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Foreign Policy

CICA in Its Third Decade: Background and Prospects

May 20 , 2014
  • Li Shaoxian

    VP, China Institute of Contemporary Int'l Relations

The Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA) was initiated by President Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan on 5 October 1992 at the 47th session of the United Nations General Assembly. CICA began functioning as a forum in March 1993 and has now entered its third decade. Currently, it has 24 member states and 13 observers (either countries or international organizations). It is a forum for dialogue and consultation on Asian security issues whose purpose is to strengthen cooperation through multilateral confidence-building measures aimed at promoting peace, security and stability in Asia. According to Chinese vice foreign minister Cheng Guoping, who recently gave a keynote speech at the Foreign Ministry’s Lanting Forum, “CICA is a primary vehicle initiated by an Asian country and whose agenda is set by Asian countries. It represents Asia’s voice on major international and regional issues and enables Asian countries to keep Asian affairs in their own hands and promote their common security.” 

Li Shaoxian

First, CICA was created in response to the changing times. It is an attempt by Asian people to strengthen Asian awareness and responsibility and resolve Asian problems in an Asian way. Asia has a more complex geopolitical situation than any other region in the world. Affected by a troubled history and current problems, Asia confronts many security risks and conflicts and the new century has compounded the existing traditional security problems with non-traditional security issues. Asia is home to world-class conundrums such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Iranian and Korean nuclear issues that touch the nerve of the world, the Syrian crisis, the reconstruction of Iraq and Afghanistan, the issue of Crimea, East and South China Sea disputes and the “three evil forces”, most notably terrorism. CICA meets Asian people’s shared aspiration for peace and tranquility. Since its establishment, it has operated on the basis of consensus, adopted a series of foundational documents (including Declaration on the Principles Guiding Relations Between the CICA Member States and CICA Catalogue of Confidence-Building Measures), evolved mechanisms comprising heads of state and/or government meeting (summit), foreign ministers’ meeting, senior officials’ meeting and special working group meeting. 

Historically, including in the last two decades of CICA’s lifespan, Asia has resolved many disputes through the Asian way of equal-footed consultation, mutual understanding and accommodation and seeking common grounding while shelving differences (for example, China has settled the boundary with 12 of its 14 land neighbors), thereby setting a good example of inter-state relations and regional security. 

Secondly, Asia is home to emerging markets such as China. There are a dozen cities with populations exceeding 10 million people on the shores of western Pacific. The region has diverse civilizations and cultures and is full of dynamism and vitality. Asia has increasingly become an important engine and driving force of global growth and progress in the 21st century. In recent years, Asia has accounted for over 50% of global growth and China has accounted for over 50% of Asia’s growth. 

Supported by robust economic growth and political awakening, Asia boasts a growing ability and confidence to resolve its own problems. This is the background against which CICA has grown. Vice foreign minister Cheng Guoping, in his recent speech, highlighted the importance and imperative of strengthening Asian awareness and responsibility and advocating the Asian way. This will herald a bright future for CICA. 

Thirdly, after more than 30 years of reform, opening and development, China has gained strength and become the second largest economy in the world. It is increasingly aware of its unshirkable responsibility as a world power to uphold Asia’s collective security and provide more public goods for the rest of Asia. This is in the interests of both China and the region. From this perspective, holding the fourth CICA summit and assuming CICA chairmanship for 2014-16 is an important step China has taken to be actively involved in the CICA process and enhance Asia’s security. 

The upcoming Shanghai Summit will be the largest in the history of CICA. It will focus on the theme of “enhancing dialogue, trust and coordination for a new Asia of peace, stability and cooperation”, adopt the revised rules of procedure, create a youth committee and establish linkage with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Chinese President Xi Jinping will chair the summit and deliver a keynote speech, setting out China’s position and views regarding Asia’s security and the future of CICA and calling on Asia to build consensus and pool wisdom, deal effectively with security threats and challenges, foster a security outlook on the basis of mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality and coordination, and seek common security, comprehensive security, cooperative security and sustainable security in an effort to build an open, transparent and equal security and cooperation architecture for Asia. China is a responsible power in Asia. It will fulfill its responsibilities, keep up with the changing times and encourage CICA to contribute more to regional security and cooperation in Asia. 

Li Shaoxian is Vice President of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.


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