Promoting regional cooperation

Updated: 2013-07-01 09:10

By Qi Jianguo (China Daily)

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At present, the security situation in the Asia-Pacific region is generally stable while there remain challenges and risks. In the face of common threats to regional security and a variety of risks and challenges, cooperation is gradually becoming a consensus among Asia-Pacific countries. To be precise, a scenario characterized by promoting development, seeking peace and guaranteeing security through cooperation is gradually taking shape in this region. I'd like to take this opportunity to propose the following initiatives:

First, we should strengthen strategic mutual trust to lay the foundation for security cooperation. The interests of Asia-Pacific countries have not only converged, but also their fears and safety provisions have become common. Based on that, we should consider each other's development as an opportunity rather than a threat, and abandon the zero-sum game mentality, characterized by "if you gain, I lose; if you win, I fail; and if you prosper, I decline".

Only with a broad vision can cooperation be carried out in a sincere way. If we focus on the interests of three to five years, our differences may outweigh commonalities. But if we set our eyes on the interests of next 10 to 20 years, what we have in common will belittle our differences.

Confronted with the complicated and diversified regional security issues, no state can stand aloof, paying attention to only its own interests without a thought for others. Therefore, the countries in the region should come together in times of trouble, strengthen cooperation and jointly explore ways to dissolve contradictions and differences and deal with risks and challenges.

Second, we should give due consideration to the concerns of all parties to strengthen the agreement on security cooperation. Only by respecting rather than confronting each other, and reducing rather than creating more problems can the region's countries enhance mutual understanding, seek common ground and resolve differences to coexist harmoniously.

We should respect the existence of diverse societies in the Asia-Pacific region, seek more common ground while mitigating differences, follow inclusive policies, and refrain from creating imaginary adversaries. We should also respect the diversity in the development paths of other countries, and learn from each other and draw on each other's strengths to offset our shortcomings, instead of assuming an air of arrogance and imposing our opinions on others. Besides, we should respect the norms of international relations and adhere to the five principles of peaceful coexistence, instead of making indiscreet remarks and resorting to indiscriminate use of force.

Efforts should be made to promote bilateral and multilateral security cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region and accord priority to more pragmatic collaborations in non-traditional security areas such as counter-terrorism and stability maintenance, international peacekeeping, disaster prevention and relief, anti-piracy exercises and humanitarian aid.

Third, we should manage and control crises and strengthen channels for security cooperation. Permanent peace can be maintained only when all crises are resolved properly. Given that the region has a number of hotspot issues and challenges, Asia-Pacific countries should deepen their cooperation and pool their wisdom and strength together to resolve crises and handle challenges in order to seize the opportunities that emerge and jointly safeguard regional peace and stability.

More efforts should be made to maintain peace and encourage negotiations instead of adding fuel to the fire.

Countries should employ more strategic wisdom to find new answers to old issues, and mutually beneficial answers to new issues, and seek breakthroughs in disputes. It must be emphasized that we advocate peace, but not out of fear of war. If someone provokes a war, we will respond calmly and fight to the last. We do advocate negotiations, but we will not compromise unconditionally.

If someone challenges our core national interests, we will respond suitably without giving up an inch of our land or sea territory. We advocate flexibility, but we will not compromise with our principles. And if someone should challenge the norms of international relations, we will oppose unequivocally and determinedly.

Fourth, we should perfect the regional security architecture and strengthen the platform for security cooperation. Efficient security cooperation mechanisms with smooth communication facilities serve as the ballast and stabilizer to safeguard regional peace. In fact, security cooperation mechanisms at different levels with varying emphases have already been established in the Asia-Pacific region.

We can strengthen communication, resolve disputes and deepen cooperation through regional cooperative organizations by giving full play to the existing mechanisms such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, ASEAN 10+1, ASEAN 10+3, ASEAN 10+8 and the ASEAN Regional Forum.

Military alliances in the region should not go beyond the scope of bilateral relations, let alone targeting at a third party. The region's countries should adapt to the general trend of peaceful development and cooperation in the Asia-Pacific by contributing more to regional peace and stability and not interfering in the internal affairs of other countries.

Efforts should be made to deepen bilateral defense relations based on the principles of non-alignment, such as giving further play to multilateral platforms such as the Jakarta International Defense Dialogue and the Shangri-La Dialogue, and to jointly promote the building of a regional structure for security cooperation characterized by co-existence, interactions and complementary advantages.

To pursue its "dream", China will join hands with the Asia-Pacific countries in committing itself to maintaining peace and promoting common development in the region. As an active communicator of the Asia-Pacific security concept, China is committed to following the path of peaceful development and advocating the establishment of a new type of partnership with comprehensive security, common security and cooperative security being at its core. This significant concept has been appreciated and echoed by an increasing number of Asia-Pacific countries.

China is sincere in its hope of handling issues properly through cooperation, but it remains firm in its determination to safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The author is a lieutenant general and deputy chief of the general staff, People's Liberation Army, and chairman of China Institute for International Strategic Studies. This is an excerpt from his keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the international symposium on "Security and Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific Region" on June 19.

(China Daily USA07/01/2013 page12)