Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

FTAAP a timely answer to China skeptics

By Li Jieyu (China Daily) Updated: 2014-11-13 07:50

Leaders at the APEC conference in Beijing agreed to start the process of the Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific on Tuesday. The move is "a historic step we took in the direction toward realizing the FTAAP", President Xi Jinping said at a press conference after the conclusion of the 22nd APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting.

In sharp contrast to the bandying of the "China threat" theory by some countries, China is willing to help expedite the building of the FTAAP. Because of territorial disputes and the resulting tensions in the South China Sea and the East China Sea, China has had to face severe criticism. Some countries and observers even said that like all economic powers in the past China too will boost its military might and try to change the existing world order.

As the second largest economy, China is expected by many to challenge the existing superpower both on the economic and strategic fronts. And, according to popular political theory, if the challenger is unhappy with the existing world order, it could launch a war against the dominating power to change the norms underpinning the existing order.

Since the United States has been the only superpower for long, it has played the dominant role in establishing the existing world order. The political norms of this order are multilateralism and sovereign equality. The economic norms are free trade, cooperation and integration, and the principal security norm is non-use of force.

The big question is: Is China unhappy with the world order or its norms?

At the ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting in July, China rejected the Philippines' proposal of a "freeze" of the present situation in the countries' territorial dispute, which might have led many to believe that it could be unhappy with the world order. However, a country does not have to sacrifice its core interests even if it is satisfied with the world order. Plus, China has made it clear on more than one occasion that it will never compromise on sovereignty and territorial integrity.

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