China keen to promote its idea for Asia-Pacific trade pact at Apec in Manila


A Filipino policeman patrols before the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Manila. Photo: EPA

A Filipino policeman patrols before the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Manila. Photo: EPA

Beijing will report back on a study for Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific just days after the release of details of a US-led agreement

China will seek to push its own vision of an Asia-Pacific trade pact at a regional summit next week, senior officials said yesterday, just weeks after the release of a rival US-led deal that pointedly excludes the Asian giant.

Beijing sought to promote the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific, or FTAAP, at last year’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, which it hosted.

At the meeting’s close, participants endorsed efforts to explore the idea, which was seen as a potential rival to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, a Washington-led trade coalition that includes the region’s largest economies, except for China.

Little has been heard of China’s free-trade area since, while the long-secret text of the American-led pact was released on Thursday, receiving cheers from global business interests and jeers from labour, environmental and health groups, which vowed to fight its ratification.

China said it would report the findings of a study on the free-trade area at next week’s Apec summit in the Philippines, which President Xi Jinping will attend.

“We need to actively work for the establishment of FTAAP,” Vice Commerce Minister Wang Shouwen said, adding that it would be “a facilitator for regional integration in Apec”.

It would be the world’s largest free-trade area, encompassing the TPP and other regional frameworks. Apec’s 21 members account for more than 50 per cent of global GDP and nearly half of world trade.

Although it gathers some of the world’s most important leaders, the group’s annual meeting is a better known for its group photos of powerful people in matching shirts than substantive deals.

But Wang said China remained hopeful that the group would complete a road map for establishing the FTAAP framework.

“Our objective is to complete the joint strategic study next year and to present operable suggestions and recommendations to the leaders at next year’s summit,” he said.

China has latched onto the free-trade area, first proposed by Apec in 2006, as a hedge against the US-led initiative, a key element of Washington’s “Asia pivot”. The Tran-Pacific Partnership would be the world’s biggest free-trade area, an attempt to break down barriers to commerce and investment between 12 countries comprising about 40 per cent of the global economy.

Although the US has said it is open to Chinese participation in the TPP, it has pointedly excluded the world’s second-largest economy from negotiations.

We need to actively work for the establishment of FTAAP

Vice Commerce Minister Wang Shouwen

Philippine President Benigno Aquino pledged a warm welcome for Xi in Manila, despite an ongoing row with its giant Asian neighbour over disputes in the South China Sea, an aide said.

The Filipino leader made the pledge as he hosted rare talks with Foreign Minister Wang Yi  , who is in Manila on a working visit ahead of the annual summit.

“The president mentioned that he welcomed the decision of President X Jinping to attend the Apec summit,” Aquino spokesman Herminio Coloma said after Wang’s courtesy call.

“He assured the foreign minister that it is in the culture of the Filipinos as hosts to make our guests feel the warmth of Filipino hospitality.”

Vice Foreign Minister Li Baodong said China was not aware of any plan to discuss the territorial dispute in the summit.

“Apec is mainly a platform to discuss economic and trade cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region,” he said. “There is consensus on this point.”

Source: SCMP “China keen to promote its idea for Asia-Pacific trade pact at Apec in Manila” based on Agence France-Presse report

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China’s Diplomatic Blitzkrieg at the US in APEC Summit


US Secretary of States John Kerry meets Chinese President Xi Jinping

US Secretary of States John Kerry meets Chinese President Xi Jinping

The website of US National Interest magazine published on November 30 the article “America’s Next Big Challenge: Countering China’s Diplomatic Blitzkrieg” by Richard Javad Heydarian, an Assistant Professor in international affairs and political science at De La Salle University, Manila, the Philippines and a policy advisor at the Philippine House of Representatives.

Though the article is published by US media, it was written by a Filipino academic and does not reflect US government’s position. China’s mil.huanqiu.com, an affiliate media of government mouthpiece People’s Daily, takes the article quite serious and gives a summary translation of it. The summary mainly selects the passages on China’s diplomatic success at the APEC summit in easing tensions in disputed waters and strengthening friendly relations with China’s neighbors.

Obviously, the Chinese media is delighted at Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s diplomatic success, but it gives this blogger the impression that the media is carried away by the success. True, Xi is a talented leader who has so far achieved tremendous successes both at home and abroad, but he still has lots of tricky issues to deal with at home.

The following is the translation of mil.huanqiu.com’s summary translation of the article:

US National Interest published an article on November 30 titled “America’s Next Big Challenge: Countering China’s Diplomatic Blitzkrieg”: Much to the delight of China, recent weeks have witnessed a dramatic reorientation in the Asian strategic landscape. Demonstrating sophisticated statecraft, Chinese president Xi Jinping astutely utilized the recently concluded Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit to emphasize Beijing’s centrality to regional prosperity and stability. Xi rekindled communication channels with estranged neighbors such as Japan and Vietnam, exploring various mechanisms to de-escalate territorial tensions in the Western Pacific.

