An op­por­tune time for closer Asia-Europe co­op­er­a­tion: new chal­lenges and op­por­tu­ni­ties

China Daily (Canada) - - WORLD -

His­tor­i­cally, the Eurasian land­mass was the heart­land of the world, giv­ing birth to both Eastern and West­ern civ­i­liza­tions. As early as more than 2,000 years ago, our an­ces­tors opened the an­cient Silk Road strad­dling Asia and Europe, which be­came a bridge of ex­changes be­tween the peo­ple of the two con­ti­nents. Af­ter the end of the Cold War, po­lit­i­cal lead­ers of Asia and Europe started to think about how to fa­cil­i­tate ex­changes and co­op­er­a­tion across the con­ti­nents, hence the birth of ASEM in 1996. Over the past 20-plus years, ASEM has deep­ened un­der­stand­ing and friend­ship and in­vig­o­rated po­lit­i­cal di­a­logue, eco­nomic co­op­er­a­tion, and so­cial and cul­tural ex­changes be­tween Asia and Europe.

The in­ter­na­tional land­scape is un­der­go­ing com­pli­cated and pro­found changes, with ris­ing un­cer­tain­ties and desta­bi­liz­ing fac­tors. Re­gional flash­points have kept emerg­ing, and non­tra­di­tional se­cu­rity threats re­main se­vere. Although the world econ­omy pre­sents an up­ward mo­men­tum, eco­nomic glob­al­iza­tion has met set­backs, and pro­tec­tion­ism is rear­ing its head. Coun­tries are fac­ing a ma­jor choice be­tween open­ness and iso­la­tion, mov­ing for­ward and back slid­ing, and win-win co­op­er­a­tion and a ze­ro­sum game. Such is the back­drop for the up­com­ing ASEM Sum­mit.

Com­mon chal­lenges re­quire closer co­op­er­a­tion. ASEM was es­tab­lished when the Cold War came to an end and eco­nomic glob­al­iza­tion gath­ered pace. Mul­ti­lat­er­al­ism and an open world econ­omy are its solid an­chor and abid­ing com­mit­ment. Fac­ing uni­lat­er­al­ism and pro­tec­tion­ism, ASEM mem­bers need to unite as one, trans­late chal­lenges into op­por­tu­ni­ties, and meet dif­fi­cul­ties head on, so as to usher in an even brighter fu­ture for co­op­er­a­tion.

Asia and Europe need to firmly up­hold the mul­ti­lat­er­al­ism-based in­ter­na­tional order. Peace and sta­bil­ity un­der­pin de­vel­op­ment. The 70-year-long over­all world peace would not be pos­si­ble with­out the post-War in­ter­na­tional order. The cen­tral­ity of the UN and its Se­cu­rity Coun­cil should be re­spected, and the pur­poses and prin­ci­ples of the UN Char­ter should never be chal­lenged. All coun­tries need to honor their com­mit­ments and un­der­take in­ter­na­tional obli­ga­tions rather than ir­re­spon­si­bly take a se­lec­tive ap­proach to in­ter­na­tional rules. We in Asia and Europe need to strengthen our unity and co­or­di­nate ac­tions on the 2030 Agenda for Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment and cli­mate change, two ma­jor sub­jects of global con­cern.

Asia and Europe need to stay com­mit­ted to an open world econ­omy. Af­ter the end of the Cold War, 13 economies in the world that have en­joyed more than 25 years of rapid growth have all adopted the pol­icy of open­ing-up. We need to up­hold the just and nondis­crim­i­na­tory mul­ti­lat­eral trad­ing regime and work for open and in­clu­sive re­gional free trade ar­range­ments and an open world econ­omy. We also need to re­ject all forms of pro­tec­tion­ism and ac­cel­er­ate the es­tab­lish­ment of a sin­gle mar­ket cov­er­ing both Asia and Europe. Open­ness has been and will al­ways be an im­por­tant pre­con­di­tion for the sus­tained growth of our con­ti­nents.

Asia and Europe need to deepen prac­ti­cal co­op­er­a­tion for con­nec­tiv­ity. Con­nec­tiv­ity en­sures the smooth flow of the econ­omy and meets the com­mon ex­pec­ta­tions of peo­ple in Asia and Europe. We need to fully lever­age the role of the ASEM Pathfinder Group on Con­nec­tiv­ity as the main chan­nel for co­or­di­na­tion, and work hard for early re­sults in pri­or­ity ar­eas such as trade and in­vest­ment fa­cil­i­ta­tion, sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment, the dig­i­tal econ­omy and peo­ple-to-peo­ple ex­changes. To achieve in­ter­con­nected de­vel­op­ment to­day, we also need to step up ex­changes and co­op­er­a­tion on in­no­va­tion, pro­mote green, low-car­bon and smart de­vel­op­ment, and fos­ter new high­lights of growth in Asia and Europe.

