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China and U.S. set to grapple for regional space during APEC summit

China's President Xi Jinping, center, with large screens showing him, delivers an opening speech for the APEC CEO Summit as part of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit at the China National Convention Center in Beijing, Sunday, Nov. 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Wang Zhao, Pool)

China's President Xi Jinping, center, with large screens showing him, delivers an opening speech for the APEC CEO Summit as part of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit at the China National Convention Center in Beijing, Sunday, Nov. 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Wang Zhao, Pool)   | Photo Credit: Wang Zhao

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World leaders are converging in the Chinese capital to participate in the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, which is set to witness a collision of two visions — Chinese and American — on the economic and geopolitical future of the region.

Ahead of the summit, Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is hosting a bevy of world leaders including U.S. President Barack Obama, his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, announced that Beijing will fork $40 billion into a Silk Road Fund. The reference to the development of the Silk Road encapsulates China’s vision of steering an economically inter-linked South, Central and East Asia, which can co-develop and collectively engage in trade and commerce with Europe along a land corridor.

China has also positioned itself at the center of a 21st century Maritime Silk Road, whose conceptual lines are still blurred, but point to Beijing’s leading role in forming an integral maritime commercial corridor along the Indian Ocean, and sections of the Pacific.

The string of Chinese initiatives for regional consolidation, follow the U.S.-led Asia Pivot; a doctrine marshalled by the Obama administration to bolter military force levels along China’s periphery, in cooperation with top allies, including Japan, South Korea, Australia and the Philippines.

As the U.S. continues its battle to override the fall-out of the 2008 economic crash, it has accelerated its push for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a regional free trade organisation, which includes Japan and Australia, but excludes China. The TPP has been widely perceived as an extension of the Asia-Pivot, powered by Washington, and has been tagged by some China-watchers as an “economic-NATO”.

At the APEC summit, the Chinese hope to log centre-stage a formal endorsement of Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) — their counter-initiative to the TPP.

The contrasting lines of the two economic blue-prints became more sharply etched on Saturday, when China’s ministers of foreign affairs and trade briefed reporters on their perception of the FTAAP.

Simultaneously the U.S. hosted a session on TPP negotiations among trade ministers of 12 partnering countries at its embassy in Beijing. President Obama is expected to hold another meeting of TPP leaders, in the Chinese capital on Monday — the day of the formal launch of the APEC summit.

The battle of the two visions is now resonating in the public domain, with Xinhua, the state-run Chinese news agency, amplifying in its report on Sunday that the economic potential of the FTAPP is far greater, when compared with the TPP and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)—a grouping led by the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).

The write-up quoting a report from the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council (PECC) pointed out that FTAAP is estimated to add $ 2.4 trillion to the global economy. The figure stands out in comparison with TPP’s estimated contribution of the $223 billion and the RCEP’s $644 billion.

As the global leaders start arriving, speculation is rife about three possible big-ticket meetings on the sidelines. President Putin has already landed in the Chinese capital, but it is unclear whether he would meet President Obama. Analysts say that following the ascendancy of the Republicans during last week’s mid-term elections, the U.S. President may find it difficult to nuance a domestically driven hardline stance towards Moscow, with a softening of attitude that is required to get Russia’s cooperation to strike a nuclear deal with Iran. The possibility of a meeting between President Xi and Mr. Abe is also in focus, following early signs of a thaw in tensions between the two countries.

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2020 12:44:39 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/china-and-us-set-to-grapple-for-regional-space-during-apec-summit/article6580366.ece

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