Source: Global Times Published: 2019-10-21
Editor's Note: The 9th Beijing Xiangshan Forum kicked off in Beijing on Monday. Chinese State Councilor and Minister of National Defense Wei Fenghe delivered a keynote speech at the opening ceremony. Wei clarified China's position on a variety of key issues. Global Times reporters Li Qingqing and Yan Yunming talked with two experts attending the forum about the messages China wants to convey.
Zhao Suisheng, professor of Chinese politics and foreign policy at the University of Denver's Josef Korbel School of International Studies
Minister Wei pointed out that regional affairs should be handled by regional countries. China is gaining an increasing influence in the Asia-Pacific region and has an increasing problem-solving capability regarding regional affairs, including security issues. China believes that regional affairs must be solved by regional members through cooperation and coordination.
But the US has dominated the region for decades, and a rising China is to some extent in conflict with US interests. If Asian people solve their own problems, will the US still have a sense of being in the region? Will its interests and alliances in Asia Pacific be maintained? Washington is now concerned about this.
From China's perspective, relations between the US and its regional allies are mainly against China and are becoming unstable factors in Asia Pacific. For instance, Japan may confront China with US support, and such confrontations may lead to instability. That would not be in the interests of either Japan or China.
Meanwhile, it is not possible or necessary for the US to be excluded from the region. The US has played an active role in some issues shared by Asia-Pacific countries. For example, Japan and South Korea would have developed nuclear weapons if the US had not provided security protection for them. This would bring a threat to the region, as well as to China's interests.
It will be hard to build a security architecture for the entire Asia-Pacific region, because the region includes many countries, and some of them have historical disputes and ideological and religious differences. They have different economic development paths and political systems, and do not have a shared perception regarding opposing forces.
But it is certainly possible to build a security architecture at the sub-regional level, such as in Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia or the whole of East Asia. The East Asia Summit is a good example, because it forms a regional security cooperation mechanism that is led by East Asian countries and also includes countries from outside the region. Besides, smaller countries like members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) can play an important role, because other countries will not regard these countries as a direct threat. China should encourage these smaller countries to play a leading role. Then, China can actively participate in the process and lead the regional security cooperation mechanism together with these countries.
Zhang Jiadong, deputy director of the Center for US Studies at Fudan University in Shanghai
Minister Wei pointed out that security cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region should be inclusive and open. In fact, we are not building a completely new security architecture in the Asia-Pacific region; we are making the old architecture more inclusive and fair. This being the case, the definition of external interference is somewhat vague. External countries are not necessarily countries that have absolutely nothing to do with regional affairs. Although regional affairs should be managed mainly by regional countries, this does not mean that countries outside the region cannot have any influence in the region. Different from the past, we are living in an era of globalization. In the past, countries divided up their spheres of influence. But today, nobody is able to do that.
It is a basic principle for regional countries to oppose external interference. It is unacceptable if regional affairs are heavily influenced by countries from outside the region. However, in an era of globalization, countries are more closely integrated with each other, and so is the security issue. Instead of completely blocking external forces from outside the region, we should make regional countries take the lead in managing regional security. Asia-Pacific countries should work to build more security cooperation mechanisms and enhance regional military structures.
The Xiangshan Forum has already become a very influential forum. China should provide its thoughts for the world, such as building a community with a shared future for humanity. Such thoughts are not specific policies, but will lead in a general direction. China should provide a platform for a security mechanism in Asia Pacific. Smaller countries cannot provide such a platform because they still lack the necessary financial strength. The US and other Western countries have provided some platforms, but these countries cannot bear different opinions. China, however, listens to the voices of smaller countries and gives them an opportunity to talk, even if their opinions are different from China's. This is what we call an open security framework.
Zhao Suisheng is a professor of Chinese politics and foreign policy at the University of Denver's Josef Korbel School of International Studies, and senior fellow at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies of Renmin University of China.