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China is expected to contribute more to the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) by promoting greater relations between the two regions at an upcoming summit.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang will unveil new proposals in deepening cooperation between Asia and Europe during his first foreign visit this year.

Li will attend the 11th ASEM summit in Mongolian capital Ulan Bator from July 15 to 16, after an official visit to the country from July 13 to 14.

ASEM has provided an important platform for political dialogue, economic cooperation, and cultural and social exchange between Asia and Europe.

Launched in 1996, the biennial ASEM summit has served as a venue for dialogue between countries in Asia and Europe. ASEM now includes 53 Asian and European members. The 11th ASEM summit to be held in Mongolia marks the 20th anniversary of the group’s founding.

Shada Islam, director of policy at the Brussels-based think-tank Friends of Europe, said that ASEM has performed well in terms of bringing together Asia and Europe.

“The revitalization of this important forum is to a large extent a consequence of the fact that China is very much engaged into it,” said Shada Islam in a recent interview with Xinhua.

She explained that ASEM is very flexible but needs some fresh energy, and said she believes that discussions on connectivity will provide that kind of new dynamism.

“ASEM members are expecting more from China, the second largest economy in the world. It should show more courage and wisdom and allocate more resources in leading the interconnectivity between Asia and Europe,” said Cui Hongjian, director of the Department for European Studies of the China Institute of International Studies.

Cui noted the importance of linking China’s Belt and Road Initiative to existing ASEM projects such as the Asia-Europe continental bridge as well as to more new projects to boost their connectivity.

China attended all ASEM summits ever since its birth, and the proposals it made in the past 20 years have borne witness to its contributions to the platform.

The Mongolian summit is highly looked to as it will work out the plan for priorities in the next 10 years.

The ASEM faces the challenge to enhance its relevance in looking for more spots of common interests between Asia and Europe, said Ding Yifan, an economist with the Development Research Center of the Chinese State Council.

Ding suggested more cooperation between Asia and Europe in technology and environmental protection, as well as increased efforts in dealing with possible differences among Asian and European members.

Ding expects the Chinese premier will touch upon such topics during the summit in a bid to bring out more momentum from the ASEM in the next decade.

Meanwhile, Li is also likely to discuss with other Asian and European leaders the Brexit issue, the South China Sea arbitration unilaterally initiated by the Philippines, and other hot topics across the region.

The upcoming visit by Li is expected to seek more convergence between China’s Belt and Road Initiative and Mongolia’s Steppe Road program.

More cooperation in production capacity, major projects and finance is expected to inject more vitality in China-Mongolia ties.

There’s opportunity for Mongolia’s Steppe Road program to get aligned with the Belt and Road Initiative, which will greatly benefit the Mongolian economy as well as the construction of a tri-party economic corridor involving China, Mongolia and Russia, said Gao Shumao, the former Chinese ambassador to Mongolia.

On efforts to aligning the Belt and Road Initiative and the Steppe Road program, Gao said there is huge potential for the two sides to cooperate in rail and highway construction, clean energy, tourism, health care and people-to-people exchanges.

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Mongolia in 2014 laid a sound foundation for China-Mongolia relations, and Li is expected to strengthen those ties during his trip, said Gao.

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