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APEC heralds larger regional role for China

2014-11-13 08:50 Global Times Web Editor: Qian Ruisha

China has demonstrated leadership in propelling regional integration with a flurry of trade pacts and agreements, proof of its rising influence as the world's second largest economy, said analysts following this year's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings.[Special coverage]

The APEC meetings, which concluded Tuesday in Beijing, have yielded concrete results that go far beyond mere handshakes.

China, which is hosting its first major international conference since President Xi Jinping assumed office in 2013, has leveraged the opportunity to drive progress on regional cooperation, from the 21 member economies' consensus, to studying the establishment of a China-backed free-trade zone, to the promotion of the Silk Road Economic Belt and Maritime Silk Road.

Analysts said that the APEC meetings herald a larger Chinese role in the regional economy, with China's influence promoting greater regional stability and prosperity.

"With China's rising economic power, its agenda-setting ability has greatly increased [as compared to 2001 when China hosted its first APEC meetings in Shanghai]. Its initiatives have also received wider global attention," Jia Qingguo, dean of the School of International Studies of Peking University, told the Global Times.

Huang Wei, a research fellow at the Institute of World Economics and Politics with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said, "It is an opportunity for not only world leaders, but also global media to look at the real face of a rapidly rising China that is in contrast to the biased portrayal of some international media."

APEC, which includes the US, China, Japan and South Korea, accounts for 40 percent of the world's population, 54 percent of its economic output and 44 percent of trade.

However, the influence of APEC in the global economy, according to Huang, has diminished over the last few years due to the stalled progress on trade agreements.

"The host country has a great role in pushing consensus between the members. Besides the official agreements, it's worth noting that this year's APEC meetings have seen a strong attendance. This proves China has the ability to bring economies across the Asia-Pacific region back to the negotiating table," said Huang.

The establishment of a $40 billion Silk Road infrastructure fund, focusing on building roads, railways, ports and airports across Central Asia and South Asia, is also expected to boost regional trade.

The regional convention has also served as a platform for Beijing to engage in bilateral dialogues with fellow major powers, including the US, Russia and Japan.

Jia said Xi's icebreaker meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will help facilitate a "normalized exchange" between the two countries, following a two-year hiatus in direct summits caused by territorial disputes and Tokyo's attitude toward its wartime past.

Xi also held meetings with Filipino and Vietnamese leaders, whose countries are also locked in tensions with China over maritime disputes.

Among the many fruits reaped during the APEC meetings, China and South Korea agreed to sign a free trade agreement that aims to remove most barriers to trade between the countries, and covers 17 other areas, such as e-commerce, competition policy, government procurement and environment.

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