Strengthen Asia-Pacific Cooperation and Participate in Indo-Pacific Cooperation –China’s Opportunities and Challenges
2023-10 View large picture


The Asia-Pacific region, with one-third of the world’s population, over 60% of global economic output, and nearly half of total trade, serves as the most dynamic region of the global economy and an important engine of world economic growth. The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) is the highest-level and most influential economic cooperation mechanism in the Asia-Pacific region, and an important platform for China’s opening up to the outside world and engaging in international economic cooperation. Despite facing multiple risks due to changes in the Asia-Pacific region, APEC still plays an important role in promoting Asia-Pacific cooperation. The upcoming 2023 APEC Leaders’ Informal Meeting, scheduled to be held on November 15-16 in San Francisco, USA, may offer a significant opportunity for high-level leaders from China and the United States to reconvene.

In the past few decades, economic cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region has flourished, creating the world-renowned “Asian miracle” and demonstrating the powerful vitality of economic cooperation in the region. However, as trade imbalances along the Pacific Rim persisted and major-power competition intensified, the United States began to shift its approach towards China and Asia-Pacific regional cooperation. This shift, occurring since the United States recommitted to the Asia-Pacific strategy in 2010, evolved from engagement to containment towards China and from an Asia-Pacific to an Indo-Pacific cooperation strategy. While the United States’ regional cooperation strategy has to some extent promoted regional integration and filled the governance gap, it has also exacerbated major power competition, undermined the foundation for negotiation and dialogue in regional cooperation, and increased the risk of direct conflict among major powers. The turmoil in the Asia-Pacific region not only endangers China’s external environment, but also goes against the common pursuit of development and stability of the countries in the region.

To this end, the Fujian Academy of Social Sciences and the Globalization Think Tank (CCG) jointly propose China’s response to changes in the Asia-Pacific situation and the promotion of regional cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region.

1. Innovate strategic thinking and the concept of regional cooperation, while formulating proactive regional cooperation strategies. China should steadfastly uphold the principles of common development and mutually beneficial open regionalism, oppose exclusive closed groups, uphold the spirit of the APEC family, advocate for the establishment of an Asia-Pacific community with a shared future, actively integrate into regional cooperation mechanisms advocated by the United States, ASEAN, and others, and promote Asia-Pacific regional economic integration.

2. Recognizing the significance of the APEC platform, it is essential to expand the scope of cooperation between China and the United States within APEC. This can be achieved by APEC enlargement, inviting countries such as India, Panama, and ASEAN members such as Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar. It is also crucial to bolster APEC’s role in trade rule negotiations and rule-making, and advance the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) by initiating dialogues on both conventional and emerging matters.

3. Expedite the negotiation process for China’s accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and Digital Economy Partnership Agreement (DEPA). This entails the swift establishment of a CPTPP negotiation working group and giving priority to engaging with ASEAN and Latin American nations as part of the effort to facilitate China’s accession to the CPTPP, while also endeavoring to secure the support of Japan and Mexico. Negotiations based on DEPA should be promoted to create an Asia-Pacific Digital Economy Partnership Agreement, involving a broader spectrum of APEC member states.

4. Enhance the RCEP cooperation mechanism, expedite the establishment of the RCEP secretariat, institute an information sharing mechanism, foster open supply chain cooperation, and work closely with regional economic and trade partners to accelerate the implementation and enhancement negotiations of RCEP.Simultaneously, actively engage with other Asia-Pacific nations such as Mexico, Chile, Peru, and Fiji to encourage their timely participation in RCEP. Consider RCEP as a pivotal avenue towards realizing the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP).

5. Improve diplomatic ties with Japan and the ROK, maintain the smooth cooperation mechanism between China, Japan and the ROK, accelerate negotiations for the China-Japan-ROK FTA on the basis of the results of the RCEP negotiations, strive to reach a comprehensive, high-quality, mutually beneficial, and valuable FTA, and actively explore trilateral foreign cooperation initiatives.

6. Adopt an open attitude towards IPEF, promote its development in the direction of freedom and openness, oppose closed and exclusive regional political and economic blocs, support the ASEAN Indo-Pacific Outlook as a cooperation framework, and express China’s own position to participate in the construction and negotiation process of the Indo-Pacific economic framework as soon as possible.

7. Continuously optimize the use of economic means to achieve diplomatic goals, integrating principles of global or regional governance into investment agreements and economic and technical cooperation terms. China should also enhance its appeal to Asia-Pacific neighbors through development assistance and market access, employ policies promoting dispute shelving and joint development in contested areas, and judiciously apply economic sanctions when deemed appropriate.

8. Maintain and enhance high-level exchanges between China and the United States, while also fostering and boosting people-to-people exchanges between both nations. Additionally, China should actively pursue collaboration in areas where shared interests exist, thereby advancing cooperation between the two countries. Strive to intensify dialogues and cooperation across multiple domains with European nations, seeking to establish a consistent coordination mechanism such as a G3 framework encompassing China, the U.S., and Europe, or alternatively proposing a G4 mechanism involving China, the U.S., Europe, and the Global South.

9. Deepen reform and opening up, strengthen the legal framework of the market economy by aligning it with high international standards in economic and trade, and consolidate a unified national market, leveraging the vast potential of China’s extensive market to contribute to the development of an open global economy. Furthermore, efforts should be made to attract more international talents to contribute to China’s growth.

10. Actively promote public diplomacy, encourage and support Track II exchanges via think tanks, and increase the flow of overseas students and tourists. China can serve as a bridge and a platform for fostering people-to-people exchanges, thereby strengthening mutual trust, friendship, solidarity, and collaboration among nations in the Asia-Pacific region.