Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for efforts to achieve an “Asia-Pacific Dream” of improved prosperity and stability as he staked China’s claim for a bigger leadership role in the region.
In offering his vision of the Asia-Pacific Dream, which echoes his pet political slogan China Dream, Xi said his country will be an engine of growth for the Asia-Pacific, a region that has 40 per cent of the world’s population and almost half its trade.
“China’s development will bring huge opportunities and benefits to the Asia-Pacific and the world. We are willing to work with others to realise the Asia-Pacific Dream,” he told 1,500 business leaders and corporate honchos in Beijing yesterday.
“As its national strength grows, China will be both capable and willing to provide more public goods for the Asia-Pacific and the world, especially new initiatives and visions for enhancing regional cooperation,” he added.
Beijing is hosting the annual summit of the 21-member Asia- Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) group, whose leaders begin their meeting today. The CEO summit is one of the events.
The focus of this year’s summit is on various regional integration initiatives being championed by China but encountering resistance from some countries.
One initiative that Beijing has flagged as a top priority is the Free Trade Area for Asia-Pacific (FTAAP), which it is promoting as a solution to the current “spaghetti bowl” of competing regional free-trade proposals. However, Washington is reportedly concerned that the FTAAP might dilute focus on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that it leads.
Other Chinese initiatives are the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and a US$40 billion Silk Road Infrastructure Fund launched on Saturday.
Analysts view these moves as part of China’s efforts to repair its regional standing, which suffered after it adopted an assertive foreign policy in territorial disputes with neighbours such as Japan.
East Asian Institute analyst Chen Gang said the Asia-Pacific Dream is a natural extension of Xi’s China Dream, which envisages Beijing taking a leadership role in world affairs.
But neighbouring countries are likely to wait and see as some are wary of an assertive China, Jinan University analyst Zhang Mingliang told The Straits Times.
In his 30-minute speech, Xi also called for a new type of Asia-Pacific partnership. “We should move away from a winner- takes-all mindset to one based on win-win cooperation to enlarge the Asia-Pacific cake and ensure its prosperity,” he said.
His comments come amid reports of US unhappiness at China’s push for the FTAAP even as its TPP, a free trade arrangement that excludes China, has run into difficulties and may miss its year-end deadline in getting off the ground.
Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday in Beijing that the TPP could be completed by early next year.
Yesterday, he met Xi, who said that Sino-Singapore ties have always been one step ahead of China’s ties with Asean countries.
The Apec summit continues today with US President Barack Obama attending the Apec CEO summit and hosting 11 TPP leaders at a meeting, while Lee will attend a dialogue by the Apec Business Advisory Council.