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APEC looking at Xi for leadership

By Chua Chin Leng | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2017-11-10 14:57

APEC leaders and the world would be watching what President Xi Jinping would bring to the meeting. There would be high expectation that the reinvigorated Xi would not be just another leader attending the meeting. In a way, the other APEC leaders would be looking to Xi to provide the leadership.

What would Xi do in Da Nang, Vietnam, after his well received speech as the new champion of globalization and free trade in Davos? The 2017 APEC theme proposed by Vietnam, the chairman and host, is quite similar to Xi's idea of a shared destiny in his speech at the UN in 2012. His call for a common destiny for all nations was a refreshing theme for the community of nations caught in the divisive politics of the US. It was an idea too ahead of its time then but gradually the world leaders are seeing the value and benefits of such an idea, a more peaceful world of economic growth and progress to benefit all nations and not pitting one side against another in a continuous and unending scenario of wars and conflicts.

The 2017 APEC theme is “Creating new dynamism, fostering a shared future”. How would Xi add weight and value to what the host has proposed to make this meeting a successful one for Vietnam and rest of the APEC?

Under the leadership of Xi, China has embarked on several initiatives towards fostering globalization, inter connectivity and free trade through the Belt and Road Initiative, AIIB and infrastructure development in Asia for economic growth and development. Would Xi be proposing to the APEC a redefined initiative that would enhance more liberalization of free trade and interconnectivity in the Asia-Pacific? Only a concrete proposal along these lines of thinking would make a real difference in such a high-level meeting. There must be a realistic and sustainable work plan that is useful for the APEC leaders to work on.

On the other hand, would Xi be offering the APEC a new plan to connect the Asia-Pacific countries? A China initiative of such a nature would take the wind out of the US’s isolationist policies and would likely be welcomed by the APEC looking for direction and leadership in the region.

The APEC leaders would be arriving at Da Nang under a cloud of uncertainties created by the US. TPP is history though some of the signatories are trying to revive it without the US as a member. A TPP without the US market is quite meaningless, and without China makes its intent less attractive and even unpalatable politically.

China could be the silver lining to bring some cheers to the APEC if Xi could come up with a proposal that is beneficial and inclusive to all APEC members, including the US. This is a daunting task awaiting Xi in Vietnam.

The author is a political observer from Singapore.

The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and don't represent views of China Daily and China Daily website.