Fu Ying: Appreciating Asia's longstanding peace, economic prosperity


The 60th Munich Security Conference was held in Germany from February 16 to 18. Over the three days, listening to the intense speeches regarding two conflicts occurring in Europe and the Middle East, it feels like Asia's longstanding peace should be appreciated even more.

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Former vice minister of China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (left) speaks at a panel discussion during the 60th Munich Security Conference on February 17. (Photo: China Daily)

There has been stability and great economic progress over the past decades in Asia, where the GDP accounts for 40 percent of the world's total, compared with just 15 percent in the 1990s.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has played a central role in regional cooperation and has been strongly supported by China, while the framework for regional dialogue and cooperation continues to evolve.

Initially, there were differences among countries, but gradually a habit has been fostered of focusing on cooperation at the conference table and discussing differences in the corridors or at "retreats". 

Through years of patient and sincere dialogues, Asian countries have built trust and embarked on multi-layered economic cooperation. There is a strong sense of common security in Asia: Every country is entitled to defend its security and protect its interests. But when their interests clash, countries should engage in negotiations or seek consultations to avoid conflict.

The signing of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea reflects the trust and cooperative spirit between China and ASEAN countries, and negotiations on the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea are underway.

Some people at the conference attempted to link the issue of Ukraine with the Taiwan question. The Taiwan question is China's internal affair and the Anti-Secession Law passed in 2005 states China's position that the state shall do its utmost to achieve peaceful reunification, which is best for the people on the two sides. The law also emphasizes under what circumstances non-peaceful means and other measures would be necessary to protect China's sovereignty and territorial integrity. They include in the event of so-called "Taiwan independence" or if major incidents entailing Taiwan's secession from China should occur, or if possibilities for a peaceful reunification should be exhausted. 

This is the legal basis of the Chinese government's handling of the Taiwan question.

Regarding the US policy in the Asia-Pacific region, what has attracted the US to "Pivot to Asia"? After the Cold War, the US initially focused on transforming Central and Eastern Europe, then engaged in the War on Terror, without paying much attention to the Asian region, which was building peace, stability, and economic prosperity. 

The main reason the US is shifting its strategic focus to Asia now is because it sees the economic success of Asia, with China's rapid development being the most significant factor. However, the strategy implemented by the US as it tries to re-involve itself does not appear to be one of integrating into the region's peaceful progress. Rather, the US poses the risk of reversing the region's development trends. Many countries are concerned and have openly or privately said that they prefer not to choose sides.

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When the Americans talk about concerns of the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, unlike the issue of shipping safety in the Red Sea, which is about civilian ships, this is not about the commercial ships but about US military vessels going anywhere they choose. 

If one wants to know information about the safety of civilian navigation in the South China Sea, one can check with the shipping industry. Freedom of navigation of civilian ships has never been a problem and insurance premiums have not gone up because of tension in the South China Sea. This is just an excuse.

China is not comfortable with the establishment of exclusive mini-lateral security mechanisms in the Asian region, not only because they are targeted at China, but also because such practices are inconsistent with the way of thinking of common security and may undermine regional stability.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi's speech at the 2024 Munich Security Conference started with the world affairs, talking about how China will be a force for stability in a turbulent world. From this, we can see China's sense of responsibility as a major country and its proactive attitude toward international cooperation. 

China has proposed the Global Security Initiative, which calls for respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries, taking the legitimate security concerns of all countries seriously and committing to resolving inter-state disputes and conflicts through dialogues and negotiation in a peaceful manner. Most countries in Asia agree with these ideas. 

The author is the former vice minister of China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This article was originally a speech by the author at the 2024 Munich Security Conference on February 17. Edited by Liu Xingtong and Lin Rui

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