The Emerging Asian Century

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First Session

The Emerging Asian Century

The First Session was centred on the subject of "The Emerging Asian Century." This session was chaired by Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed. Four different scholars presented their views on various themes pertaining to the subject. These included Professor Emeritus Dr. Muhammad Ariff bin Abdul Kareem, Executive Director, Malaysian Institute of Economic Research (MIER), Kuala Lumpur; Mr. Ruan Zongze, China Institute for International Strategic Studies(CIIS), China, Mr. Chen Xiangyang, China Institute of Contemporary International Relations (CICRC), China and Dr. Jaeho Hwang, Korea Institute for Defense Analysis (KIDA), South Korea.

Dr. Mohammad Ariff bin Abdul Kareem, MEIR, Malaysia

Dr. Mohamed Ariff's presentation on the subject of the 'Emergence of ASEAN' drew a sketch of ASEAN, taking into account its evolutionary basis. ASEAN was founded in 1967. Pointing to the factors which prompted the creation of ASEAN, he stated that political and security considerations in the backdrop of the Cold War were the founding determinants. Foundations for economic cooperation were first touched upon only in 1976 during the Bali Summit, he apprised. It embarked on a process of reinvention once the goals defined at the moment of birth lost their relevance. Here, he pointed to the problems confronting ASEAN in the post-1976 period. An adherence to running the body in a "top-down fashion" with bureaucrats playing a central role at the expense of the private sector then had a paralysing impact on ASEAN. The first major breakthrough for ASEAN, he stated, came with the initiation of ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) in 1992 which played an important role in intra-regional trade and industrial cooperation.

Describing the current picture of ASEAN, he concluded that the latter was "pragmatic, adaptable and very flexible" in nature and had developed significantly through a process of trial and error. He emphasised on the role of the private sector in the post-AFTA period, which he stated had "become an important contributor to regional cooperation, agenda-forming and policy-making." After the initiation of AFTA, ASEAN doubled in size from five to ten countries. Pointing to another stimulating factor in the evolution of ASEAN he stated that the 1997/98 East Asian financial crisis instead of impelling ASEAN countries to become more involved in matters of domestic significance, provided stimulus to AFTA with ASEAN countries looking to "regional cooperation as a solution to their domestic problems." Hence, regional cooperation was enhanced.

He also touched upon the prospect of ASEAN being turned into a single market. The "China factor" had played a significant role in the path of development chosen by ASEAN. He surmised that it was the emergence of China which had impelled ASEAN to "reinvent itself and compete internationally." He stated, however, that China was viewed by ASEAN as an opportunity rather than a threat with the latter having had become an important trading partner to China. AFTA, he stressed ,was playing a fundamental role in making the region borderless. He further went to state that ASEAN was now focusing on developing linkages internationally. Highlighting one of the major challenges facing ASEAN, he pointed to the lack of credible leadership in the organisation.

He concluded on the importance of ASEAN as a major player in the time to come.

Mr. Ruan Zongze, CIIS, China

Mr. Ruan Zongze's presentation titled 'China in the ASEAN Region', highlighted the role of China in ASEAN. He said that East Asia is by far the most dynamic economy in the world. Regional economic integration has become a trend amid the tide of globalisation. Recent years have seen rapid growth of friendly relations and cooperation between China and the ASEAN countries. He pointed out that China is in the midst of an enormous transition, so is the entire region of East Asia, and the relationship between China and the East Asian order is in the midst if significant transition as a result of that. The strategic co-operation geared towards peace and prosperity in China and ASEAN nations is in the interests of both sides and is expected to sharpen the competitive edge of the whole region.

He said that China and ASEAN relations enjoy good prospects. Vigorous development of East Asian regional economic cooperation will provide conditions for an evolutionary process, and manage the uncertainty and risks. China has pursued economic diplomacy to strengthen good-neighbourly relations with Southeast Asian nations, which enables China and ASEAN to maintain close corporation on regional and international issues, and helps promote free and fair global trade. China's development will surely provide more public goods for its neighbours.

