Regional cooperation recipe for success
The high-profile meetings among the world’s top leaders this month— from theNov 5-11 APEC conference in Beijing to the G20 summit in Brisbane onNov 15-16— have raised hopes of finding solutions to the rising traditional and non-traditional security problems across the globe, as well as the geopolitical issues arising out of the Ukraine crisis.
The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation and the Group of 20 may differ in their perceptions of global and regional governance, but they share a number of similarities when it comes to their long-term goals and functions, with the common principle being nonbinding cooperation and agreement.
APEC is dedicated to building a pan-Pacific free trade zone, in which the free flow of products, services and capital will replace traditional trade and lift investment barriers. Likewise, in a broader sense, the G20 aims to achieve strong, balanced and sustainable growth in the world economy despite having members from as diverse economic and geographical regions as the European Union and Latin America.
Specifically, G20’s 2 percent extra GDP growth target is one of APEC’s priorities in regional economic growth. Infrastructure is another common trait the two organizations share; the G20 aims to build highquality infrastructure across the world while the APEC FinanceMinisters’Meeting in Beijing last month issued a blueprint for public-private partnership (PPP) for infrastructure building. According to APEC’s proposal, all members should set up their separate PPP centers, which can assess infrastructure projects and have access to enough funds to complete the projects. Financing such projects will be the function of organizations like the China-proposed Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank, which is expected to start operating soon as its 21 founding members, including Qatar and India, have already signed a memorandum of understanding.
In terms of financial supervision, the G20 lends more weight to its agenda whereas APEC focuses on providing financial services to real regional economies. And while the G20 contributes to the global taxation system by putting forward international tax measures, APEC focuses on recombining fiscal and tax policies.
Besides, the increasing problems caused by climate change are of high concern to both organizations. In fact, members of both APEC and G20 have included green and sustainable growth in their multilateral cooperation strategies.
Indeed, Australia, host of the G20 Summit, has pledged to support the Beijing-promoted Free Trade Area for the Asia-Pacific and AIIB, which will boost APEC-G20 synergies. Yet the demand imbalance in developed and developing economies is still a cause for concern for both groups. In promoting connectivity, for example, advanced economies pay more attention to institutional connectivity while developing ones focus more on “hardware” connectivity such as railways and roads.
Moreover, both the G20 and APEC, which used to prioritize economic cooperation, are beginning to take on the extra responsibility of dealing with political and security issues. And since the extra function requires better regional and global governance, it poses a challenge to many members, especially the major powers, in regard to strategic deployment.
China’s role at the APEC and G20 meetings is expected to make a world of difference. The country’s leaders have visited many countries, especially China’s neighbors, to promote economic ties and help resolve difficult issues. Also, by leading or hosting several major transnational events, including the Conference on Interaction and Confidence BuildingMeasures in Asia inMay and the APEC conference, Beijing seems more pragmatic and determined to push for the co-existence of different regional cooperation mechanisms.
But Beijing should be aware that its every diplomatic move could evoke a strong response from some countries. In other words, overly active diplomacy is very likely to be interpreted as “Chinese hegemony”, which seeks to alter the existing regional order.
To let its accomplishments speak louder, therefore, China should keep on contributing to global governance. Nevertheless, one thing is for sure, the regional cooperation in the Asia-Pacific is irreversible, and China remains committed to it. The author is a researcher at the National Institute of International Strategy, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.