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The Prosperous and Promising Cooperation between Asia and Europe -- Tang Jiaxuan(24/05/2001)

The People's Daily carries an article on May 24, written by Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan, about his views on the significance, prospects and characteristics of the cooperation between Asia and Europe within the ASEM framework.

The third ASEM (Asia-Europe Meeting) Foreign Ministers' Meeting is scheduled to be held May 24-25 in Beijing. 25 ASEM members and members of the Foreign Relations Committee of the European Commission will hold extensive and in-depth discussions on global and regional issues of common concern, as well as the Asia-Europe cooperation in trade, the economy and social and cultural sectors. As the first gathering among ASEM foreign ministers in the new century, the event has attracted special attention from the international community and marks a major diplomatic occasion in China as it is held in Beijing. I would like to share my views on the significance, prospects and characteristics of the cooperation between Asia and Europe within the ASEM framework on the eve of the meeting.

I  Asia-Europe cooperation has strategic significance.
ASEM is a trans-regional cooperation mechanism initiated in 1996 with the aim to establish a comprehensive new partnership between Asia and Europe, enhance dialogue, understanding and cooperation between the two continents, create favorable conditions for their economic and social development, and maintain world peace and stability.

The initiation and establishment of ASEM have profound historical background. There are two events of far-reaching influence on the world's pattern that happened in the five decades after World War II (WWII) . One is the rise of Asia, especially East Asia, which includes the southeast and northeast Asia. The rapid economic development and rise in the political status of East Asian nations, including China, has enabled this region to become a major force in the world's pattern. The other is Europe's integration process. Europe, on the other hand, having experienced frequent wars and turbulence in the past few centuries, was the place where two world wars in the 20th century were played out, he notes. The integration process of Europe after WW II has boosted and safeguarded stability and prosperity in West Europe and has laid a foundation for Europe to play a bigger role in world affairs. It is noteworthy that far from drawing to an end, both the economic development of East Asia and the integration of the European Union (EU) is continuing.

East Asia, Western Europe and North America take up more than three-quarters of the world's total GNP. As an integral party, the 15 EU members take up 29 percent of the world's GNP. As a matter of fact, East Asia, West Europe and North America are now the three pillars of the world economy. Europe and America have maintained close links, and the ties between East Asia and North America have been strengthened with the establishment of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). Meanwhile, ASEM has set up a bridge between Asia and Europe. ASEM takes up 40 percent of the world's population with its 2.4 billion people, and takes up 50 percent of the world's GDP. The EU is an influential group of nations, with France and Britain as permanent members of the UN Security Council. The importance of Asia-Europe cooperation is therefore not to be underestimated, as it reflects the strategic needs of the two continents to complement each other both politically and economically.

Politically, Asia and Europe are major forces in the trend of multi-polarization. Asia-Europe cooperation is of far-reaching importance for maintaining peace and stability in Asia and Europe and the whole world and also for the development of the trend of political multi-polarization.

Economically, Asia and Europe are important participants of economic globalization. Asia-Europe cooperation plays an important role in promoting development and prosperity in Asia, Europe and the world as a whole and achieving the positive side of and a win-win situation in the process of economic globalization.

Culturally, Asia and Europe are cradles of ancient civilization, which have made great contributions to the progress of humankind and the development of science and culture. Asia-Europe cooperation plays a positive role in maintaining diversity.

Over a decade has passed since the Cold War ended, and it is now the trend to maintain peace, stability, development and cooperation. As two major forces of the multi-polar world, Asia and Europe continue to respect each other and seek common ground while shelving differences. They are striving to enhance understanding and expand common ground through equal dialogue. Such a move is conducive to the democratic process of international relations and in line with the current trend as well as the long-term benefits of the two continents and the people of the world. It is therefore welcomed by the international community and will surely contribute to world peace, stability, development and prosperity, thus exerting a far-reaching effect on the establishment of a just and fair international, political and economic order.

II Asia-Europe has broad prospects.
There is no conflicts of fundamental interests between Asia and Europe and they share identical or similar views on a series of major international issues, which has laid a firm foundation for extensive and in-depth Asian-European cooperation of equality and friendship.

Members of Asia and Europe enjoy strong economic power and broad prospects for future development, and their economies are highly complementary. Asia boasts rich natural and human resources and a vast market with a great potential. Asian countries have scored rapid development in promoting economic progress in accordance with their own conditions in the past years. Europe enjoys its advantages in capital, science and technology, as well as rich experience in economic development and environmental protection. It is worth pointing out that many European countries hold a positive attitude toward providing capital for and transferring technologies to developing countries, and helping them eliminate poverty and protect the environment. Northern European countries are among the few developed countries whose official aid for developing countries accounts for 0.7 percent of their GNP, as required by the United Nations.

In the short span of five years since the launching of ASEM, Asia-Europe cooperation has withstood tests and shown strong vitality and dynamism.