China's peaceful transition indicates that it is in a long process of peaceful development. China's emergence as a major power and the future Asian international order are interdependent. Asia's development definitely needs more of China's involvement and contribution. The interdendence between the two sides will become even stronger, which will exert a decisive impact on the interests, identities and rules of conduct of both sides, and have a direct bearing on the future Asian order. With its further development, China is bound to more closely associate its own interests with those of Asian development, which will create more opportunities for cooperation. Along with the process of globalisation, China's economic interests with more and more global features will bring along the extension of China's political and strategic sphere worldwide, and more cooperation and competition between China and other forces in the world.

It is in China's interest to be supportive to the ASEAN's leading role in the future East Asia integration. It turns out to be one of the most striking features of this region's cooperation. The next phases of Free Trade Agreement (FTA) will concern trading of services and investment. To facilitate the FTA process, the two sides will intensify their co-operation in such fields as finance, services, investment, agriculture and the information industry. China should work more closely with ASEAN and ensure that the integration will not undermine its leadership in any sense. After all, regional integration is expected to enhance mutual benefit and help member states play a greater role in world affairs.

Mr. Chen Xiangyang, CICIR, China

In his presentation on 'Evolution of SCO and its Future Prospects', Mr. Chen Xiangyang gave a brief introduction to the SCO. He said that the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) is a permanent intergovernmental international organisation claimed in Shanghai on June 15, 2001 by six countries. The main purpose of SCO are strengthening mutual trust and good relations among member's states; promoting their effective cooperation in political affairs, striving towards creation of democratic, just and reasonable new international political and economic order.

In the history of modern international relations, creation and development of Shanghai Five represents diplomatic practice of creative value. It initiated new global vision with regards to security, containing principles of mutual trust, disarmament, cooperation and security, enriched new type of interstate relations started by Russia and China, with partnership, provided model of regional cooperation with such distinctive features as joint initiative, priority on security, mutually beneficial of big and small states.

Entering the 21st century, economic globalisation has perceived further development, science and technology being at high tempo. In order to effectively seize the historic risks and challenges, all countries of the world are speeding up their steps towards regional cooperation. China, Russia and Central Asian states carry an important mission of providing regional security and stability, and protection of peace throughout the world. They also face the difficult task of developing self-economy, and realisation of national revival. Celebrating the fifth anniversary of the Shanghai Five on June 15, 2001 at a meeting in Shanghai, the Heads of Shanghai Five member states and the president of the Republic of Uzbekistan unanimously decided to lift the mechanism of Shanghai Five to a higher level, in order to make it a strong base and important support for development under new conditions and cooperation among six states.

Regarding the present situation in Central Asia and the prospect of the SCO, Mr. Chen discussed both opportunities and challenges before the Central Asia region. On the opportunities, the economies of China and India are providing great market demand and investment opportunities for the central Asian countries. The peaceful development of China and the strategic partnership between Russia and China are also helpful to the regional stability and security. The recent summit at Astana outlined the strategic plans, aimed at further development of the SCO, and following the admission of Mongolia to the SCO as an observer state, Pakistan, Iran and India were also accepted as new observers.

He emphasised on three challenges before Central Asia. One, the so-called "colour revolution" and the Democracy promoted by the outsiders is threatening the political stability of the Central Asian member states of SCO, and the regional security. Since the end of the Cold War, especially after 9/11, the western great powers headed by USA have been penetrating through the Central Asia area, with the democracy promotion and color revolution to realise the goal of regime change and to bring this area under the American sphere of influence. Second, the contemporary situation of anti-terrorism in the central Asia is still complicated and austere, the SCO's struggles to fight the three evils; terrorism; separatism; and extremism and therefore shoulders heavy responsibilities. The terrorists can utilise the Democracy promotion of their self-existence and development. Thirdly, the western great powers expansion in Central Asia for their geo-strategic interest is threatening regional stability and the development of SCO. The Central Asian area is the core of the Eurasian continent, it not only has very important geo-strategic value, but also abundant and resources reserves. So it is a very important for western great powers, especially to American global strategy.

