25 Years on, APEC to reshape Asia-Pacific in Beijing


Nov. 7 in 1989 is a day worth remembering. The Cold War was at its dying moment, and the Iron Curtain barricading the West and the East began its slow crumble.

On the same day, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) was born in the beautiful garden city Canberra, as Australia, the United States, Canada, Japan, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand together with six ASEAN countries closed the first ministerial meeting of APEC.

Today, with China hosting the APEC meetings for second time in 13 years, the organization continues helping peace and prosperity take root in Asia-Pacific as the world's center is shifting to the region.


The Asia-Pacific is not endowed with an ideal position to foster regional cooperation, with the vast Pacific Ocean perhaps the easiest barrier to overcome. The prominent problem lies in how to bring together 21 economies with divergent development levels, histories and social systems and let them speak their minds.

However, under the guidance of APEC, the region has evolved from a? geographic concept into a global economic engine with a 2.8 billion population.

With 46 percent of global trade and more than half of its GDP, today' s Asia-Pacific is an economic giant nobody could have dreamed of 25 years ago.

Some people poured scorn on the idea, seeing APEC as nothing more than a "talk shop." However, veteran researchers hold it undisputable that APEC has been "comprehensively pushing forward" integration and win-win development of the region.

"A complete set of top-down working mechanisms has been formed within APEC to make almost all commitments or appeals of top leaders to be implemented, especially after a summit mechanism was set up in 1993," Liu Chenyang, head of the APEC Study Center of Nankai University, told Xinhua.

From the Seoul meeting in 1991, which hammered out the forum's missions and goals, to the Bogor Goals set in Indonesia in 1994, from the Shanghai Accord adopted in 2001 to the consensus reached by all members on the prospect of a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) in Vietnam in 2006, APEC has been driving regional integration forward with one milestone after another.

"Not everybody is happy with APEC, but it is something indispensable, as it is the only comprehensive economic and trade cooperation mechanism covering the whole Asia-Pacific region," Zhang Yunling, a veteran researcher on APEC at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told Xinhua.

"The agreements of APEC are not legally binding, but it plays a significant role in pushing forward Asia-Pacific integration through generating consensus," Zhang added.



In the process of Asia-Pacific integration, China plays a key role.

 "China's accession to APEC in 1991 was a milestone both in the opening-up of China and the development of APEC," Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in a speech last week.

"In fact, China and the Asia-Pacific have become a community of common destiny and shared interests," he said.

The role of China in APEC was not as valued in early years. Even in 2001 when China hosted the APEC meeting in Shanghai for the first time, the country ranked only the sixth largest economy in the world.

However, China is now the world's second largest economy, with its merchant vessels visible throughout the Pacific Ocean carrying fruits of Peru, iron ore of Australia, milk power of New Zealand, etc. enroute to China, and transporting China-made textiles, iPhones, LEDs, solar panels and tires back to the United States, Japan and ASEAN.

 This change may be embodied in "American dreams in China," a high-grossing Chinese movie about three penniless young deadbeats who achieve great business success by doing business with America.

Michael Yu of New Oriental, Pony Ma of Tencent and Jack Ma of Alibaba are seen as the prototypes for the movie's main characters, whose companies are now all listed in the United States.

 In 2013, 60 percent of China's total foreign trade was with other APEC members, 83 percent of its utilized foreign investment was from them, and 69 percent of outbound Chinese investment flowed to them.

Before China's accession to the World Trade Organization, APEC served as a "pilot zone" for the country to test the extent of its market reform and its adapting capabilities. Today, APEC is one of the key links in China's international and regional strategies, playing a unique role in transforming China from an Asian economic power to a world one, Liu said.

Meanwhile, the Asia-Pacific is relying more and more on China. According to the IMF, China now contributes over 50 percent to Asian economic growth, with every one percentage point of China's economic growth driving up the Asian economy by 0.3 percentage point.

More importantly, China, a country who shook off poverty and became the world' s second largest economy through reform and opening-up, has always served as an important force in driving Asia-Pacific integration forward through its inclusive and open development concepts.


As the forum turns 25 years old, expectations are high that APEC will enter a new stage and get reshaped into a more relevant and effective organization.

APEC is not without its problems. A uniform free trade agreement covering the whole region is yet to be established, cooperation in innovation, reform, technology lags far behind compared to trade, and the region is not well interconnected.

In addition, like economies elsewhere, the region has seen tepid growth due to bottlenecks in domestic economic reforms and restructuring, weak external demand and dampened investor confidence.

That's why the APEC Beijing meeting is focused on both cooperation and change.

According to Minister Wang, APEC members will launch the process of FTAAP, identify five pillar areas of cooperation, generate new momentum for growth and draw up a blueprint for establishing comprehensive connectivity in the Asia-Pacific.

This is why observers see the APEC Beijing meeting as a big opportunity to both help the region weather hard times and accelerate reforms to open a new chapter.

The new Asia-Pacific landscape would be an inclusive partnership and an open economic belt, which would be all reflected in the grand plan being drawn by the members and scheduled to be published in a few days.

China holds that the Pacific is wide enough.

Ordinary people and businessmen in the region are looking to "China wisdom" and "China initiative" to bring about a renewed Asia-Pacific along with new business opportunities, prosperity and stability.

The upcoming leaders' meeting at Yanqi Lake scheduled from Nov. 10 to Nov. 11 will serve as a great start. Xinhua