Promote the Global Security Initiative and Pursue a Path of Asian Security Featuring Extensive Consultation and Joint Contribution for Shared Benefits

By Liu Jinsong

Right now, our world is facing drastic and unprecedented changes accelerated by the pandemic unseen in a century. The Ukraine crisis has sounded the geopolitical alarm. Changes of the world, of our times and of history are unfolding in ways like never before, presenting humanity with more serious and complex security challenges. In his keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2022, President Xi Jinping put forward the Global Security Initiative (GSI), which gives explicit answers to questions of our times such as what security concept the world needs and how countries can achieve common security, and charts the course for tackling international peace deficit and addressing global security challenges.

President Xi Jinping observed that having experienced both hot and cold wars, people in Asia deeply cherish the value of peace and understand that development gains do not come easily. When Asia fares well, the whole world benefits. Therefore, Asia must continue to be built into an anchor for world peace, a powerhouse for global growth and a new pacesetter for international cooperation. Under the strong leadership of the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core, China has all along placed its neighborhood high on the diplomatic agenda, acted on the principle of amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness, and worked with neighboring countries to safeguard peace, stability, development and prosperity in Asia.

I.Asia is a region of stability in the global landscape

With one-third of the world’s land area and two-thirds of its population, Asia is an important engine for global economic development. A peaceful and tranquil Asia is not only what regional countries want, but also what the international community expects.

The trend of peace and development has remained unchanged. Over the past 30-plus years since the end of the Cold War, Asia has steered clear of major conflicts and wars, maintained overall peace and stability, and created the Asian Miracle that has captured the eye of the world. The Asian Miracle is first and foremost a miracle of peaceful development. Valuing peace is a tradition of the Asian people. Teachings like “one should replace weapons of war with gifts of jade and silk” and “harmony in the family leads to success in everything” feature predominantly in the East Asian culture. Buddhism, Islam and other religions also advocate peaceful coexistence and equality for all. The Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence and the Bandung Spirit, first proposed by Asia in the 1950s, provide the basic norms for managing state-to-state relations. Acting in the overall interests of regional peace and stability, major countries in Asia have by and large maintained stable bilateral relations. Medium- and small-sized countries, on their part, are generally committed to upholding independence and seeking healthy interactions with other regional actors. Regional hotspot and sensitive issues have been put under effective control, and extremism, separatism and terrorism have been effectively curbed. Reflecting on the lessons of the Ukraine crisis, countries in Asia are deeply convinced that safeguarding long-term peace and stability through peaceful coexistence, solidarity and cooperation is the only way to keep their future firmly in their own hands.

The aspiration for economic development has grown ever stronger. Security is the precondition for development, while development is the foundation of security. To quote an ancient Chinese philosopher, “The key to running a country is to first enrich the people”. Development has always been the top priority for Asian countries. In the past decades, they have fully integrated into economic globalization, actively embraced multilateralism, opened up markets to one another, and forged a community with deeply intertwined interests. In 2021, amid the complex global pandemic, Asia was the first to recover and saw its share of the world economy rise to 47.4%. This year, many Asian countries have moved ahead with the resumption of economic activities, and sustained the momentum of economic recovery. The official entry into force of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement injected strong impetus into regional economic integration. On the other hand, most Asian countries are developing countries. Due to the pandemic and the Ukraine crisis, some of them are struggling with economic and livelihood challenges and growing risks of social instability. Asian countries now aspire to peace, cooperation and development more than ever before.

The consensus on dialogue and cooperation has been further cemented. As a Southeast Asian proverb goes, “No matter how huge the waves are, they are under the boat; no matter how high the mountains are, they are under people’s feet.” Asia’s peace, tranquility, development and prosperity are not something that falls from the sky, still less are they gifts from others. They have been achieved and defended through the joint efforts of all Asian countries. The overwhelming majority of regional countries oppose division and confrontation, and have adopted the policy of addressing differences and disputes through dialogue and consultation. Regional cooperation platforms such as the East Asia Summit (EAS), the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA), and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) have increasingly matured, creating favorable conditions for regional countries to build consensus on cooperation and properly manage differences and disagreements. In the second half of the year, Cambodia, Indonesia and Thailand will host the leaders’ meetings on East Asian cooperation, the G20 Summit and the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting respectively. It will mark the “Asian moment” of global governance. In a recent joint press release, the three Chairs highlighted the spirit of togetherness and cooperation and called for efforts to promote global and regional peace, prosperity and sustainable and inclusive development. This reflects the common aspirations of all countries in the region.