On the prospect of SCO, he highlighted three aspects for the future development of SCO. One is the security co-operation among the members, both traditional and non-traditional security issues, including continuous fighting on the three evils - terrorism, separatism and extremism. Second is the multilateral trade and economic cooperation of SCO member states, the ultimate goal is to establish free-trade zone in SCO in twenty years , this process should be divided into several different stages, and the contemporary forces are energy and infrastructure co-operation. Third, there is a need to maintain a balance between enlargement and deepening of SCO, it includes the relations between the newly joined observer member-states and the old member states, the integration and coordination among different institutions of SCO.

He concluded that SCO will play a very important role in maintaining political stability and promotion of economic development of the Central Asia. And along with other Asian regional organisations, SCO will also play a very important role in the integration process of Asia, and China will continue to play its constructive and responsible role.

Dr. Jaeho Hwang, KIDA, South Korea

Dr. Jaeho Hwang presented a paper on 'The Evolution of ASEM and Regional Security'. Dr. Hwang said that in order to expand and develop Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) cooperation in security field, it is crucial to develop Europe-Asia relations in many areas, such as, political, economic, social, and cultural, which are increasingly interrelated. In his opinion, since more difficulties are likely to appear in traditional security cooperation between Asia and Europe due to their diverse history, culture and politics, he emphasised on the importance of the collaboration work to be done in the non-traditional security.

In order to understand the current status of ASEM and regional security, he presented a broader theoretical framework to explain that differences about the bases of cooperation stem from the question as to whether states are concerned primarily about relative or absolute gains.

Giving a general overview of the ASEM, Dr. Hwang explained the origins, formation and the purpose of ASEM. ASEM was first formed in mid-1990s as a comprehensive dialogue tool between Asia and Europe. He grouped current ASEM activities into three major categories - politics, economy and culture. In the political field, new areas of common interest, including the fight against terrorism and the management of emigration, have emerged. Issues of human rights, global environment and social impact of globalisation have also been under discussion at ASEM. In the economic and financial field, cooperation is focused on reducing barriers for trade and investment, and on reforming of financial and social policies. In the cultural intellectual field, cooperation in the field of cultural development and human resources is one of their most important agenda. He emphasised that nothing has been achieved regarding security issues. Moreover, ASEM has not yet developed a system through which member states can discuss political and security issues regularly, or at different levels.

He attributed the difficulties in cooperation between Europe and Asia to three fundamental reasons. First is the diversity of Asia - with three incompatible political systems; a wide spectrum of different levels of economic development; and extensive cultural, religious and social-ethnical heterogeneity. Secondly, the region had few multilateral institutions during the early post-Cold War period and the situation has not improved much. Thirdly, he said that some scholars seek the answer from the external security circumstances. Asia has never had a single comprehensive security threat and has implemented security mechanisms that are based on bilateral rather than multilateral treaties.

He also talked about the factors, which were likely to affect the balance of power in Asia, and could make states insecure about their future security: the rise of China; the rightist wave in Japanese domestic politics with accompanying emphasis on the need for Japanese normalisation and restructuring as a "normal nation"; the US-Japan alliance; China-Japan rivalry; the Taiwan issue which could very easily lead to a direct confrontation between the US and China, and might also involve Japan; the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula; South China Sea and regional energy security; and South Asia is another hot spot with the potential for conflict between India and Pakistan over Kashmir.

The speaker also highlighted the possible areas of cooperation between Europe and Asia. He opined that since cooperation in traditional security is difficult, it is still possible to form cooperative relations in non-military security areas. He said that the concept of multilateralism should accompany major international issues, such as - the reform of the United Nations system; international security and political problems of global importance outside the ASEM parts of Asia and Europe; limiting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; the fight against terrorism etc.

