Chinese Empire rising in the East hosts APEC Meeting
BEIJING – China begins to host Monday the APEC Summit, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group that brings together 21 economies representing more than half of the world’s GDP.
Having become the second largest economy in the world, Beijing wants to leave no doubt in the meeting that it knows its place in world commerce and politics, especially because the meeting is attended by, among others, US President Barack Obama, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
The Beijing government has used its role to develop an agenda to suit its own needs, which can advance their domestic priorities and try to score over its main rivals, the USA and Japan.
During the two days of talks, the leaders will address the economic integration; an agreement for international cooperation against corruption, infrastructure development and connectivity in the region.
“We have a responsibility to create and realize the dream of Asia–Pacific for the people of the region,” said Chinese President Xi Jinping on Sunday.
Obsessed with the meeting being a success, not only China has taken a series of extraordinary security measures -more than 28,000 troops guarding the summit- but also has worked to soften his diplomatic disputes to ensure that the meeting, which also includes Mexico, Chile and Peru, takes place in an atmosphere of cooperation.
This scenario was an unthinkable possibility until recently, a bilateral meeting between Xi and Abe, has become closer after both governments subscribed Friday an agreement recognizing “different positions” in their territorial dispute over the Diaoyu / Senkaku islands. The foreign ministers of both countries, Wang Yi and Fumio Kishida met this weekend for the first time in two years.
Xi will also hold a bilateral meeting with Obama on Wednesday, once the summit has ended. The two will attempt to heal a relationship that has suffered serious tensions this year. But coming in very different conditions: the Chinese president has just closed a communist convention that has strengthened his position of power which provided him eight more years in office.
Obama, who barely has two more years as US president, has just had the biggest setback of his career during the American midterm elections. Although the President insists that Asia Pacific is still his priority in foreign policy, reality says otherwise. The US is more involved in supporting the illegally elected government of Ukraine and the Iraqi army in its supposed fight against ISIS.
As explained by Professor Wang Yiwen, from Renmin University in Beijing, one of the biggest problems in the relationship between the two countries – US and China- is mutual “mistrust”.
China is wary of the so-called “political pivot” of the US in the region and Washington “fears that China’s interest in a new relationship between great powers is only a tranquilizer pill to undermine an ever winding US leadership which China and Russia seem to be overcoming without noise. “
Michael Green of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, believes that the relationship between the two great powers are at “a higher level of stress than the normal.”
Despite agreeing usually on North Korea, Afghanistan or general economic issues, there are huge differences on human rights, Hong Kong and cyber-security.
At the summit of leaders both countries represent very different positions with respect to trade integration.
China, eager to find markets for its growing power announced 32,000 million euros for its new project called “Silk Road”, which intends to create a strong Free Trade Area in Asia Pacific (FTAAP), which is home to 40 percent of the world’s population and nearly half of all global trade. The US meanwhile, has put all eggs in one basket for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which only includes twelve APEC countries and excludes China.
China will also seek to take advantage of the two-day summit to promote its newly launched ADB Infrastructure Investment, which has already signed a dozen countries, including India, but that still has some of the major economies in the region, including Australia, South Korea and Japan unconvinced about the benefit of such partnership.
After the close of the summit, Xi will also meet Enrique Peña Nieto, who extended his stay in China for a state visit before traveling to Australia to participate in the G20.
Peña Nieto, dragging heavy criticism at home for the case of the 43 students killed in Iguala, will have to answer to Beijing for the cancellation of an agreement that would have transferred to a Chinese company the right to build a fast rail line connecting Mexico City and Querétaro. The contract would have cost the Chinese 4,800 million dollars.