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Rely on the Asian way

By ZHENG YONGNIAN | China Daily Global | Updated: 2022-12-06 08:23
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Region should give a cold shoulder to the US' attempts to polarize the world

The leaders of China and the United States made joint efforts to uphold world peace and development in their meeting in Bali, Indonesia, ahead of the G20 summit. The two sides, despite their differences, reached substantial consensuses on issues including strengthening dialogue, managing conflicts and opposing the use of nuclear weapons.

But among the many challenges it faces, China needs to be very vigilant about the polarization of the international order by the US, which is the current grand strategy of Washington. In the Russia-Ukraine conflict, it is an important aim of Washington to bind China and Russia together. The polarization of the international order has exerted a very negative impact on Asia. Most Asian countries have profound relations with both China and the US. Good China-US relations can ensure their security and development.

Today, the US has established blocs in Asia with bilateral alliances such as the US-Japan alliance, the US-Republic of Korea alliance, and the US-Australia alliance, the trilateral security partnership "AUKUS" — Australia, the United Kingdom and the US — the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, and the Five Eyes Alliance (composed of the US, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand). The US is now building another alliance that includes Vietnam, Singapore and other countries, on the basis of the Quad. If an Asian version of NATO is formed in the future based on the development of this trend, then Asian countries will never enjoy peace again. NATO was born out of the Cold War. After the Cold War, with the disappearance of its opponent, the Warsaw Pact, NATO should have been reformed or even disbanded. However, the bloc, instead of being disbanded, has been expanding to become what it is today.

While Washington is forcing some countries to choose sides, Beijing has refrained from doing so, which has avoided the division of Asia. The exclusive multilateralism of the US is in stark contrast to China's inclusive multilateralism. China's inclusive multilateralism has yielded positive results. Asian countries have their own ability to make judgments. At this year's Shangri-La Dialogue, the Indonesian foreign minister pointed out that Asian countries should use the "Asian way" instead of the "American way" to get along with China, which has won the approval of most Asian countries.

As the largest country in Asia, China has more and greater responsibilities for peace in Asia.

First, major countries should provide more international public goods. Over the past 40 years, although there has been competition among major Asian countries such as China and Japan, this competition has basically been healthy. After China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations signed a free trade agreement and established the China-ASEAN(10+1) mechanism, two other Northeast Asian economies, Japan and the ROK, established similar mechanisms respectively with ASEAN. The three mechanisms were in competition with each other, but this competition led to the forming of the ASEAN Plus Three cooperation mechanism. In the future, major Asian countries, such as China, Japan and India, will continue to provide more global public goods in Asia.

Second, Asian countries need to remain open and continue to practice inclusive multilateralism. Countries in Asia, especially Southeast Asia and Northeast Asia, are mostly open to each other and more open than countries in other regions of the world. This openness must continue. Now the region is confronted with challenges from the US and its bid to form a "value-based "bloc. This bloc runs counter to globalization and represents a backlash against this trend. Asian countries need to remain open to each other. Regionalization based on opening-up to each other can promote globalization and meet with the trend of globalization half way. In this regard, China has accumulated considerable experience and needs to continue practicing inclusive multilateralism.

Third, the region also needs to properly handle the relations between big and small countries. Asia's remarkable achievements over the past 40 years have a lot to do with the inclusiveness of the major countries in the region. For example, in the free trade agreement between China and ASEAN, China has made substantial concessions to some smaller countries in some respects. This is very important for small countries because major countries, with their huge markets, should remain open. The opening of their markets is a global public good. Major countries need to understand that to a certain extent small nations need to rely on or even "invite" big countries outside the region to protect them because of their security concerns. On the other hand, while big countries are accommodative toward small countries, small countries must also understand that big countries have their own security considerations. Failing to realize this, small countries that serve as proxies for powers outside the region will reduce the sense of security among neighboring countries and harm the security interests of themselves.

Fourth, to prevent the possibility of a military conflict, the region must properly handle relations with the US. Washington has always been in Asia and never left. But it has always had a wrong perception of China, believing that China's solution to the South China Sea issue and the Taiwan question is to drive the US out of the Western Pacific and to dominate the region by itself. This is not true.

If the status of a great power in the past was measured by winning or losing on the battlefield, now it is measured by its ability to provide sufficient public goods for the region and the world. A main feature that distinguishes China from previous great powers is that China is attaining its rise by providing global public goods.

The author is a professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Guangdong province, and president of the Institute for International Affairs, Qianhai. The author contributed this article to China Watch, a think tank powered by China Daily. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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