China and Brunei are expected to enhance cooperation on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) projects, tourism, and the oil and gas trade as Chinese President Xi Jinping kicked off his three-day visit to the country on Sunday.
The two sides are also likely to reiterate their consensus on the South China Sea issue which centers on mutual development and resolving disputes through talks, experts said.
Zhuang Guotu, head of Xiamen University's Southeast Asian Studies Center, told the Global Times on Sunday that Brunei has been a very important country along China's maritime Silk Road throughout history.
"To the east, it connects China with the Philippines, Australia and Indonesia. To the west, it is an important channel for China to access the Malacca Strait," Zhuang explained.
Zhuang noted that Xi's visit to Brunei will remind the world that China's Silk Road is always a path for peaceful and friendly exchanges, as is the country's BRI.
After arriving at the airport on Sunday, Xi said that China and Brunei are close neighbors across the sea, and also friends and partners who trust each other, as the two sides have a long history of friendly exchanges, the Xinhua News Agency reported on Sunday.
He is expected to carry forward bilateral traditional friendship, jointly outline a blueprint for the development of bilateral relations in the new era, and uplift the China-Brunei good-neighborly friendship to a new high through the visit.
Chen Xiangmiao, a research fellow at the Hainan-based National Institute for the South China Sea, told the Global Times on Sunday that to welcome the fifth anniversary of their strategic cooperative relationship, China and Brunei are likely to enhance cooperation on projects relating to the BRI, tourism, oil and gas trade and overseas investment.
"A breakthrough will likely be achieved in trade," predicted Chen, noting that Brunei is also a vital country concerning the South China Sea issue.
The two countries are likely to confirm their consensus on solving regional disputes through talks and jointly promoting regional development and prosperity, Chen said.
Zhuang pointed out Brunei is an important member in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations that provides oil and gas to China.
The first stage of a project with investment from Zhejiang Hengyi Petrochemical Corporation has been completed and will go into production in May 2019. The second stage of the project is expected to be completed in 2022, Xinhua reported Sunday.
The largest infrastructure project in Brunei - the 30-kilometer Temburong sea bridge - jointly built by the China Construction Sixth Engineering Division Corp, will soon be completed, Xinhua said.
It reported that the volume of bilateral trade between China and Brunei increased 36.5 percent in 2017.
Zhuang said reaching an agreement with Brunei and the Philippines on the South China Sea issue would be a vital progress in resolving the issue and forming the new Asia-Pacific structure.