Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Rising to the security challenges

(China Daily) Updated: 2014-05-19 08:13

China faces both traditional and non-traditional security challenges. The traditional security challenges are mainly its dispute with Japan over the Diaoyu Islands and the territorial disputes with some Southeast Asian countries in the South China Sea. These traditional security challenges for China are challenges for the entire Asia-Pacific region, too, because any conflict that involves China is bound to affect the other countries, both politically and economically.

Compared with traditional security challenges, non-traditional ones are often without borders and, hence, their impact can be more far-reaching. But, at the same time, they are less sensitive, making it easier for countries to cooperate to deal with them.

So, China should first deepen its cooperation with other countries on non-traditional security challenges, and build a strong regional cooperation mechanism through the process. This will also help promote China's regional governance abilities, like setting agendas, working out norms and coordinating resources. Following are some fields open for cooperation:

Disaster management. As a region that shares the largest ocean as well as the largest continent, the Asia-Pacific is vulnerable to natural disasters. In 2011 alone, floods created havoc in Thailand, Australia and the Philippines, and earthquakes devastated Japan and New Zealand, affecting 170 million people and causing a loss of $282 billion. Although East Asian countries have established multiple mechanisms to tackle natural disasters, they need to be widened and strengthened to promote deeper mutual trust.

Food security. The 2007-08 world grain crisis intensified the competition, and thus conflicts, among East Asian countries for grain resources. Although the eighth East Asia Summit in 2013 issued a declaration on food security, the resultant mechanism for cooperation is still weak. As one of the world's leading grain producers, China can fill the blank by taking initiatives for cooperation.

Environmental protection. Sandstorms and smog show that "pollution is without borders", with some media outlets in the Republic of Korea even claiming that 60 percent of the country's smog "comes from China". The figure may not be accurate, but the development offers China an opportunity to work with other countries to protect the environment.

Epidemic prevention. Asia has certain advantages in conducting research on epidemic diseases. China, on its part, has accumulated ample experience by tackling epidemics such as SARS in 2003 and bird flu several times. Therefore, it can help relatively less developed countries and regions with its technologies and expertise to conduct research on some diseases.

Maritime security. Actually, there is great need and potential for cooperation in maritime transportation, marine environmental protection, rescue and relief operations, and maritime dispute resolution. China should initiate and lead the cooperation mechanism to dispel the doubts of some countries over its disputes in the East China Sea and the South China Sea. An example of such cooperation is the search operations to find the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which disappeared after taking off from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing on March 8. Such cooperation between multiple countries should continue.

Wei Ling, director of Asia-Pacific Center, China Foreign Affairs University.

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