"The cooperation approach based on competition paradigm will result in imbalance in relations between ASEAN and China, as well as interfere with the cohesiveness, solidarity, and integrity among ASEAN countries," he noted, during a seminar to commemorate the 15th Anniversary of the China-ASEAN Strategic Partnership in Jakarta, on Monday.
Agussalim revealed that his argument was based on the fact that Chinese investment, which has been entering ASEAN market significantly, is mostly used for big industries such as infrastructure, mining, and capital-advanced business, rather than the sectors that target middle and lower income people.
According to him, the public sees Chinese investment as part of the Chinese hegemony against the ASEAN economy, which later spread suspicion, distrust, and negative sentiment towards the investment in the region.
"Such economic relations and trade between the two sides are not responded properly and positively, and it also receives negative response from the people of ASEAN countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia," he noted.
Another fact is that ASEAN countries always suffer from trade deficit to China, which also becomes an additional reminder that ASEAN and China should shift their cooperation approach paradigm from competition to collaboration.
By applying collaboration, both parties aim to cooperate to achieve a win-win solution rather than a win-lose solution.
"People who share the same goals are regarded as partners rather than competitors. The other party is considered to have the potential to realize mutual benefits. Thus, a collaborative approach can improve cooperation between existing parties. That is why I think ASEAN and China need to move from competition to a collaborative nature of relationship," Agussalim explained.
He admitted that such mindset change will not be a simple process, but ASEAN and China can start by reviewing the regimes of cooperation between the two sides, such as the ASEAN China Free-Trade Area (ACFTA).
"We cannot put our strategic partnership purely to the market mechanism. Thus, political will from every ASEAN member state should also be imposed to change this nature of cooperation," he concluded.
EDITED BY INE/A014