Meanwhile, it is important to note that the world is beset by rising instabilities, uncertainties and insecurities factors, and the risks and challenges facing our region are accumulating. Clinging to the Cold War mentality, a certain external power has reverted to unilateralism, and reinforced alliance-backed confrontation and military deployment. In February, the White House released the Indo-Pacific Strategy of the United States, in which it said the Indo-Pacific faces mounting challenges, particularly from the People’s Republic of China (PRC), and that its objective is to shape the strategic environment in which the PRC operates. During his first visit to Asia in May, President Biden launched the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF). The Framework, which keeps out China and smaller regional countries, is a clear US attempt to step in Asian affairs and round up Asian countries. It is a typical manifestation of the “America first” and “all-for-one” mindset. Many Asian leaders publicly voiced their concerns, and even some in the US admitted that initiatives designed for competition wouldn’t sell well in Asia. At the moment, the pandemic is still threatening people’s lives and health, and the Ukraine crisis has made it more difficult for the regional economy to recover. The rise in food and oil prices has thrown people in the region into a “cost of living crisis” and led to social unrest in some countries. Regional hotspots are heating up, terrorism is re-surging, and challenges such as extreme weather, natural disasters and transnational crimes are putting regional countries’ governance capacity to the test.

II.China is an anchor for peace in Asia

Asia is where China survives and thrives. As a responsible major country and an important member of the Asian family, China is committed to preserving its Asian identity, building a better future for Asia and advancing the interests of Asia. China regards maintaining peace and stability in Asia as its responsibility and has made important contributions to this endeavor.

China has continuously enhanced strategic mutual trust with other regional countries. China has kept to the path of peaceful development and acted on the principle of amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness in its neighborhood diplomacy. Believing that “the strong and rich should not bully the weak and poor”, China advocates equality among all countries, regardless of their size, wealth and strength. It never seeks dominance, sphere of influence or military alliances in the region, and has no intention to shut any country out. Instead, China has enhanced strategic mutual trust with other regional countries through all forms of activities. This year, President Xi Jinping has had six phone conversations with the leaders of Indonesia, the Republic of Korea (ROK), Cambodia, the Philippines, among other regional countries. Premier Li Keqiang had phone calls with the leaders of Vietnam, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and some other regional countries. During the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang met with the visiting leaders of Singapore, Pakistan and Mongolia respectively. Special Representative of President Xi Jinping and Vice President Wang Qishan attended the inauguration ceremony of new ROK President Yoon Suk-yeol and new Philippine President Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos. Yang Jiechi, Director of the Office of the Central Commission for Foreign Affairs, spoke on the phone with Secretary-General of the National Security Secretariat of Japan and Director of the Office of National Security of the ROK, and visited Pakistan. State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited Sri Lanka, Maldives, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Nepal, Timor-Leste, Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia, and other regional countries, chaired the seventh Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Myanmar, and had virtual or face-to-face meetings with the foreign ministers of several neighboring countries. We also actively participated in or played host to multilateral and minilateral cooperation conferences, which have helped to further enhance mutual trust among countries and build consensus on regional security cooperation.

China has properly handled differences through dialogue. China is committed to properly managing disputes over territory and maritime rights and interests with neighboring countries through dialogue and consultation. After bilateral relations dropped to a low point due to the boundary issue, China and India have maintained communication through military and diplomatic channels. Since the beginning of this year, we have had three rounds of corps commander level meeting with India. State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi made his first visit to India in two years. He had in-depth exchange of views and reached important consensus with Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval. During the meeting, the Indian side described the bilateral relations with a vivid analogy, “Just as rocks can’t stop rivers from rushing forward, differences between the two sides should not change the positive trend of bilateral relations.” As two major developing countries, China and India share common interests in many international and regional issues, which should define the overall picture and general trend of the bilateral ties. Overcoming the difficulties caused by the pandemic, China and ASEAN strove to make progress on the consultations of a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC). Not long ago, China and ASEAN had face-to-face consultations in Cambodia, which fully demonstrates the firm commitment of the two sides to the COC consultations and sends a positive signal of jointly maintaining stability in the South China Sea to the world.

China has actively fulfilled its responsibilities of regional security. We have actively explored and adopted a Chinese approach to addressing hotspot issues, and played a positive role in the resolution of regional hotspots. In March 2022, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi paid a successful visit to Afghanistan, which is the first visit by the Chinese foreign minister after the change of government in the country. The visit speaks volumes for China’s profound friendship with the Afghan people. Shortly after the visit, China hosted a series of meetings involving the foreign ministers of Afghanistan’s neighboring countries in Tunxi, Anhui Province. The meetings boosted the consensus and pooled the efforts of regional countries and the international community to support the stabilization of Afghanistan, and made a significant impact on promoting Afghanistan’s peaceful reconstruction and upholding regional peace and stability. China is committed to advancing denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula, and hopes that the parties concerned could stay cool-headed, exercise restraint and move in the same direction, rather than make provocative remarks and actions, so as to jointly push forward the political settlement of the Peninsula issue. As Myanmar’s friendly neighbor, China supports the country in advancing political reconciliation domestically and implementing the “five-point consensus” with ASEAN. China has taken an active part in regional exchanges and cooperation in areas such as pandemic control, disaster relief, counter-terrorism, combating transnational crimes, and maritime environment protection, and worked with neighboring countries to build a bulwark of security for Asia.

