The Evolving Security Situation in Asia and the Role of China

China International Studies | 作者: Liu Zhenmin | 时间: 2014-01-13 | 责编: Li Xiaoyu
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By Liu Zhenmin



Today I would like to share some thoughts on Asian security and the role and responsibility of China.

In people’s minds, Asia is often seen as a dynamic economy. Yet for some people, the close economic relations among Asian countries are not matched by amicable political relations. They even believe instability and insecurity is on the rise in Asia.

How should we view the security situation in Asia? Is Asia secure?

To be fair, Asia has largely maintained peace and stability for decades after the Cold War. This has served as a solid basis for Asia to focus on economic development. Relations among Asian countries have also improved.

Asia is seeing new progress in regional cooperation. FTA negotiations and connectivity projects are thriving. Economic integration is picking up speed. Asia has become the biggest driving force for global economic growth. War is almost unthinkable. This is the main trend of today’s Asia. This is also the way to go for Asia.

Having said that, to be frank, Asia is still faced with many security challenges. Legacies of the Second World War and the Cold War, and territorial and maritime disputes continue to affect Asian security.

There are also growing non-traditional security challenges, such as natural disasters, transnational crimes, cyber security, energy and food security. In addition, there are still attempts in our region to seek absolute security through strengthening military alliances. The trust deficit between some countries remains large.

As globalization deepens, countries are more closely inter-connected than ever before, becoming a community of common destiny. As a general rule, if every country can manage its own affairs well, that would be a big contribution to regional peace, development and security.

In my humble submission, only with openness, inclusiveness, mutual respect and cooperation can countries achieve security and development, and create a harmonious environment for regional security.

China put forward a concept of New Approach to Security in the 1990s. We don’t believe in the old security concept based on zero-sum game, military hegemony and power politics.

Countries should follow a new approach to security based on mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality and collaboration. This can be called the 3C security approach, namely comprehensive security, cooperative security and common security.

Comprehensive security means that security is multi-faceted and interconnected. It includes not just military security, but also economic security, financial security and food security. Comprehensive challenges require comprehensive solutions. And no country can cope alone.

Cooperative security means that security should be realized through cooperation and equal participation of all relevant parties. Disputes should be solved in a peaceful and cooperative manner.

At the recent EAS, Premier Li Keqiang used chopsticks as an example to show the importance of cooperative security. He said, one can’t break the chopsticks if you bundle many of them together. His message is that every country has a responsibility for regional security.

Common security means security for all. No country should seek absolute security for itself or its own security at the cost of others. Countries should consider the security concerns of other countries while seeking its own security.

For instance, true security in Northeast Asia can only be achieved with a sub-regional security mechanism ensuring the security of all relevant countries.

In his address to this year’s Boao Forum for Asia, President Xi Jinping said peace is just like air and sunshine. One hardly notices them, yet none can live without them. The peaceful and stable environment in Asia has not come easily.

What should we do to maintain and promote security in Asia? Following the new security approach, China believes that the efforts should be made in the following areas.

Firstly, promoting regional economic integration is 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.

Asia has a sound framework for economic cooperation. we have 10+1 and 10+3 cooperation. RCEP and China-Japan-Korea FTA negotiations are making progress. We should continue to strengthen the bond of shared interests among countries through regional cooperation, and make efforts for the common development and prosperity of Asia.

Secondly, good relations among major countries are a crucial factor for Asian security. They should be rational in judging each other’s strategic motives, respect each other’s interests and concerns, and work together to tackle global challenges.

Thirdly, existing regional mechanisms provides an important channel for promoting Asian security. We should adhere to multilateralism and oppose unilateralism. Regional mechanisms such as ARF, ADMM Plus and EAS are highly active and inclusive. They should play a bigger role in promoting regional non-traditional security cooperation.

Fourthly, fostering a new security architecture is a necessary part of promoting Asian security. There is a growing awareness that security cooperation in our region has lagged far behind economic cooperation. This is not in the interest of Asia’s long term development. A regional security architecture that works well for the region and caters to the needs of all parties should be established.

Russia and Indonesia came up with proposals such as signing a principle declaration for Asia-Pacific security cooperation and an Indo-Pacific Treaty of Amity and Cooperation. Some scholars also proposed the concept of Consociational Security Order in the Asia Pacific. All these are useful ideas.

We believe that the new architecture should be based on the new security approach. It should be conducive to both economic and security cooperation in the region. Naturally, setting up this framework would be an incremental process. It should follow principles such as consensus, non-interference and accommodating the comfort level of all parties. We should start with functional cooperation, so that parties can accumulate mutual trust and raise the comfort level.

In recent years, the development of China has become an important factor and the focus of attention in the evolving situation in the region. How will China use its growing strength, what role will China play in Asia?

Many of you come from China’s neighbouring countries and have a good understanding of China’s domestic and foreign policies. China still sees itself as a developing country. For many years to come, the issue at the very top of China’s policy agenda remains achieving its own development. Our focus will be on implementing the program of reform, opening-up and development drawn up at the recent 3rd Plenum of the 18th CPC Central Committee, to build a moderately prosperous society for 1.3 billion Chinese people.

