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Home >> Opinion
UPDATED: 16:39, October 14, 2004
Establishing East Asian Community becomes common understanding: Interview
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"The concept of East Asian Community has been accepted by the 13 East Asian countries and become a common understanding. This is the most salient impression left on the attendees of the annual meeting of the Network of East Asian Thinktanks (NEAT) held in Thailand recently. The 13 East Asian countries have agreed to hold the first East Asian Summit in Malaysia next year. This will become another monumental event in the history of East Asian cooperation", said Wu Jianmin, president of China Foreign Affairs University (CFAU) during an interview by People's Daily.

The media are familiar with Wu Jianmin - a former spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who later became the Chinese Ambassador to the Republic of France. After return from France he became the president of the CFAU. However the reporter couldn't conceive of a "linking point" between him and East Asian questions. Wu said he was assigned the task of acting as a coordinator for the NEAT at the beginning of this year. The NEAT is one of the 26 measures taken by the 10+3 Summit to promote East Asian cooperation, whose function is to provide policy advices to the Summit. The CFAU set up East Asian Research Center with Wu Jianmin as its director. The center is devoted to research on promoting East Asian cooperation and has held two forums this year. Although the "transition" of knowledge structure has just started he is already very familiar with East Asian questions.

People's Daily: There used to be many conceptions about the goals of East Asian cooperation. Why has East Asian Community been accepted by the 13 East Asian countries?

Wu Jianmin: There are mainly three factors that enable the East Asian countries to reach a common understanding.

First, with the economic globalization as backdrop regional grouping pace is accelerating. In today's world there are the North America Free Trade Zone and the Pan-American Free Trade Zone in America, the European Union in Europe and the African Union in Africa. Even the only superpower in the world feels inadequate in front of the economic globalization and needs to look for support in regional grouping. Therefore it is no coincidence that the East Asian countries reached a common understanding on East Asian Community. It is the need of the regional grouping development, the result of Asian people's thinking and action pushed by regional grouping development and the inevitability of history.

The second factor is the push of historical events in the East Asian region. Particularly, the Asian financial crisis in 1997 awakened the East Asian countries. If there had been a mechanism in place like the euro the impact wouldn't have been so big. After experiencing the crisis the East Asian countries realized the lagging-behind grouping construction in the region, which is not seasoned with the trend of economic globalization. They feel painfully the necessity of cooperation in East Asia.

The third factor is the continuous development of East Asian cooperation and the strengthening of the function of the "10+1" and "10+3" mechanisms. In the beginning of the 1990s Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir once put forward an idea of establishing an East Asian economic group, which was firmed opposed by the US. Later on the ASEAN countries also advanced ideas which are not grouping-emphasized but which the US also disagree. In the latter part of the 1990s the "10+1", which includes ASEAN and China, announced to set up a free trade zone by the year 2010. Last year during the "10+3" Summit China, Japan and the Republic of Korea issued a joint statement to strengthen economic cooperation including establishing a free trade zone. China, Japan and the ROK are the major players of the East Asian cooperation. Facts have shown that the cooperation is deepening.

People's Daily: What is it that causes the East Asian cooperation to attract the attention of the world?

Wu Jianmin: The East Asian region has 13 countries with a population of about 2 billion, which is one third of the world population. It is a consumer market with huge potentials. The GDPs in East Asia account for about 20 percent of the total GDPs of the world. East Asian countries have foreign exchange reserves about half of the total reserves in the world and they have the fastest economic growth rates. These economic factors make the importance of the East Asian region prominent worldwide. Strengthening East Asian cooperation is not only advantageous to countries in the region but also conducive to world peace and prosperity. The US is fully aware of these positive factors. Its attitude toward establishing an East Asian community has a big change from previous opposition.

People's Daily: What opportunities will East Asian Community bring to China? And how to seize these opportunities?

Wu Jianmin: China's reform and opening up has entered a new phase. The "Going Global" strategy is brought forward at an opportune moment. Following goods, tourism and labor service it is time for the Chinese capitals to "go global". The main object of "Going Global" is developing countries, that is, Asia. "Going Global" is conducive to solving economic overheating, to realizing complementarity and win-win results and to carrying out the policy of "bringing harmony, security and prosperity" to neighbors. The "Going Global" strategy should be implemented through the cooperation of governmental organs, production enterprises, and research institutions. The diplomatic resources of the government, the capital resources of the industrial circles and the research resources of the academic circles should all join in the "Going Global" strategy. In the past China's resource-sharing awareness was not strong. For example, when I was the Ambassador to France I received hundreds of delegations each year, but few of the entrepreneurs came to me for help to solve problems they ran into. Entrepreneurs should be made aware that diplomats are duty-bound to support the "Going Global" strategy. Students, teachers and researchers in universities and research institutes all should make suggestions for the "Going Global" strategy and provide intellectual support.

People's Daily: What kind of problems exist in the progress of East Asian Community?

Wu Jianmin: At the annual meeting of the NEAT held in Thailand many delegates believed the standstill of the Sino-Japanese state leader exchange would produce harmful effect on the East Asian Community progress. Some delegate pointed out China and Japan can draw lesson from the experience of Europe in improving the bilateral relations. France and Germany had had a hostile relationship for one thousand years or so. However the two countries eventually became reconciled through bilateral cooperation and multilateral mechanisms after WWII. "Solving bilateral problems through multilateral mechanisms" is an experience worth study by both China and Japan.

By People's Daily Online

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