Asia and Europe need to pro­mote ex­changes and mu­tual learn­ing be­tween civ­i­liza­tions. The 53 ASEM mem­bers rep­re­sent hun­dreds of eth­nic groups and mul­ti­ple re­li­gious be­liefs. Dif­fer­ent his­tory, na­tional con­di­tions, eth­nic groups and cus­toms have re­sulted in dif­fer­ent civ­i­liza­tions. These civ­i­liza­tions may have dis­tinc­tive fea­tures and thrive in dif­fer­ent lo­cal­i­ties, but there is no such thing as a su­pe­rior or in­fe­rior civ­i­liza­tion. The ex­changes and in­ter­ac­tions be­tween civ­i­liza­tions have al­ways been a source of inspiration and strength. We should pro­mote peo­ple-to-peo­ple ex­changes be­tween ASEM mem­bers to fa­cil­i­tate un­der­stand­ing and friend­ship be­tween our peo­ples and con­trib­ute to eco­nomic and so­cial de­vel­op­ment and peace and sta­bil­ity in Asia and Europe.

Ever since the found­ing of ASEM, China has taken an ac­tive part in this process in the spirit of seek­ing com­mon ground while putting aside dif­fer­ences. We have worked to build con­sen­sus and strengthen co­op­er­a­tion, mak­ing im­por­tant con­tri­bu­tion to the sus­tained and sound de­vel­op­ment of ASEM.

China is an an­chor of peace in Asia and Europe. Sta­bil­ity in China, a coun­try of more than 1.3 bil­lion peo­ple, is in it­self an im­por­tant con­tri­bu­tion to the cause of peace in Asia and Europe. In the dis­cus­sions on hot spot in­ter­na­tional and re­gional is­sues in ASEM, China has been com­mit­ted to find­ing a po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion through di­a­logue and ne­go­ti­a­tion to main­tain re­gional peace and sta­bil­ity. China votes for noth­ing else but peace.

China is an en­gine of de­vel­op­ment in Asia and Europe. Since the launch of the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive five years ago, China has en­gaged in more than $5 tril­lion of trade in goods with par­tic­i­pat­ing coun­tries, made more than $60 bil­lion of out­bound in­vest­ment and cre­ated hun­dreds of thou­sands of jobs for lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties. Most ASEM mem­bers are lo­cated along the trade routes of the Silk Road Eco­nomic Belt and the 21st Cen­tury Mar­itime Silk Road. China is ready to work with them to use the op­por­tu­ni­ties pre­sented by the sec­ond Belt and Road Fo­rum for In­ter­na­tional Co­op­er­a­tion next year and strengthen co­op­er­a­tion for com­mon pros­per­ity.

China is a pro­pel­ler for co­op­er­a­tion in Asia and Europe. With 31 co­op­er­a­tion ini­tia­tives pro­posed by Chi­nese lead­ers in the past 22 years, China is among the coun­tries with the most fol­low-up ac­tions. In re­cent years, China has done a great deal of widely ap­plauded work to ex­pand Asia-Europe co­op­er­a­tion, in­clud­ing the pro­posal to re­sume the ASEM Eco­nomic Min­is­ters’ Meet­ing, the ef­forts to es­tab­lish the ASEM Pathfinder Group on Con­nec­tiv­ity and a lead­ing role in prac­ti­cal co­op­er­a­tion in tech­no­log­i­cal in­no­va­tion, sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment, a new type of ur­ban­iza­tion and care for peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties.

This year marks the 40th an­niver­sary of China’s re­form and open­ing-up. Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping has stated that China will never shut its door to the world, but will only be­come more and more open. He an­nounced a num­ber of ma­jor steps of fur­ther open­ing-up at the Boao Fo­rum for Asia An­nual Con­fer­ence last April. These mea­sures are be­ing de­liv­ered, with tangible ef­fect. No mat­ter how the ex­ter­nal en­vi­ron­ment changes, China will not wa­ver in its com­mit­ment to deeper re­form and fur­ther open­ing-up, which will be ad­vanced at its own pace. In this process, im­por­tant op­por­tu­ni­ties will be cre­ated for coun­tries in Asia, Europe and the world at large.

We live in a world full of op­por­tu­ni­ties for co­op­er­a­tion. At the same time, we are all con­fronted with chal­lenges posed by uni­lat­er­al­ism and pro­tec­tion­ism. Should we opt for co­op­er­a­tion or con­fronta­tion? Should we pur­sue re­form or stay on the beaten track? The an­swer is clear. Coun­tries in Asia and Europe must re­ject self­ish­ness, a zero-sum men­tal­ity and iso­la­tion­ism. We should up­hold sol­i­dar­ity, en­gage in win-win co­op­er­a­tion and pur­sue open­ness and in­te­gra­tion. At the up­com­ing 12th ASEM Sum­mit, China is ready to join hands with other mem­bers to ad­dress new chal­lenges, ce­ment the foun­da­tion for the new type of part­ner­ship and deepen co­op­er­a­tion for tangible out­comes. To­gether, with firm com­mit­ment to co­op­er­a­tion and con­sis­tent sup­port for mul­ti­lat­er­al­ism, we will an­chor world peace and de­vel­op­ment.

The writer is as­sis­tant min­is­ter of for­eign af­fairs.

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