SHANGHAI, May 20 -- While peace and development have become mainstream in Asia, there remains dangerous vulnerability to converging security threats in a region fraught with historical grievances and modern-day tensions.
As one of the most dynamic continents, Asia boasts one third of global GDP. With an increasing convergence of interests and mutually beneficial development, the region is becoming a community of shared destiny. This lays a sound foundation for its overall stability.
But on the other hand, Asia has never left the shadow of security threats that can potentially lead to its downfall. Just as Greek mythology portrays the otherwise-invulnerable Achilles as dying from a shot to his heel, Asia has a deadly weakness despite its overall strength.
Without security, Asia cannot maintain its role as the engine of the world's economic growth. Today's emerging markets can be tomorrow's fragile and war-plagued nations. The achieved fruits of development could be wiped out one day.
Modern Asia faces complicated and diversified ethnic, religious and cultural problems. Although there has been no major war for decades, simmering conflicts including territorial disputes and nuclear crises have the potential to boil over into larger clashes with regional consequences.
The rhetoric of a peaceful Asia is empty as long as a Cold-War security structure remains, as some big powers pursue security as a "zero-sum game" and keep strengthening military alliances in the region while excluding the common interests of other countries.
Besides traditional security threats, Asian countries have found it difficult to respond effectively to non-traditional security threats that do not arise from national rivalries or involve geopolitical competition, but can destabilize a country as severely as an invading army.
More than 500 million people in Asia are suffering food shortage, this figure making up nearly two-thirds of the world's total hungry population. There are mounting worries about the return of the 1997 Asian financial crisis and building a security network for regional financing is becoming more urgent. Due to the lack of core IT technologies, many Asian countries are falling victim to cyber crimes.
Asia also suffers the world's most serious threat of terrorism, extremism, separatism, transnational drug smuggling and human trafficking.
Resources and technical capacity are scarce, as are cooperation and coordination among Asian governments.
Such loopholes were revealed during the search for the missing Malaysian Airliners flight MH370. Lacking regional institutions for responding to a crisis that involves more than 20 countries, it is hard to imagine how an expanding security agenda in the following decades could affect the future development of the region.
In the age of globalization, no Asian country can achieve security in isolation from the rest, still less pursue security as a zero-sum game, or build its own security on the basis of others' insecurity.
That is why the Fourth Summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia in Shanghai is focusing on building a new concept in Asian security, in contrast to the old security scheme based on Cold-War mentalities.
Asian countries should strengthen the sense of a community of shared interests, enhance mutual trust and coordination, effectively manage disputes and frictions and pursue win-win development. This is the only to safeguard the fundamental interest of all nations forming the continent.
With efforts from all sides to build common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security, there is reason to be confident that Asia can rise as a real giant.