China has reverted to its tried-and-tested economic statecraft, leveraging large-scale trade and investments schemes to divide and dominate its neighbors. China’s recent diplomatic offensive seems to have blunted any efforts by rival claimant states to develop a unified position. No wonder, there was hardly any serious effort by the ASEAN and rival claimant states to push for a binding Code of Conduct (CoC) in the South China Sea.

Just a few months ago, China seemed isolated. Earlier this year, China risked a major regional backlash when it dispatched an oil rig into disputed waters, sparking panic among rival claimants and encouraging Pacific powers such as Japan, India and Australia to step up their strategic cooperation. Even ASEAN, notorious for its internal divisions and often-subservient stance, was forced to express its displeasure. More worryingly, China’s historical rival, Japan, was capitalizing on growing territorial tensions to carve out a new security role in the region and pursuing closer defense ties with Vietnam, the Philippines, India and Australia.

To head off a full-scale “soft-power crisis,” China tried to reach out to its key neighbors. Clearly, Beijing aimed to defuse regional tensions, present China as a peace-seeking power and undermine efforts by Washington and its regional allies to constrain China. Aside from avoiding regional isolation, China is also intent on chipping away at American leadership in the region.

China has already begun to flex its military muscle. But China’s most potent challenge to American primacy in Asia lies in the economic realm. Beijing has proactively pushed for a whole host of alternative financial arrangements and institutions. The TPP has been hobbled by deadlocks in negotiations. Meanwhile, China has been pushing for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which excludes the United States. Last month, China took the lead in inaugurating the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). The AIIB is widely seen as potential rival to the U.S.- and Japanese-led Asian Development Bank.

China is offering up to $40 billion of infrastructure funds to a whole host of countries spread across the Eurasian landmass. Meanwhile, China is also developing a Maritime Silk Road, which will integrate neighboring Southeast Asian countries into a transcontinental, Sino-centric New Silk Road.

Beijing has been combining proactive diplomacy with large-scale economic incentives to quell any regional backlash against its assertiveness. There are various signs that the Obama administration is worried by China’s economic offensive. It remains to be seen how Washington aims to counter China’s latest diplomatic blitzkrieg.

This blogger’s note: The article expresses Philippine politician and academic’s lament on the Philippines being isolated by Xi Jinping’s diplomatic achievements in easing tension and strengthening friendly relations with China’s neighbors. That certainly contributes to regional peace and prosperity. The Philippines has lost almost all its potential allies in countering China.

However, that is not important as long as it can pit the US against China. What is the saddest for the Philippines is that the US also has much economic interest in China and does not wants to help the Philippines in confronting China.

The Chinese official media mil.huanqiu.com, however, focuses on US response and fails to point out that the article mainly reflects Philippine views. It makes readers of its summary translation of the article mistake the Philippine writer’s views as US government’s. It does so perhaps to please its Chinese readers most of whom hold a negative view on the US.

Source: mil.huanqiu.com “China launched diplomatic blitzkrieg no longer be isolated: US will counterattack” (translated from Chinese by Chan Kai Yee)


Beijing to boost police gun training amid security threats


China will boost gun training for police in its capital Beijing, a senior security official said, as it braces for what it calls an upsurge in militant violence around the country.

The vice minister of public security and head of Beijing’s Public Security Bureau, Fu Zhenghua, urged officers to increase security in the city as he visited police stations and SWAT checkpoints along Beijing’s main thoroughfare, Chang’an Avenue, on Saturday.

Police must be ready to “deal a deadly blow to enemies at the critical time”, the official Xinhua news agency cited Fu as saying in a report on Sunday.

Chinese police do not always carry firearms, but top leaders have warned that security threats are mounting.

Police in Beijing have already stepped up armed patrols after five people were killed and 40 hurt when a car plowed into a crowd and burst into flames near Tiananmen Square last October. The dead included three people in the car identified by authorities as Islamists from the western region of Xinjiang.

Xinjiang is the home of Muslim Uighurs who speak a Turkic language. China has blamed previous attacks on Islamists it says seek to establish an independent state there called East Turkestan.

Around 200 people have died in attacks blamed on Xinjiang militants in China in the last year or so, and the authorities have launched a campaign to stop the unrest, detaining hundreds and executing many others.

China will host an APEC summit on the outskirts of Beijing in November. This will draw heads of state and government from around the Asia Pacific region in one of the highest profile events to be held there since the 2008 Olympic Games.

Source: Reuters “Beijing to boost police gun training amid security threats”

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