Beijing’s successful agenda-setting Outcomes from the weeklong APEC gathering are clear evidence that China is capable of guiding interconnectivity in the region
The 2014 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Economic Leaders’Week in Beijing came toward an end with the completion of the two-day Economic Leaders’ Meeting on Tuesday evening. Not since the first APEC leaders’ meeting in Seattle 21 years ago, has such an APEC conference been as fruitful.
That is not an exaggeration. Apart from the traditional business forums, ministerial meetings and cultural performances, the online buzzword “APEC blue”, a sarcastic comment on Beijing’s uncommonly blue sky over the past week, was even cited by President Xi Jinping in his speech at a welcome dinner for the APEC leaders onMonday. Xi’s pledge to make APEC blue days common shows China’s resolve to balance its economic development with environmental protection.
Of course, the biggest achievement of all, given the enlarging fissures in the regional economic integration that members have pursued in recent years, was that all APEC members agreed to work on the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific. Prior to this agreement, the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership, involving Japan and Australia, was at odds with the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, supported by China and the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
According to a statement released after the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting, member economies will now begin studying issues such as the free trade of investments, commodities, and services. This is a rarely seen consensus between all APEC economies since the White House launched the TPP negotiations in 2010.
Second, aside from economic integration and free trade, this year’s APEC meeting also resulted in an agreement to strengthen political and security-related cooperation within the Asia-Pacific. The APEC leaders have jointly pledged to work together to tackle pressing issues such as terrorism and corruption. This has already produced a number of pragmatic moves, such as the setting up of a cross-border regional anti-corruption network.
Albeit the APEC meetings still prioritized regional economic development, they did open windows of opportunity for face-to-face meetings between leaders, which offered newmomentum to some otherwise frozen issues. It is a pity that a meeting between US President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin did not work out given the serious confrontation that has erupted betweenWashington andMoscow over the Ukrainian crisis. However, that should not overshadow the other important meetings that did take place.
Short as it was, the 25-minute meeting between Chinese President Xi and Japanese PrimeMinister Shinzo Abe onMonday was the first of its kind since the two leaders took office. It has been hailed by many as a major step toward improvement in relations between China and Japan, as the two countries have agreed to resume political, diplomatic and security dialogues while acknowledging their different positions on the Diaoyu Islands.
In addition, during a brief conversation with the Philippine President Benigno Aquino on the sidelines of the Economic Leaders’Meeting, Aquino gave Xi his word that he would seek to improve the bilateral ties and solve the two countries’ sovereignty disputes in the South China Sea. Also, talks between Xi and Obama onWednesday produced concrete actions to push forward their earlier consensus to build a newtype of major-country relationship between China and the US, signaling that both sides will shelve their differences in global governance in a bid to strengthen their bilateral ties.
Moreover, the Connectivity Blueprint for 2015-25 adopted by all the APEC members on Tuesday, once implemented, will substantially strengthen physical, institutional and people-to-people connectivity and promote regional bonds in the Asia-Pacific region.
This blueprint, which proposes future initiatives for a more efficient flow of goods, services, capital and people, is expected to bring the APEC community one step closer to inclusive integration via concrete efforts such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and ChinaASEAN Free Trade Zone.
The APEC economies, representing two-fifths of the world population, 56 percent of world’s economic output, and 48 percent of world trade, will surely be able to boost both the regional and global economy through constructive multilateral coordination.
In particular, Beijing’s concrete efforts, such as the $10 million contribution to support the APEC institutional development and capacity building, has further proved its central role in the realization of regional integration and an Asia-Pacific dream of shared prosperity. The author is executive director of the Collaborative Innovation Center of South China Sea Studies and professor of international relations at Nanjing University.