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

Not long ago, at a conference on neighborhood diplomacy, President Xi Jinping used four phrases to describe China’s neighboring policy. They are: closeness, sincerity, sharing in prosperity, and accepting differences, or inclusiveness. He reiterated that China remains committed to developing friendship and partnerships with its neighbors. China’s development will bring more benefit to our neighbors.

China will continue to deepen economic, trade and people-to-people links with Asian countries. In 2012, China’s FDI in Asia amounted to nearly 55 billion USD, accounting for more than 70% of China’s total overseas investment.

This year, China proposed many new proposals on cooperation projects with our neighbors, such as the Silk Road Economic Belt, the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, the establishment of an Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank, the China-ASEAN community of common destiny, the 2+7 cooperation framework to enhance China ASEAN strategic partnership, the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar economic corridor, the China-Pakistan economic corridor, etc.

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

China is firmly committed to building a new type of major country relationship. Russia was the first country President Xi Jinping visited after he took office. The two sides reaffirmed their endeavors to build a secure and sustainable future for the Asia Pacific region. The China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership has set an example for good relations between major countries.

China and the United States have broad common interests in maintaining development and security in the Asia-Pacific. The two countries agreed to build a new type of major country relationship. In our understanding, the core principles of this relationship are: no conflict or confrontation, mutual respect for core interests and major concerns, and closer cooperation for peace, stability and development of the Asia-Pacific and the world at large.

Naturally, such a new type of relationship will not be plain sailing. We owe it to ourselves and to the region to avoid the historical trap of major power conflict. Tomorrow, Vice President Biden of the United States will start his visit to China. We hope this visit will contribute to greater mutual understanding and cooperation between the two countries.

China will continue to firmly support ASEAN community building and ASEAN centrality in regional cooperation. China is the first outside country to sign the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia, and the first major country to establish a strategic partnership with ASEAN. During his visit to Southeast Asia, President Xi Jinping stated China’s readiness to conclude a China-ASEAN Treaty of Good-neighborliness and Cooperation. This is a strategic initiative by China to upgrade the China-ASEAN partnership. We look forward to early discussions on the treaty.

China will continue to properly handle disputes over territory and maritime rights and interests. Our position of upholding peace and stability and working for negotiated solutions with countries directly involved remains unchanged. China and ASEAN countries are making joint efforts to implement the DOC comprehensively and effectively and will push forward COC discussions in a positive and prudent manner.

We stand for shelving disputes and seeking joint development. And we have reached initial understanding on joint development with some countries. We are also working with ASEAN countries on putting to use the China-ASEAN Maritime Cooperation Fund. On issues of territorial sovereignty and maritime interests, China does not believe in provoking others. Nor would we allow provocation against China’s principles and bottom line.

On the issue of Diaoyu Islands, China’s activities in the area is the legitimate exercise of its jurisdiction on these islands and should not be seen as an attempt to change the status quo. China’s establishment of the Air Defense Identification Zone in the East China Sea is consistent with international law and international practice. More than 20 countries including the United States and Japan have established their own ADIZs since the 1950s. As for the issue of aviation safety in the overlapping areas, China and Japan can and should strengthen dialogue and communication to ensure aviation safety and avoid accidents. We hope that relevant countries will not read too much and not overreact to China’s ADIZ in the East China Sea.

China will continue to work for the solution of hotspot issues in Asia. We will firmly push forward the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. We sincerely hope that the relevant parties will move in the same direction and make effort to resume the Six Party Talks to bring the issue back to the track of negotiations.

China supports national reconciliation in Afghanistan. We have actively participated in the peace and reconstruction process and regional cooperation concerning Afghanistan. We will host the Fourth Foreign Ministers’ Conference of the Istanbul process on Afghanistan in 2014.

China will continue to be an active player and contributor at regional security mechanisms under ASEAN. China will take on more responsibility for regional and global security and provide more public security goods to Asia and the world at large.

Over the past years, China has sent 15 naval fleets to the Gulf of Aden and the West Indian Ocean for escort missions to merchant ships. Half of the ships escorted have been from foreign countries. As a main user of sea lanes, China is ready to contribute its share to maintaining security of sea lanes in relevant seas and oceans.

The recent super typhoon of Haiyan hit the Philippines most seriously. In addition to assistance provided in cash and in kind, China sent medical teams and the Hospital Ship “Peace Ark” to the country to join in the relief effort. The disaster relief in the Philippines once again reminded us of the need to articulate a regional mechanism for disaster relief. We are ready to make greater contribution to the capacity building on disaster management in our region. We will work together with Malaysia to host the ARF Disaster Relief Exercise in 2015.

Over the years, as an influential think tank on security in the Asia-Pacific, CSCAP has made positive contribution to security dialogue and cooperation in our region. I hope you will keep up your good work, approach security issues in Asia with open and creative thinking, and provide more ideas and support to regional security cooperation.

Source: China International Studies November/December 2013 p5-12

[1]This article is based on the Speech by H.E. Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin at the Luncheon of the 9th CSCAP Conference Beijing, December 3rd, 2013.