China's role highly anticipated in enhancing growth, cooperation
A Thai officer walks near signs of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in Bangkok, Thailand, Nov 14, 2022. (SAKCHAI LALIT / AP)
Following his busy schedule during the G20 Summit in Bali, Indonesia, President Xi Jinping arrived in Bangkok, Thailand on Thursday for the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting with high hopes that he will put forward China's proposals for deepening solidarity and cooperation for regional and global economic growth.
In the face of overlapping crises such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, intensifying geopolitical tensions, a fragile global economy and increasing climate woes, China's role and leadership are highly anticipated in building consensus and enhancing coordination among member economies to help the region recover from the economic slowdown, observers said.
Today we need international cooperation on all these fronts more than we’ve ever needed, but international cooperation is in short supply.
Peter Drysdale, head of the East Asian Bureau of Economic Research at Australian National University
As host of the 29th APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting, Thailand has set priorities for this year's meeting to make sure that the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation is "open to all opportunities, connected in every dimension and balanced in all aspects".
Specifically, it aims to facilitate trade and investment in a conducive ecosystem to promote a multilateral trading system and regional economic integration, drive the establishment of a new free trade area of the Asia-Pacific in the context of post-COVID-19, reboot regional connectivity, and advance sustainable and inclusive growth.
In a written interview with the Matichon newspaper of Thailand, Chinese Ambassador to Thailand Han Zhiqiang said that China supports the host's important role in adhering to the right direction of APEC with a focus on the region's development and cooperation as well as the building of an Asia-Pacific free trade area and the Asia-Pacific community with a shared future.
Xi's attendance at the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting demonstrates that China will voice its message and contribute its wisdom in promoting the development of the regional organization, improving global governance and bolstering world economic recovery, Han said.
China joined APEC as its first regional economic engagement in 1991, which helped the country open up, lowering the average tariff rate from 39.5 percent to about 7.4 percent. By 2020, China's trade with APEC economies reached nearly $2.87 trillion, according to the Ministry of Commerce.
Over the past three decades, the nation has been firmly committed to regional partnerships and free trade and investment, making significant contributions to a multilateral trading system and an open world economy.
China, as the world's No 2 economic power, can do a lot more within the APEC framework, said Kavi Chongkittavorn, a Thai veteran journalist on regional affairs, in an op-ed piece published in the Bangkok Post.
Given China's rising international profile and influence, it can play a greater role in global governance, Chongkittavorn said. "As such, the international community is watching closely what Mr Xi will say and do during his Nov 17-19 visit to Thailand," and "In Bangkok, Mr Xi is the right person in the right place at the right time."
Fresh from the success of the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China last month, Xi could also use the APEC platform to give the world reassurances that China is opening wider and will continue to engage the international community, he said.
China is a member of the ASEAN-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, the largest free trade agreement in the world. It is also supportive of the planned Asia-Pacific Free Trade Agreement.
Coming into effect on Jan 1, the RCEP delivers increasingly prominent dividends to member economies through tariff concessions and trade facilitation. Official data showed that China's trade with other RCEP members in the first eight months this year reached around $1.2 trillion, accounting for 30.5 percent of China's foreign trade.
Ky Sereyvath, director-general of the Institute of China Studies at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said China is the stabilizer of global value chains, and has always shared the fruits of development with the rest of the world. "It will importantly contribute to quickening the global economic recovery from the pandemic," the economist told Xinhua News Agency.
With geopolitical tensions intensifying, analysts have warned that regional countries need to be wary of the United States' Indo-Pacific strategy, which is widely seen as an approach to contain China and might create divisions, incite confrontation and undermine peace in the region. APEC's role in serving as the effective regional cooperation framework in the Asia-Pacific region should be upheld and strengthened, they said.
Rebecca Fatima Sta Maria, executive director of the APEC Secretariat, said that in the past months, APEC minister-level officials have been in meetings and policy dialogues in person in Thailand for the first time in two years, signaling renewed enthusiasm and commitment to cooperate despite differences and disagreements borne by global geopolitics.
APEC is diverse in terms of both ideology and the size of the economies it brings together as equals, Maria said in an article published by the China Global Television Network. Each member — as well as each representative from the business community, or academia, or anyone brought to the table — is invested in a greater good brought about by cooperation rather than division, she added.
"Today we need international cooperation on all these fronts more than we've ever needed, but international cooperation is in short supply," said Peter Drysdale, head of the East Asian Bureau of Economic Research at Australian National University.
It is of great significance to overcome geopolitical tensions and work together on key issues to stabilize the international economy and international politics, Drysdale said.
In addition to his attendance at the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting, Xi will also hold official talks with Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha with a view to promoting bilateral ties.
HONG KONG NEWS