ASEM Global Partners for Global Challenges

H.E. Zhang Ming Ambassador of China to the European Union

On 18 and 19 October, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang joined other leaders of ASEM members for the 12th ASEM Summit in Brussels. The theme of this summit “Global Partners for Global Challenges” is highly relevant. In this age of multiple challenges, China is committed to working with other countries in Asia and Europe to send a strong signal of upholding multilateralism and to forge a robust ASEM partnership.

Asia and Europe are the cradles of Oriental and Western civilizations. Both have witnessed the splendid episodes of world history and human progress. More than two thousand years ago, Asia and Europe were connected by the ancient Silk Road, which led to mutual learning, exchanges and interactions. Twenty-two years ago, ASEM was born in the broader context of globalization. Over time, the mechanism has grown into an important platform for Asia and Europe to engage with each other for greater mutual understanding and cooperation.

ASEM stands for the spirit of multilateralism and openness, and the commitment to seek dialogue and partnership rather than confrontation and alliance. For years, ASEM members have endeavored to advance trade and investment liberalization and facilitation, promote sustainable development, build an open world economy, and bring forward global governance reform. Despite great cultural differences, ASEM members have drawn strength from such diversity and bring their citizens closer to each other through dialogue and communication. ASEM’s success sheds light on a simple yet powerful message: openness leads to progress, and cooperation benefits all. Protectionism leads nowhere, and zero-sum game dooms to fail.

Asia and Europe need to build stronger consensus. Since its inception, ASEM has weathered through some major challenges, like the 9/11 attacks and the global financial crisis, testifying to its great resilience and the unwavering commitment to cooperation. As anti-globalization and protectionist sentiments threaten to come back, our world is mired in a greater sense of instability and uncertainty. It is more important than ever for ASEM members to come together, think in long terms, and take coordinated actions to resist unilateralism and uphold multilateralism.

Asia and Europe need to unleash greater potential. Many Asian and European countries have increased input in connectivity and made good progress. China has put forward the Belt and Road Initiative, and the EU has released a strategy for connecting Europe and Asia. To increase Eurasian connectivity, apart from bilateral partnerships, ASEM as a multilateral mechanism has a crucial role to play as well. We need to strive for early harvests in such priority areas as trade and investment facilitation, sustainable development, digital economy, and people-to-people exchanges. We could also explore more opportunities in such future-oriented areas as clean energy, ecological protection, smart technology and urbanization.

Asia and Europe need to harness the strength of people. The 53 ASEM members vary from one another due to different historical and national conditions. Yet, the long-term development of ASEM would not be possible without respect for such differences. For this to happen, cultural exchanges and communication are critically important. Thanks to the widespread use of information technology, people-to-people exchanges could be much more diverse, engaging and convenient than before. We must act together to ensure that our cooperation is always of the people, by the people and for the people.

At the upcoming summit, China stands ready to join hands with other ASEM members to add to the sense of togetherness and the spirit of partnership, and make a positive contribution to more substantial cooperations between Asia and Europe.

(The author is Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary and Head of Mission of the People’s Republic of China to the European Union.)