The Seventh Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), held in Beijing on October 24th and 25th, was the first gathering of 45 members of ASEM since its second round of enlargement. The ASEM summit produced three documents and 17 proposals for cooperation, which show that the ASEM has started from dialogues and exchange, to head for pragmatic cooperation.
The dialogue between Asia and Europe is particularly conspicuous against a backdrop of spreading global financial crisis along with such grave global issues as acute energy and food shortages, natural calamities and abject poverty. So more than 1,870 reporters from 51 countries worldwide converged onto Beijing to cover the Seventh ASEM summit.
Financial issue top concern
World financial issue can be rated as top global concern and the appeal for enhancing confidence is first voice for ASEM summit.
"The financial crisis triggered by the US subprime mortgage crisis had caused 'shockwaves' in the international financial markets and a serious impact on economic development and livelihoods of people in various countries," Chinese President Hu Jintao said clearly and explicitly while addressing the opening ceremony of ASEM. In the face of this global challenge, he underscored, "the international community should enhance policy coordination, strengthen cooperation and make a common response."
Meanwhile, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao cited the current financial crisis as the "unprecedented crisis" at the first ASEM plenary session. "We should make concerted effort to show the world our confidence, unity and cooperation," he said.
The first document of achievement released by ASEM is the Statement of the Seventh Asia-Europe Meeting on the International Financial Crisis. All parties unanimously agreed that authorities of all countries should demonstrate vision and resolution and take firm, decisive and effective measures in a responsible and timely manner to rise to the challenges of the financial crisis. They expressed the full confidence that the crisis could be overcome through such concerted efforts. All parties also voiced their support to a global finance summit to be held in Washington D.C. as of November 15th.
Though Asian economy is in a good shape on the whole, Asian leaders called for close ASEM economic and financial cooperation and a support to the Asian countries concerned in responding to the crisis. European leaders displayed their ardent aspiration to cooperate with their Asian partners to cope with the financial crisis. French President Nicolas Sarkozy said European leaders had heard the "voice of Asia" on the financial issue, acknowledging his belief that China, India, South Korea and Indonesia would play a vital role in the global finance summit to be held in Washington next month.
Japanese Prime Minister Aso Taro enunciated the stance of his country in response to the financial crisis. Referring to the current financial crisis as the worst crisis since 1920s, he said that financial issue is chiefly the problem with settling accounts, and so importance should be attached to the role of the Group of Seven, international organizations and Asian cooperation.
What merits special attention is the fact that the Asia-Europe Financer Ministers' Meeting (ASEM FNMM) has been held on a regular basis since 1997. ASEM FNMM8, held in Jeju Island, South Korea in June 2008, decided to step up cooperation and coordination of ASEM members in the financial sector, and the seventh ASEM took the financial issue as the theme of primary importance, and this brought a positive message to the world beyond any doubt.
Big "diplomatic drama" co-exits with multilateral, bilateral moves
For days, the Great Hall of People in downtown Beijing was really a most bustling site for high-end, diplomatic activities. Apart from large-scale events, ASEAN nations along with China, Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK) held a breakfast, and there were more than 40 bilateral meetings between the Chinese and other leaders who came to Beijing for the ASEM. In addition, there were a number of bilateral meetings between foreign leaders, brief or lengthy.
During ASEM summit, the Great Hall of the People witnessed several foreign leaders' state or official visits, the forging of all-round Sino-Danish strategic partnership, the signing of a free-trade agreement between China and Singapore, the function to mark the 30th anniversary of China-Japan Peace and Friendship Treaty signed in 1978, and the meeting between Chinese leaders and German entrepreneurs.
China's role widely acclaimed
Under the spotlight, traditional Chinese decorative knots, popularly known as the Chinese knots, which served as the logo of the Seventh ASEM, was particularly attractive, as if telling the world that the Chinese way of linkage is spurring Asia and Europe to confer on major issues of cooperation despite their existing differences.
The successful holding of ASEM has once again won China global respect after the (Beijing) Olympic Games held in August and once again showed its vitality, said European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso. He also said that "the situation was a great opportunity for China to show a sense of responsibility."
As a host, China has contributed tremendously to the success of ASEM and advancing its work in all aspects, noted a European media, and Chinese leaders, general public and people from all walks of life have played their due vital role for the success of ASEM summit.
Asia-Europe cooperation spurred by both high-end and non-government efforts
ASEM is the highest intergovernmental forum between Asia and Europe, and there is also an Asia-Europe nongovernmental endeavor to echo or work in concert to lay a basis for the high-end induction.
Reporters have noticed both in and outside meeting halls an active body – the Asian-Europe Foundation (ASEF), which was established in February 1997 under the framework of the Asian-Europe (ASEM) process. ASEF seeks to promote mutual understanding, deeper engagement and continuing collaboration among the people of Asia and Europe through greater intellectual, and respect of cultural civilizations and people-to-people exchange. It carries out about 40 activities each year, affirming ASEM partners' support in enhancing dialogue and cooperation in eight spheres, such as education, interfaith, youth exchange, art, culture and media cooperation.
Moreover, the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) held the sixth reporters' workshop in June 2008, and hosted the fifth Asia-Europe Music Camp and the Asia-Europe Environmental Forum, which were all crowned with success to a good response.
Media focus outreaches Asia and Europe
Foreign journalists from 51 countries came to Beijing to report on ASEM, and this fact itself shows that the media organizations involved exceeded the scope of ASEM member countries. Forty French reporters came along with President Nicolas Sarkozy by the same special plane, and these French reporters paid high attention to the outcome of the seventh ASEM summit as well to China's economic development and policy trends.
in another development, "News 24" from South Africa released on its website the explanations on Premier Wen's remarks at a press conference. Confidence, cooperation and responsibility are the keys to overcoming the current global financial crisis, Wen was quoted as saying, adding that "We need financial innovation, but we need financial oversight ever more."
At the end of the seventh ASEM, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso noted that consensuses reached by Asia and Europe would prompt the Washington finance summit to make concrete and important decisions. With the successful conclusion of ASEM, the focus of global attention has been shifted to follow-up actions. People are now looking forward to the "next step" moves, and the crux of matter is how to turn consensuses and proposals into concrete actions.
As more and more favorable conditions are available for Asia and Europe to conduct dialogues and exchanges on an equal footing today, it is increasingly more essential for them to work for mutually-beneficial and win-win cooperation because they are currently in a critical juncture of history.
By People's Daily Online and contributed by PD reporters Wang Fang, Wu Qimin, Cheng Yiming, Cao Pengcheng. Wei Dongze, Li Feng, Liao Zhengjun, Wu Chengliang and Zhang Xiaodong