The 28th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders' Meeting is scheduled to be held online on Friday night with leaders of the countries from the most dynamic Asia-Pacific region gathering to discuss how to boost economic recovery while dealing with the coronavirus pandemic through cooperation. More actions and cooperation are expected to be taken to fulfill the APEC Putrajaya Vision 2040 in building a resilient and peaceful Asia-Pacific community.
China and the US, the world's two biggest economies, reached a climate action deal at the COP 26 before the APEC leaders' meeting, which will boost confidence in cooperation in the region, especially on trade and investment, digital economies and sustainable development to help stabilize the industrial chain and drive economic development, analysts said, while also warning of threats posed by some countries that aimed to create small cliques in the region.
Chinese President Xi Jinping will attend the 28th APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting in Beijing via video link on Friday and deliver an important speech at the invitation of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said on Wednesday.
US President Joe Biden will also attend the meeting via video link.
New Zealand is hosting the APEC Leaders' Week entirely online. "This meeting will focus on charting a path to recovery out of this once-in-a-century crisis," New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a statement.
APEC's member economies account for around 38% of the world's population and more than 60% of its gross domestic product.
New Zealand's theme for APEC 2021 is "Join. Work. Grow. Together. Haumi ē, Hui ē, Tāiki ē," under which leaders of regional countries will discuss topics of trade and investment, innovation and digital economies and sustainable development - all to deal with the coronavirus pandemic and economic recovery, analysts said.
The focus of APEC has shifted from battling against the coronavirus to boosting the region's economic growth, thereby propelling the global economic recovery, like the locomotive can lead the entire train, Liu Chenyang, director of APEC Study Center of Nankai University, told the Global Times.
"In the face of challenges, this year's meeting is the first with the aim of building a resilient and peaceful Asia-Pacific community by 2040. It also gives out a general consensus on the future development direction and path of APEC in the next 20 years," Liu said.
While growth is starting to recover in the region amid the pandemic, economic impacts will be felt for some time to come, analysts said, urging member economies to work together.
One of the difficulties hindering the region's economic cooperation is the restructuring of the industrial chain, Liu warned. "Many member economies decided to shorten the industrial chain and supply chain out of security and pandemic considerations. This influence on the Asia-Pacific region's value chain will be long-term."
"If we can take advantage of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the Asia-Pacific region's economies will embrace structural opportunities. We also hope APEC could coordinate and drive the region, meanwhile play an essential role for the recovery and prospective development of WTO, because APEC has always been a proactive contributor of safeguarding multilateral trading regimes," Liu suggested.
The RCEP, the world's biggest trade pact that includes China and over a dozen other countries, will officially take effect on January 1, 2022, marking another milestone for regional and global economic cooperation as well as China's expanding trade profile.
China officially applied to join the CPTPP - a revised version of the initial Trans-Pacific Partnership initiated by the US aimed at containing China - in September, one day after the US, the UK and Australia announced an enhanced trilateral security partnership called AUKUS.
Choosing cooperation over small cliques
APEC has played a more important role in recent global economic development as it is the most dynamic region in the world that enjoys the most rapid development and has shown more tenacity in the post-pandemic recovery, Ruan Zongze, executive vice president of the China Institute of International Studies, told the Global Times.
Moreover, cooperation has always been the mainstream in the Asia-Pacific region on economic recovery and development of green economy, and drawing small cliques is unpopular in the region - the pandemic has helped strengthen regional countries' consensus on this view. Given this, President Xi has been invited to attend the meeting to offer China's approaches in fighting against the pandemic and achieving economic recovery and growth, Ruan said.
China has done the best in controlling the coronavirus epidemic and managed to recover its economy, which also boosted the regional economy given the close connectivity among Asia-Pacific countries and complementary industrial chains. The rapid development of China has also offered a wider market for regional countries, and the China International Import Expo (CIIE) is the best example, the expert noted.
The confidence foreign companies have in the vast Chinese market again paid off at the 4th CIIE in Shanghai, as more than $70 billion worth of intentional deals were inked during the fourth edition of the world's largest import expo.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of China's participation in the APEC. "Since China joined APEC in 1991, it has been a model for advancing APEC cooperation in a pragmatic manner. This is the consensus," Liu said.
In addition, China has made donations to set up cooperative funds in the region as it takes into account the interests of most APEC member states, experts said, stressing such donations have improved China's influence and leadership in the region.
On Thursday, Xi attended the APEC CEO Summit through a prerecorded video and delivered a keynote speech, in which he highlighted China's commitment to advancing reform and opening-up to add impetus to economic development in the Asia-Pacific.
Ahead of the APEC leaders' meeting on Friday, China and the US on Wednesday released the China-US Joint Glasgow Declaration on Enhancing Climate Action in the 2020s. Analysts said this move will boost confidence in future bilateral cooperation within the framework of APEC if the US could work together with regional countries.
China-US relations suffered twists and turns under the Trump administration. The bad communication and cooperation between the world's two largest economies left other APEC members to wait and see, failing to concentrate on deepening cooperation within the region, experts noted.
To build a resilient and peaceful Asia-Pacific community by 2040, regional countries, especially China and the US, need to closely work together. However, the US and its allies' recent actions in drawing small cliques and targeting China, for example, AUKUS, have affected cooperation in the Asia Pacific, Ruan said.
Ruan noted that there is no market for confrontation and small cliques in the Asia-Pacific, and the US should not go against the global trend.
The US has offered to host APEC in 2023, which would be the country's first time since former president Barack Obama led the group in Hawaii in 2011, but it is yet to be decided, which some analysts said highlighted worries over possible negative influences if the US is putting geopolitics ahead of regional cooperation.