The first East Asia Summit was held in Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur on Dec. 14 with totally 16 countries attending -- the ten ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries, China, Japan, the Republic of Korea (ROK), Australia, New Zealand and India.
In light of the original proposal, the participants of East Asia Summit should be the ten ASEAN countries and the three countries of China, Japan and the ROK, or all the ASEAN and China, Japan and ROK (10+3) members, whose task is to promote the construction of East Asia community. However, with the expanding influence of East Asia cooperation, countries close to the region, particularly Indian and Australia, asked to join in the regional cooperation program.
Finally, ASEAN, the host of the ongoing first East Asia Summit, chose India, Australia and New Zealand to attend the conference. ASEAN said the summit is open but the participants must be ASEAN's dialog partners, have acceded to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia and have built up "substantive" relations with the regional organization.
ASEAN, in its choice of the members of East Asia Summit, gets rid of the regional limitation and proceeds from its own strategic interest, manifesting wisdom and down-to-earth spirit.
On the other hand, an enlarged membership strengthens the regional cooperation and also helps the economic development of East Asia.
China respects ASEAN's decision and supports it playing a leading role in this regard.
At the first East Asia Summit, the strategic issues in East Asia, regions concerned and global affairs will be discussed. As a meeting on principles, its political symbolic significance has surpassed the importance of its topics. The East Asia Summit coming into being signifies that this region is rising at a quick pace, that Chinese, Indian and East Asian economies have had their influence expanding across the globe and that East Asia regional cooperation has become more and more attractive.
The significance of the East Asia Summit lies in the following respects.
First, it creates a new mode of regional cooperation.
From three different regions, the members of East Asia Summit gather not based on regional conformity but the strong correlation of their interests plus the "10+3" as the main body, therefore such a new mode of cooperation has a sound foundation and structure as well as its own vitality and potential.
Second, a new platform for regional cooperation has been built.
East Asia Summit is closely connected with "10+3", but is by no means an "upgraded version" of "10+3", nor will it replace it.
Now the summit has longer been the originally expected "transformation of '10+3'" but become a new platform for trans-region cooperation. It will go hand in hand with the existing "10+3" mechanism. The "10+3" is confined to the sovereign countries in East Asia, with no intention to have members from outside, while the East Asia Summit is open with a general orientation towards trans-region cooperation and wider-ranging targets, therefore it is a new platform for regional cooperation.
Third, it strengthens the nature of South-North cooperation and expanded the room and potential for regional cooperation.
Among the 16 members, except for Japan, the developed economies of Australia and New Zealand, there have been more members from "the North" than in "10+3", hence a strengthened nature of South-North cooperation. The total population of the 16 countries is approximately three billion or half of the world's, and their aggregate GDP more than eight trillion yuan, or 22 percent. Their economies have outstanding mutual complementarity and huge potential for cooperation.
Fourth, it eases the relations between East Asia and the United States.
The United States holds that the East Asia Summit will weaken the US-led Asia Pacific cooperation, therefore takes an opposing attitude towards the summit. However, with the accession of Australia and New Zealand, the United States has turned itself from an opponent to an audience. It is hopeful that the US-East Asia relations be relaxed through the platform of East Asia Summit, which will help the cooperation process in East Asia. The cooperation among East Asian countries cannot do without the backdrop of Asia Pacific cooperation.
In one word, the summit is expected to become a bridge linking East Asia cooperation and Asia Pacific cooperation.
The article written by Lu Jianren, assistant director of the Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, is carried on the front page of People's Daily Overseas Edition, Dec. 14, and is translated by People's Daily Online