The fourth summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) concluded with great success on May 21, in Shanghai, China. To sum up its achievements and to plan for its future development, the two-day summit issued the Shanghai Declaration, expounding members’ positions on major Asian issues, and telling the world that the CICA has become a formal influential international organization, which will disseminate and put into practice the new concept of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security in Asia. It will also serve as an energetic engine to gradually help produce a new type of Asia security architecture covering the whole of Asia. As it is an entirely new endeavor under the extremely complicated situation, the CICA will unavoidably face a lot of challenges while playing an increasingly important role in promoting peace, development and cooperation in Asia.
The CICA is full of vitality and now represents almost all of Asia. Since the proposal to convene the CICA was first put forward at the United Nations General Assembly in October, 1992, the CICA membership has continued to enlarged. It now has 26 members, covering Central Asia, North East Asia, South East Asia, South Asia and West Asia. So far, no other Asian organization so widely represents Asia. Countries and international organizations with observer status further strengthen the representation of the CICA in Asia and its position in the world.
The CICA has constantly rationalized its internal structure and has now reached maturity, functioning effectively as the largest security forum in Asia. In the 22 years since its birth, the CICA formulated its purposes and principles, adopted a catalogue of confidence measures, worked out an agreement on the establishment of the secretariat and the convention concerning the privileges and immunities of the secretariat and its personnel, and the representatives of the member countries. The CICA is now operating with a three-level mechanism every 4 years; attended by heads of state and heads of government, the foreign ministers meeting, and committee meetings of senior officials. There have been a lot of programs of cooperation among member countries under the CICA framework. As more countries have joined the organization and new proposals, such as the establishment of defense consultation mechanism among member countries, and of people-to-people exchange network through holding non-governmental forums, have been put forward and reviewed, the CICA will surely become a security dialogue and cooperation platform that covers the whole of Asia.
The new concept of the CICA on Asian security has become more popular and will greatly enhance Asian countries’ ability to promote economic development and strengthen security. Members of the CICA are almost all developing countries in Asia, and they are keenly aware that sustainable economic development through cooperation and regional integration is the master key to sustainable security. As CICA members’ interests and security are so inextricably intertwined that they work and live in the same community of common destiny, the security of each and every member is equally respected and ensured. They have a strong desire for closer cooperation in tackling the security challenges in the face of the increasingly serious security situation. Therefore, prospects for sincere and close cooperation among CICA members in implementing the new Asian security concept are very bright.
However, a bright future for the CICA doesn’t mean that difficulties and challenges ahead can be ignored. On the contrary, a sober-minded assessment of the challenges and readiness to tackle them are not only essential, but also helpful.
The CICA is different in many ways from other Asian organizations. But the most striking difference is that the CICA refuses to believe in the out-dated Cold War mentality, zero-sum game logic and the outmoded practice of military alliance, and it has sincerely called for the establishment of an entirely new Asian security architecture on the basis of mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality and collaboration.
It will be a daunting mission to help the United States and its allies get rid of the Cold War mentality and zero-sum game logic when dealing with Asian security issues. As the US is not an Asian country geographically, it is quite natural and logical that it is not accepted as a CICA member, but rather given the observer status. But such a simple and benign arrangement was met by reproach in the Western media, which said that China, together with Russia, is picking up the multi-lateral organization to counter the US strategy of rebalancing to Asia. Such reproach is a typical expression of Cold War mentality and zero-sum game logic. The fact that the US is an observer in the CICA clearly shows that the CICA, including China and Russia, welcomes the US constructive role in Asian affairs. China seeks a positive interaction with the US in Asia, not confrontation or friction.
Every newly emerging organization has difficulties in its growth, but the CICA is naturally confronted with a number of challenges. A few countries in Asia, in collusion with the US, are stubbornly trying to make trouble, thereby disrupting peace and stability by bolstering their military alliances. Immediate security challenges and potential security threats in Asia, including “three forces” of terrorism, separatism and extremism, transnational crimes, environmental pollution, energy and water shortage, and natural disasters, are crying out for a proper solution. It is very clear that the CICA is entrusted with lofty missions and will shoulder very heavy responsibilities for Asian development and security.
Wu Zurong is a research fellow at the China Foundation for International Studies.