China suggests the way forward at the crossroads of Asia-Pacific development
On November 17th at the APEC CEO Summit in Papua New Guinea, Chinese president Xi Jinping opened his keynote speech with a metaphor about sailing to express the idea of a community based on a shared future for mankind. In a near-40-minute speech titled “Jointly Charting a Course Towards a Brighter Future,” Xi Jinping looked at history for an interpretation of the changes we are currently facing, changes that the world hasn’t seen in a century. He then made a call for openness, development, inclusiveness, innovation and a rule-based approach with which the Asia-Pacific economies can navigate the waters of the world economy and improve global governance.
The APEC CEO Summit 2018 at Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. [Photo: VCG]
After hearing the speech, Andy Kenamu, chairman of Papua Finance Ltd., said that all countries must work together for common development. Reporter Robert Apala of the South Pacific Post was also impressed by Xi’s speech: “He was trying to make sure nobody is poor, and everybody stands up as the Asia-Pacific countries make progress.” In fact, as the multiple rounds of applause testified, Xi Jinping had expressed the opinions of all participants at the meeting and voiced the common hopes and interests of the Asia-Pacific economies and peoples.
On a map of global economies, the Asia-Pacific is the region with the best growth dynamic and the greatest potential. At the moment, APEC’s 21 economies account for 60% of global GDP and 47% of global trade. This is thanks to input from all the economies involved: in pursuit of the Bogor Goals set by the 1994 APEC Summit, the Asia-Pacific economies have shown strong commitment to free and open trade and investment.
Today, as the conclusion of the Bogar Goals draws near, the Asia-Pacific countries have once again reached an important crossroads in their cooperation: scientific and technological advancement has brought more opportunities for further industrial development, yet the rise of anti-globalization and protectionism has created a strong headwind in the wake of stagnant global economic governance. As such, President Xi Jingping raised some pertinent questions in his speech: “Which direction should we choose? Cooperation or confrontation? Openness or closing doors? Win-win progress or a zero-sum game? The interests of all countries and indeed, the future of mankind hinge on the choice we make.”
At the APEC Summit in Bali in 2013, Xi Jinping proposed a roadmap for a community based on a shared future formankind across the Asia-Pacific region. At the Beijing Summit in 2014, Xi outlined the vision for an “Asia-Pacific Dream.” This year, the Chinese president suggested “openness, development, inclusiveness, innovation and a rule-based approach” as the direction for the Asia-Pacific Region going forward. These evolving ideas are based on a clear understanding about the future of cooperation in the region.
In his speech, President Xi argued that "One who chooses to close his door will only cut himself off from the rest of the world and lose his direction," and that "Scientific and technological innovations should not be locked up or become profit-making tools for just a few." He said that “Rules should be formulated by the international community, not in a ‘might is right’ way” and that “confrontation, whether in the form of a cold war, a hot war or a trade war, will produce no winners.” These assertions demonstrate Xi’s perspective regarding the current problems in global development. He called on the Asia-Pacific economies to "set our sights on post-2020 cooperation and endeavor to build a free trade area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP)," to "strive to deliver better lives to our people," and to "make the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development a part of our national development strategies." He also proposed that “we should reject arrogance and prejudice, be respectful of and inclusive toward others, and embrace the diversity of our world,” that we should “lose no time in making every effort to explore new growth drivers and development paths, and remove all institutional obstacles holding back innovation”, and that “we must strengthen rules-based global governance if we are to achieve stability and development.” These views are not only Xi Jinping's thoughts on the development of the Asia-Pacific region, but also China's vision and pragmatic solutions for the future of the Asia-Pacific region.
In fact, over the past 40 years of reform and opening up, China has not only advocated ideas but also taken concrete action in promoting the development of the Asia-Pacific region. In 2016, China's trade with APEC members accounted for 62% of its total foreign trade volume, and its direct investment in the economies of APEC members accounted for 72% of its total outward FDI. With the digital economy being the most prominent example, China has become an important driving force in promoting development and cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region.
At the same time, those who comprise the Asia-Pacific business community have also been witnesses, contributors and beneficiaries of China's reform and opening up. In his speech, President Xi Jinping stressed that the "Belt and Road" is an open platform for cooperation. He said that China will continue to substantially relax market access, strengthen intellectual property protection, and actively expand imports. He also invited the Asia-Pacific business community to participate in the second “Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation” and the second “China International Import Expo” next year. These will undoubtedly provide a new source of economic growth for Asia-Pacific cooperation.
Although protectionism and unilateralism are presently casting a shadow over global economic growth amid increasing uncertainty, the tide of economic globalization is nevertheless still rolling forward. Against this backdrop, David Toua, the incumbent Chairman of the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC), said President Xi Jinping's keynote speech reflected the consensus among many APEC economies. At the crossroads of Asia-Pacific development, the gentle warm winds from the coast of the South Pacific are bound to dispel the cold current of protectionism and unilateralism and illuminate a future of opening up and cooperation throughout the Asia-Pacific region.