ASEM was first launched in 1996 when Asian economy was generally believed to be promising. European and Asian members gave positive response after Singapore first proposed strengthening Asia-Europe cooperation. Some people got worried about the prospects of Asia-Europe cooperation in the wake of Asian financial crisis that broke out in July 1997. To tide over the crisis, Asian and European countries joined hands in coming up with positive countermeasures and putting in place a trust fund to highlight financial cooperation. EU countries and some Asian countries have contributed to the bottoming out of Asian countries by actively participating in IMF-centered rescue efforts and taking other rescue measures. Experiences have proven that Asian and European countries can not only share prosperity, but also cope with crisis together, which demonstrates the vision of the leaders of ASEM member countries, the maturity of the ASEM regime and reflects the common needs and long-term interests of the two continents. With the current slowing down of world economy and with the increase of uncertainties, the urgency and necessity of Asia-Europe cooperation have become more prominent than ever.

In the eyes of many people, the fact that Asia and Europe differ in economic development level, value systems, historical and cultural heritages as they represent oriental and occidental civilization respectively will bring difficulties to Asia-Europe cooperation. However, I personally believe that as long as the two parties concerned can abide by the principle of equality, friendship, mutual accommodation and mutual benefit, differences will not necessarily become obstacles, and on the contrary, may even become the driving force and content of dialogue, cooperation and exchange.

III. Characteristics of Asia-Europe Cooperation

Compared with other important international organizations and cooperation regime, ASEM has its own characteristics to recommend itself.

Firstly, Asia-Europe cooperation within the framework of ASEM basically reflects the principle of equality. The theme of ASEM is to establish new type of partnership while equality is an important component of such a partnership and a prerequisite of cooperation. Many ASEM members emphasize that the basis of Asia-Europe dialogue should be mutual respect, equality, promoting basic rights, observing the obligations provided in international law and non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries.

In history, many Asian countries were the colonies of European powers. China was reduced to a semi-feudal and semi-colonial country at the latter half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century. The colonial history of Asia came to an end only in the last several years of the 20th century after China resumed the exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong and Macao. Dialogue takes the place of confrontation and cooperation takes the places of contradiction in the wake of the Cold War and that has become the common aspiration of the peoples in the world. Asia-Europe cooperation on the basis of equality represents both historical progress and the needs of the times.

Secondly, Asia-Europe cooperation covers a wide scope and involves a crowded agenda. Cooperation of ASEM is not limited to economy and trade or to the Asia-Europe region. Apart from economic, financial cooperation and trade, such cooperation also includes political dialogue and cooperation in cultural and other fields. Asia and Europe can exchange views on regional and international issues of mutual concern. In fact, such issues as economic globalization, cultural pluralism, highlighting the role of UN and maintaining global strategic stability all fall into the agenda of Asia-Europe cooperation.

Thirdly, Asia-Europe cooperation is pragmatic and effective. Ever since ASEM was put in place, Asia and Europe have carried out a series of follow-up activities and have scored achievements in this aspect. For instance, in economy and trade, TFAP (Trade Facility Action Plan) and IPAP (Investment Promotion Action Plan) have been formulated. In finance, a trust fund has been set up with a view to helping Asian countries be free of the impacts of financial crisis and to enhancing financial cooperation between Asia and Europe. In science and technology, the first ASEM science ministers’ meeting was convened successfully in Beijing in October 1999, during which the major objectives and priority areas for scientific and technological cooperation were defined. Asia-Europe Fund was put in place in Singapore in 1997 in a bid to promote academic, cultural and personnel exchanges between Asia and Europe. All these have greatly boosted the development of the friendly relations and cooperation between Asia and Europe.

IV. ASEM and China’s diplomacy

ASEM provides an important stage for China’s diplomacy. President Jiang Zemin will attend this year’s ASEM Foreign Ministers’ Meeting and deliver a keynote speech. In the past few years, then Premier Li Peng attended the first ASEM summit meeting whereas the now incumbent Premier Zhu Rongji attended the second and third summit meetings. China’s foreign ministers, foreign trade ministers, finance ministers and science ministers attended all the competent ASEM ministerial meetings.

China attaches importance to and supports the process of ASEM. China has actively participated in the ASEM process in the spirits of pragmatism, seeking common ground while reserving differences, expanding consensus and promoting cooperation and has made full use of such a dialogue and cooperation channel to serve China’s reform, opening-up and economic development. The propositions, suggestions and cooperation projects China proposes have commanded universal attention and have played an active role in promoting the cooperation and exchanges between the two continents.

ASEM is a part and parcel of China’s all-dimensional diplomacy. In this recent year, China has hosted and is going to host and sponsor a series of large-scale international conferences. Last October, Forum on Sino-African Cooperation – Ministerial Meeting Beijing 2000 was held in Beijing and were attended by the foreign ministers and trade ministers from all African countries having diplomatic ties with China. Shanghai Five summit meeting is forthcoming in June. This year, China will become the host country of APEC meetings and APEC informal leadership meeting will be convened in Shanghai in the coming October. The third ASEM Foreign Ministers’ Meeting is one of the important diplomatic activities of China this year.

The third ASEM Foreign Ministers’ Meeting will be unfolding today. That many foreign ministers gathers in Beijing and discuss world affairs will help to promote mutual understanding between the two continents and will provide them with a good opportunity to see for themselves the achievements China has scored in its reform and opening-up. I look forward to their arrival and will make concerted efforts with them to make the meeting a full success.  

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