Beijing Review: What is the significance of the Seventh ASEM?
Feng Zhongping: Since it was established 12 years ago, ASEM has received different comments, both positive and negative. Critics regard it as a mere talking shop. Because
of its lack of concrete results, some European countries' interest in ASEM is declining. The Beijing summit dispelled their doubts and convinced everybody of ASEM's importance. People's understanding about globalization and regional cooperation 12 years ago was, of course, not as deep as it is today. As globalization forges ahead, ASEM has risen in prominence.
What were the main achievements of the Beijing summit?
At the summit, Asian and European leaders held in-depth discussions on the principles and measures for coping with the financial crisis. I'd like to highlight three points of consensus in this regard. First, Asian and European leaders expressed their willingness to make joint efforts to coordinate their countries' financial and macroeconomic policies, stabilize financial markets and reduce harm done by the financial crisis to the real economy. The summit conveyed an important message to the world that Asia and Europe will cooperate to address the financial crisis. Second, they vowed to reform the international financial system and redefine the role of the International Monetary Fund to enhance its supervision over the financial sector. Third, they rendered support to the financial crisis summit to be held in Washington, D.C. on November 15 in the hope that the summit will produce substantial results. The ASEM summit in Beijing also helped deepen Asian and European leaders' consultation on major international issues. They adopted a declaration on sustainable development to outline their wide range of consensus.
What are the implications of the chair's statement for charting ASEM's future course?
A chair's statement is issued at every ASEM summit to summarize its achievements and identify the future priorities for ASEM. The chair's statement of the Beijing summit clarifies ASEM leaders' views on promoting political dialogue, advancing economic cooperation, driving sustainable development and furthering social and cultural exchanges. It also features a list of new initiatives and a work program for 2008-10. The new initiatives cover a variety of areas, such as regional integration, education, antiterrorism, energy security and interfaith dialogue. They will give fresh impetus to ASEM's development.
What are China's contributions to ASEM?
China not only takes an active part in ASEM but also is a strong driving force behind it. It is one of the mechanism's founding members. Chinese leaders have attended all seven summits since its establishment. China's successful hosting of this year's ASEM summit also shows its strong support for ASEM. China has proposed a number of initiatives for ASEM in the fields of science and technology, customs clearance, agriculture and environmental protection. China sees great value in ASEM because Asia-Europe rapport is a symbol of multipolarization, a trend that China firmly believes in. Also, ASEM offers China a stage on which to cement its bonds with other Asian and European countries.
The Beijing summit was held against a backdrop similar to that of the London summit in 1998, when the Asian financial crisis was at its height. Since the London summit contributed to resolving the Asian financial crisis, do you think the Beijing summit has played a similar role?
Although they differ in magnitude, both crises called for confidence building. In this way, both the London summit and the Beijing summit helped. In 1998, a trust fund was established at the suggestion of then British Prime Minister Tony Blair to help the crisis-ridden Asian countries. This year, Chinese leaders briefed other Asian and European leaders on the performance of the Chinese economy. They stressed that China has a huge market of 1.3 billion people and there exist major gaps between its east and west and between its urban and rural areas. Their purpose was to raise the world's confidence. The Chinese economy will bring hope to the world at large.
How should Asian and European countries join hands to survive the economic difficulties?
While dealing a heavy blow to Europe, the financial crisis has not had a major impact on Asia. Apart from joining hands to bolster confidence, Asian and European countries should try to maintain growth, step up economic cooperation and avoid trade protectionism to prevent the financial crisis from damaging the real economy-trade, investment and exports.