries in the South China Sea should rely on the South China Sea as a link, focus on the connectivity and maritime cooperation, and establish a new cooperation platform for economic cooperation circle of the greater South China Sea region. In this regard, “the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Mechanism” and “the China-Indochina Peninsula Economic Corridor” have provided important experience for us. Second, the CSARC could play a bigger role in aggregating resources in South China Sea studies. Taking advantage of China-ASEAN maritime cooperation fund, the CSARC could further promote think-tank exchanges and personnel training, and provide intellectual and personnel support for pragmatic maritime cooperation programs. Third, China and the ASEAN should continue to push forward the cooperation within the framework of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and speed up the consultation on the framework text of the COC. These two mechanisms could provide an institutional guarantee for managing disputes and enhancing cooperation.

The sub-forum is a high-level multilateral dialogue mechanism for international scholars in maritime studies to exchange ideas, pool wisdom and develop consensuses for peace and stability in the South China Sea. By far it has been held for four consecutive years as part of the BFA annual conference.