(This article is co-authored by Zhai Kun and Wang Lina)
Since the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991, regional economic integration has become a mainstream pursuit for Asia-Pacific countries. However, rivalry in the security field is becoming intensified as a result of the United States exercising the “pivoting to the Asia-Pacific” strategy in response to China’s rise. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the end of the Cold War. It is necessary, at this moment, to review China-US relations in the post-Cold War era and their impact on the Asia-Pacific region and the world at large. The relations feature both cooperation and conflict. The two global powers need to find a way to reconcile their conflicts and strengthen cooperation.
The two sides held a new round of strategic and economic dialogue June 6-7 in Beijing, exchanging thoughts on major bilateral, regional and global issues. They agreed to strengthen cooperation under multilateral frameworks such as the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and East Asia Summit (EAS). The EAS and G20 summits will be held later this year. China and the US can use these multilateral cooperation mechanisms, especially the EAS, to push the Asia-Pacific into what we call “great coordination, great development, great opening-up, great fusion and great harmony,” which will help maintain the hard-won global peace and prosperity after the Cold War.
Initiated by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the EAS also includes eight major Asia-Pacific strategic forces, namely China, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Australia, Singapore, India, the US and Russia. This mechanism helped ASEAN balance its relations with major powers as well as intensified these powers’ haggling over Southeast Asia, which served to change, to some extent, the sole, excessive influence of a certain power over the region. Meanwhile, the commitment of EAS members not to use armed force for settling disputes makes it feasible to establish a common code of conduct and require every country to exercise restraint in strategic actions. To add to those benefits, the EAS boasts the potential to create more regional cooperation mechanisms, thanks to its efforts to coordinate major strategic issues in the region for wide-range cooperation.
Given the aforementioned advantages, the EAS makes a constructive platform for the US and China to push for positive interaction among Asia-Pacific nations and a sound establishment of the regional order. That will help the region to achieve the aforementioned “great coordination, great development, great opening-up, great fusion and great harmony.”
Great coordination. China and the US can push for coordination and inclusiveness among Asia-Pacific countries by promoting the “development plus” model, which comes in three forms. The first form is “you plus me”, which means coordination and docking of various regional development mechanisms on the strategic level. For instance, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) led by the US, the Belt and Road Initiative put forward by China and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) by the ASEAN can be coordinated and docked with one another on the platform of EAS. The second form is “this plus that”, which means joint efforts to settle practical problems. For instance, China, the US and Japan can cooperate to launch poverty-alleviation projects in developing countries, such as Laos and Cambodia. The third form is “initiation plus multilateral participation”, which will lead to effective docking on both strategic and practical levels. The ASEAN sets the theme for each session of the EAS and controls the schedule, but no initiative thus put forward will be materialized without big powers providing capital and technology. For instance, China and the US can lend a helping hand to the “mutual connection and communication” plan initiated by the ASEAN in 2010.
Great development. China and the US can, under the framework of EAS, encourage all parties in the region to cooperate on the Belt and Road, while promoting new regional cooperation with joint participation by China and US. As Washington is suspicious of China’s strategic purpose in the Belt and Road Initiative, Beijing can use the EAS platform to explain the “public-benefiting” nature of the Belt and Road and invite the US to join in under the EAS framework. Meanwhile, China and the US can invite other parties to jointly develop the South China Sea Rim economic belt and establish an Indian-Pacific economic cooperation organization. The South China Sea Rim tops the rest of the world in economic development, with all countries around it enjoying a share of the benefit. The Indian-Pacific economic belt comprises such major economies as China, the US, Japan, India, Australia and ASEAN. It is imperative to establish an economic cooperation organization to meet the needs of the countries in the region.
Great opening-up. China and the US can use the EAS platform to promote regional economic integration, which will benefit all regional parties in their future development. Although there are signs of members straying away in Asia-Pacific’s economic integration process, due to the new trend of the region’s economic linkages seeking sub-regional union, China, the US and ASEAN share the understanding that an open, unified market should be established if the region is to maintain its vitality for economic growth. As a forum, the EAS gathers the leaders of most important Asia-Pacific economies. It is open, adaptable and sustainable. All ideas concerning the Asia-Pacific economic integration can be discussed at the EAS for reaching a common understanding in a progressive way.
Great fusion. China and the US can promote personnel exchanges and social fusion in the Asia-Pacific through the “youths exchange oriented at the future 25 years” campaign. The current young generation was born at the end of the Cold War. They grew up in the information and internet era, open-minded and inclusive and free from traditional or hegemonic ideologies. They are a source of vitality for their countries’ development, as well as friendship messengers in international communication. If China and the US and other partners expedite the process of establishing intercommunication under the framework of EAS to increase exchanges among youths of the different countries, they will reduce mutual suspicion, enhance mutual understanding and develop strategic mutual trust, which will help build up fusion among Asia-Pacific nations.
Great harmony. China and the US have achieved certain positive results in their 8th Strategic and Economic Dialogue held early this month. At this time of marking the 25th anniversary of the Cold War’s ending, both countries can take the opportunity created by the EAS to reconcile their differences and seek cooperation. They can join ASEAN countries to promote positive interaction among all regional forces in a wider range, on a deeper level and in a more sustainable manner to push Asia-Pacific towards great harmony.