A senior Chinese business official has expressed hope that stronger economic ties between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations will not be affected by territorial rows in the South China Sea.
"China is not willing to see an impact on economic and trade cooperation between China and Asean by the South China Sea dispute, which would be harmful to both sides," said Xu Ningning, executive deputy secretary-general of the China-Asean Business Council.
But he did express concern that rising bilateral investment between China and Asean members may suffer if the situation continues to deteriorate.
Speaking at an awards ceremony for Chinese and Asean enterprises, Xu warned that Chinese and Southeast Asian investors may be concerned about their investment return if the tension continues.
Xu said that although governments will try to maintain bilateral investment growth between China and Asean, it's up to the enterprises to choose their investment destinations and make specific investment plans, especially under sensitive conditions.
"A closer economic relationship and more comprehensive trading cooperation will promote political relations of mutual trust between China and Asean," Xu said.
Founded in 2001, the council is one of the five main cooperation mechanisms between China and Asean.
At the East Asian summit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, last week, Asean members, together with China and five other Asia-Pacific countries, announced the launch of talks on what could be the world's largest regional free trade deal.
China has announced its active support for the proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.
Guan Dengming, China's former ambassador to the Philippines, said that bilateral interests in terms of trade cooperation are much bigger than the effects of territorial disputes.
"The cooperative development between China and Asean would not be affected by the dispute," he said.
In 2011, China-Asean trade reached US$362.85 billion, an increase of 23.9 per cent year-on-year.
By 2015, bilateral trade is set to reach US$500 billion. According to the council, Chinese enterprises had invested US$18.5 billion in Asean countries by the end of October of this year.
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