In addition, he suggested that Europe should seek constructive involvement in Asian preventive diplomacy. EU may consider participating in other Asian organisations. Moreover, he suggested that the EU should continue and mature its partnership with India and Pakistan. He said that the EU could become an equal seventh partner in promoting engagement with North Korea through Six Party talks. Consequently, the EU could show itself as a dependable and trustworthy partner in Asia. The speaker gave several suggestions for enhanced cooperation between the EU and China.

He concluded the presentation by saying that ASEM will remain a loose regional community. In order to be a bridge between the two regions, ASEM members should achieve extension of the institution based on efficiency and effectiveness - from economic cooperation through liberalisation and opening, exchanges of science, technology, education, culture, and society, and further mutual cooperation to solve political and security issues. He stressed that non-military security area remain accessible and should be concentrated upon. Thus, Asia and Europe must cooperate for the realisable issues, and build mutual trust.


Q/C: What is lacking in the ASEAN is political leadership, and one of the speakers said that China would be happy to accept leadership. Could the speaker explain how he would expect that to happen?

Regarding Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) there are a lot of problems especially since the 1997 and 1998 agreements, CBMs etc. only apply to China and the former Soviet Union states that have direct borders and these agreements do not mean anything to the relations between the Central Asian states. Therefore, there are a lot of border problems in Central Asia, as well as the complicated anti-terrorism situation. Do you see a role for the SCO to improve the building of trust and CBMs within Central Asia?

A: There are two things that help understand China's position. Firstly, ASEAN has been the core in the East Asia integration. Secondly, China's relations with Japan are also a factor. As far as leadership is concerned Japan would not be happy to see China in a leadership role and vice versa. So the best way to go forward and for the integration of the region is for ASEAN to take a leadership role for the foreseeable future and China is very happy about that.

SCO has its own development processes just like any other international organisation - from small to big, from simpler ones to complicated ones. This development is due to the demands of the member states including issues like border security, and traditional security and political mutual confidence. Moreover, non-traditional security issues, such as anti-terrorism, and economic cooperation, are all part of the development process of the SCO.

Q/C: At the pace that China is developing and is expected to continue doing so, its energy needs will grow with its growing economy. How do you expect energy issues to be handled in the region?

A: In the academic circle, there is a lot of talk about energy cooperation especially in East Asia. The nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula is an energy issue. And in the Sino-Japanese disputes, one of the key issues is energy. Russia comes into the picture as a potential supplier of energy. So, it would probably be better to think of the future in terms of sub regional cooperation. There is also potential for energy cooperation between China, India and Pakistan, especially with the Iran pipeline project. With regard to this there are two things that are important - ensuring a stable energy supply, and pipeline security.

Q/C: There is potential of energy development in Siberia. Will there be Russia-Japan competition for energy resources of Siberia?

A: There is great potential for the three, Russia, Japan and Siberia, for cooperation on energy development. But for Russia at the moment and in near future, Russia will focus closer to Moscow i.e. the European area. Russia is unlikely to spend a lot of resources in the Siberia region. However, Russia is trying to integrate the Siberia region.

Q/C: What strategy does China have in terms of priority for bilateral, regional and global layers of linkages with other states?

A: The most important of all at the moment for China's development are good relations with its neighbours - that is the most important diplomatic task for China.

Q/C: What is the role of overseas Chinese population?

A: There is a large community of overseas Chinese especially in South East Asia, and Asia as a whole. It is better to consider them serving as a bridge - on one side is China and on the other is their residence country. They made a big contribution in the beginning when China started opening up to the outside world. They contributed largely in terms of foreign investment, and at the same time contributed greatly to their home countries. This became a linkage between China and other countries.

Q/C: How does ASEAN see the World Trade Organisation (WTO)?

