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Chopsticks together hard to break

Publication Date : 05-12-2013


Asia is best known around the world for its contribution to global economic growth. Yet for some time, security concerns seem to have clouded people's thinking about Asia.

So how should we view security in Asia? Is Asia secure?

To be fair, Asia has maintained peace and stability for decades. This has laid the foundation for economic development and improved relations among Asian countries.

Today, intraregional trade and investment, financial cooperation, negotiations on free trade agreements, and connectivity projects are thriving.

Economic integration is deepening and cooperation is the main trend in Asia today.

But Asia is also faced with myriad security challenges, from the legacies of the past to non-traditional security challenges, such as natural disasters, transnational crimes, and cyber security. In addition, the trust deficit remains large.

China put forward a concept of a New Approach to Security in the 1990s. It rejected old security patterns, such as the zero-sum game, military hegemony and power politics, and advocates a 3C security approach, namely comprehensive security, cooperative security and common security.

Comprehensive security recognises the multifaceted and interconnected nature of security, which includes not just military security, but also economic, financial and food security.

Cooperative security calls for cooperation and participation by all relevant parties for the solution to complex security challenges. As Premier Li Keqiang said at the East Asia Summit in October, one cannot break chopsticks if you bundle many of them together. His message is that every country has a responsibility for regional security.

Common security means no country should seek absolute security for itself or its own security at the cost of others. They should consider the security of others while seeking their own security.

Regional economic integration provides the foundation for Asian security. Development and security are mutually reinforcing. We cannot achieve one without the other. For many countries, development is also the biggest security interest.

Good relations among major countries are a crucial factor for Asian security, and they should work together to tackle global challenges.

Regional mechanisms, such as the Asia Regional Forum, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Defence Ministers Meeting-Plus and the East Asia Summit, should play a bigger role in non-traditional security cooperation.

As a long-term objective, we should foster a new security architecture. There is a growing awareness that security cooperation in our region has lagged far behind economic cooperation, and that a regional security architecture that caters to the needs and interests of Asian countries should be established.

Many useful ideas have been put forward by various parties, we believe this architecture should be based on a new security approach and follow principles such as consensus, non-interference and accommodating the comfort level of all parties, and we should start with functional cooperation to accumulate mutual understanding and trust.

What role will China play in Asian security?

China is still a developing country. For the foreseeable future, development will remain the top priority for China and the focus will be on implementing the program of reform and opening-up drawn up at the Third Plenum of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China.

China has achieved development under the current international order. To keep the order stable while gradually renewing and reforming it serves China's interests, as well as those of other stakeholders in the region.

President Xi Jinping used four words to describe China's policy toward its neighbours: closeness, sincerity, sharing and inclusiveness. He has also reiterated China's commitment to building friendship and partnerships with its neighbours.

In 2012, China's FDI in Asia amounted to nearly US$55 billion, accounting for more than 70 percent of China's total overseas investment. This year, China's new leadership has proposed many new cooperation projects with neighbouring countries, such as the Silk Road Economic Belt, the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, establishing an Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank, upgrading the China-Asean partnership, and economic corridors linking Bangladesh, India, Myanmar and China.

The economic integration of Asia is set to enter a new era of development, and China will only play a bigger role in it.

China is firmly committed to building a new type of relationship between major countries. Russia was the first country Xi visited after he took office, and the China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership has set an example for good relations between major countries.

China and the United States agreed to build a new type of major country relationship based on the principles of no conflict or confrontation, mutual respect for each other's core interests and major concerns, and closer cooperation for peace, stability and development in the Asia-Pacific region and the world at large.

Naturally, this will not be plain sailing. But we owe it to ourselves and to the region to avoid the historical trap of a conflict between major powers.

We hope US Vice-President Joe Biden's visit to China will contribute to greater mutual understanding between the two countries.

China will continue to support Asean community building and Asean centrality in regional cooperation. China and Asean countries are making joint efforts to implement the Declaration of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea comprehensively and effectively and will push forward discussions on a code of conduct in a positive and prudent manner.

China will not take provocative actions in its territorial disputes with other countries, but neither will it accept provocations against China's basic principles.

China's activities in the Diaoyu Islands area are legitimate exercises of its jurisdiction over these islands and should not be seen as an attempt to change the status quo. China's establishment of the Air Defence Identification Zone in the East China Sea is consistent with international law and international practice. More than 20 countries including the US, Japan and the Republic of Korea have created ADIZs since the 1950s.

China and Japan should strengthen dialogue to ensure aviation safety and avoid mistakes in the overlapping areas. Other countries should not read too much into or overreact to the ADIZ.

China remains committed to the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula and we actively participate in the peace and reconstruction process in Afghanistan. We will host the Fourth Foreign Ministers' Conference of the Istanbul Process on Afghanistan in 2014.

China is ready to accept more responsibility and provide more public goods for security for our region. As a main user of sea lanes, China is ready to contribute to maintaining the security of sea lanes in relevant seas and oceans.

The recent super typhoon that hit the Philippines has once again reminded us of the need to articulate a regional mechanism for disaster relief.

In addition to assistance in cash and in kind, China sent medical teams and the Hospital Ship Peace Ark to join relief efforts. We are also ready to make a greater contribution to regional capacity building on disaster management, including working together with Malaysia to host the Asean Regional Forum Disaster Relief Exercise in 2015.

The more China develops, the greater its need for a stable and a friendly neighbouring environment. A stronger China in turn will boost peace, development and security in Asia.

The author is vice-minister of foreign affairs.




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