III. Asian countries should pursue a path of security featuring extensive consultation and joint contribution for shared benefits

With their interests closely intertwined, Asian countries are an indivisible community of security. Safeguarding peace and stability and pursuing common development and prosperity are consistent with the common interests of regional countries. At present, Asian countries are faced with opposite choices: Should we build an open and inclusive Asian family for win-win cooperation, or join small blocs based on the Cold War mentality and group confrontation? Should we continue to focus on development and solidify the foundation of regional security, or allow security issues to be overstretched and disrupt regional development agenda? Should we copy the European model of collective security, or jointly explore a security model with Asian characteristics and suited to the needs of regional countries? The answers to these questions are obvious, and most of the regional countries have made a clear choice long ago. China stands ready to work with other regional countries to earnestly advance security dialogue and cooperation in line with the direction of the GSI and the principle of indivisible security, and explore a path of Asian security featuring extensive consultation and joint contribution for shared benefits.

We need to stay committed to openness, inclusiveness and joint participation. Safeguarding regional security is a common task shared and participated by all countries in Asia. Given the differences of Asian countries in political and social systems, development stages and security concerns, we need to respect each other, treat each other as equals, and fully consider and accommodate the legitimate security concerns of every individual country. We should continue to strengthen mutual trust, and resolve disputes and differences through dialogue and consultation. Non-regional countries are also welcome to play a positive role in safeguarding Asia’s security. China and the US are the two largest countries in the Asia-Pacific. Confrontation between the two countries will lead to increased tension in the region. The US needs to adopt a correct strategic perception, reject the Cold War mentality, move beyond the mindset of competition, and seek positive interactions with China in the Asia-Pacific region.

We need to stay committed to development cooperation for win-win results. Ultimately, problems facing Asian countries need to be resolved through development. We need to uphold true multilateralism, and oppose attempts to roll back globalization such as economic decoupling, severing supply chains, and building “small yards with high fences” in the technological sphere, in order to ensure stability of regional industrial and supply chains. We need to seize the opportunity of the entry-into-force of the RCEP to further raise the level of free trade and promote economic integration in the region. We will continue to advance high-quality “Belt and Road” cooperation and actively implement the Global Development Initiative (GDI). We will do our best to support developing countries in the region, promote experience sharing on governance and development, help them build capacity for self-generated development, improve people’s well-being, narrow the wealth gap, and share the dividends and opportunities of development.

We need to stay committed to improving the regional architecture of security cooperation. The building of regional security architecture is a long-term and incremental process. We need to uphold the vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security, push for the integration and coordination of existing mechanisms, and provide more public goods of regional security. Regional countries and major stakeholders outside the region are welcome to put forward constructive suggestions on regional security architecture. That said, new initiatives and proposals by any party should not replace the existing cooperation mechanisms, or create geopolitical “clubs” or “circles” targeting specific countries. We also support countries in starting with track 1.5 and track 2 discussions on regional security architecture to improve the security governance model and tackle regional security challenges.III. Asian countries should pursue a path of security featuring extensive consultation and joint contribution for shared benefits

We need to stay committed to properly addressing regional hotspots. We will continue to apply a Chinese approach to addressing hotspot issues, actively promote peace talks, and play a constructive role in safeguarding regional peace and stability. We need to further leverage the coordination and cooperation mechanisms among Afghanistan’s neighboring countries and other mechanisms to support Afghanistan in achieving peace, stability and development. We call on the parties to take credible steps to address the legitimate security concerns of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and advance in parallel denuclearization and the establishment of a peace mechanism on the Peninsula. We support the parties in Myanmar in continuing peace talks on northern Myanmar. We are ready to accelerate consultations with ASEAN countries for an early conclusion of the COC, to strengthen the foundation of rules for managing disputes and promoting cooperation in the South China Sea.

We need to stay committed to a coordinated approach in advancing security cooperation in traditional and non-traditional areas. China will continue to deepen cooperation against COVID-19 with Asian countries, increase the accessibility and affordability of vaccines in regional countries, and improve public health governance in the region. We need to strengthen the sharing of counter-terrorism intelligence and cooperation on counter-terrorism capacity-building, explore joint counter-terrorism operations across national borders, and jointly tackle terrorist threats in the region. China will actively take part in practical cooperation in the region in areas such as disaster relief and reduction, maritime environment governance, combating transnational crimes and maintaining cyber security.

As a Chinese proverb goes, “A seasoned fisherman always sits firmly in the boat, even when surrounded by strong winds and waves”. As a stabilizing force for peace and tranquility in Asia, China gains confidence and strength from its own stability. This year, committing to the principle of preventing both imported cases and domestic rebound, and the dynamic zero-COVID policy, China has by and large kept the pandemic under control, and secured the fundamentals for steady and long-term economic growth. Meanwhile, in the second half of this year, the Communist Party of China will hold its 20th National Congress, which is an important political agenda for China. Going forward, we will continue to manage our own affairs well, and take concrete actions to further contribute to the long-term stability, security, development and prosperity in Asia.

Liu Jinsong is Director-General of Department of Asian Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.