A: ASEAN sees regional integration as an important cog in the machine. In fact, ASEAN is a global player and serves as an anchor to the region. Seventy-five percent of the ASEAN trade is with the rest of the world. It sees the world market as its playground and not just the ASEAN region. ASEAN takes WTO very seriously. It looks at many of the bilateral agreements that ASEAN countries are signing with other countries as building blocks leading to a bigger multilateral kind of experiment. The issues that cannot be resolved at the WTO, at bilateral level, have now been multilateralised by ASEAN countries. So it is being seen as a building block rather than an end in itself.

Q/C: Regarding relations between ASEAN and China a very important point is that ASEAN has reached a consensus that China is an opportunity for ASEAN and not a threat. This is very important for the future development of relations between the two. Secondly, both sides have great interests in deepening this cooperative relationship. This is also very important to the outside world. This has also been recognised by both China and ASEAN. The two sides will join efforts to promote the integration of this region in this direction. Thirdly, ASEAN can play a very important role in balancing out the influence of other major players like the US, China and Japan in this region.

A: ASEAN has realised that it is acceptable to all. It is one grouping that can really play middle of the road kind of role. ASEAN has placed itself in that role and takes it quite seriously at the moment. ASEAN is in an enviable position of being acceptable to all parties. In that sense it can play an important role in the evolution of the so-called region states.

Q/C: A speaker said that the US promotion of democracy in the Central Asian states was actually promoting terrorism. Where do you see the problem - with the US promotion of democracy, with the place and time, or with democracy itself?

A: What was meant by that comment is that terrorism is a by-product of US promotion of democracy, especially in the Central Asia area because this region is very complicated.

Concluding Remarks by Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed

Senator Mushahid Hussain concluding the session said that Pakistan is playing a pivotal role in the Asian region. He said that we are at historically, politically and geographically, at the crossroads of Asia. And we are also very proud of our long standing strategic and solid relationship with the People's Republic of China because China's is today a major world power. And this is indeed a modern relationship between a large country and a medium size country who happen to be neighbours with different social and political systems, and it has been a friction free relationship. He pointed out that our relationship has been mutually reinforcing in different areas.

He said that Asia is the world biggest continent with two out of the eight declared nuclear powers. He hoped that the next the UNSG would also be from Asia. He also mentioned that the bulk of the world Muslims live in Asia nearly 800 million, 500 in South Asia, 300 million close to East Asia, and 100 million in Central Asia. So, the Muslim aspect of the Asian continent is important, but especially given the factor that Islam is today an important political fact in shaping perception and in shaping policies after the post 9/11 world.

He pointed out that there are three trends which are important for the emerging Asian century. One is the trend towards peace and peaceful resolution of disputes. Long standing conflicts are coming to an end in certain areas. He said that they may diffuse such as China-Russia, China-India, even Pakistan-India. The North Korean crisis has been diffused, but of course the issue of Taiwan is still there.

A second trend is that Asia is also seen as institutional building at the regional level and at the national level also. "That's a good sign, we are heading towards not just a peaceful Asia, but also a stable Asia which is extremely positive." The third trend is the phenomenal economic progress of Asia, and Asia is today the power house that drives the world's economy led by China.

He pointed out that there are certain areas which we have to look where there is a possibility of competition, of clash, and maybe even political or economic conflict. The key to that would be the relationship between China and the US? Does the US see China as a so-called threat or as a so-called rival or as a friendly competitor on that will depend which way this potential for peace and stability in progress of Asia goes?

He said that policy makers in the US and Europe do not view China as a threat, but see China as a partner in building international order that is based on rule of law, on equality of relations, on non-interference in internal affairs, on reciprocity, and based ultimately on rejecting the notion that might is right. In the end, he extended his praise to the organisers of the conference, Mr. Inam-ul-Haq and Dr. Shireen Mazari that this is a very opportune moment to hold this debate on the emerging Asian century. Pakistan for its part continue to play its role as an Asian country, as a Muslim county, as a regional country, and as a member of international community in promoting principles that are vital for strengthening peace and security and stability in Asia.