In addition to the China-Korea FTA, leaders at last week’s APEC summit in Beijing also concluded a range of other agreements, understandings, and diplomatic goals.
Currently, APEC’s member nations are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, The United States, Vietnam, and Taiwan, under the name Chinese Taipei. As a whole, APEC’s member nations represent 40% of the world’s population, 54% of global GDP, and 44% of world trade.
Among the headline agreements, the United States and China both agreed to cut greenhouse gas emissions for after 2020. The United States announced it will reduce emissions by at least 26% by the year 2025, and China promised it will achieve peak CO2 emissions by 2030, with 20% of its energy from non-fossil fuel sources.
US Secretary of State John Kerry wrote in the New York Times that the agreement between the US and China, countries which account for 40% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, is historic. However, according to NPR, the 20% target in 2030 represents all of China’s current power output, which means China will have to build the energy infrastructure of “another China” by 2030. Some other experts say that China’s emissions needs to start decreasing earlier than 2030 to have a positive impact on climate change.
In March, China is expected to release the actual peak emission figure it intends to achieve in 2030. Analysts predict this figure to be around 10 billion metric tons, compared to a little over 8 billion metric tons currently.
Less discussed is the continuing efforts towards a Free Trade Agreement of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP). During the ministerial meetings in Beijing ahead of the leaders’ summit, the ministers agreed to a roadmap for the FTAAP proposed by China. The roadmap called for “building on current and developing regional architectures” such as the TPP and RCEP trading blocs under negotiation. According to Taiwan’s China Times, a pledge to conclude the FTAAP by 2025 was deleted at the last moment, possibly due to US pressure. Some have interpreted China’s proactive stance in pursuing the FTAAP as a public challenge to American power in the Pacific and the TPP, which excludes China.
As the host nation, China has also reportedly promoted its “Silk Road” strategy, aiming to win over trading partners along the old trade routes connecting China to Europe centuries ago. Over land, the route stretches through the ethnically troubled region of Xinjiang, and through Central Asia and the Arab world; on the seas, the route reaches Southeast Asia, India, and east Africa. Historic rhetoric aside, the project promises opportunities in outbound infrastructure investments from China, in pipelines, ports, rail, and road construction.
The plan represents yet another sign of China taking a more assertive role in building its global influence; it has moved on from the days of asking for foreign investments, and is becoming a global investor itself. However, also assertive is China’s effort to push for its territorial claims in the South China Sea. The Philippines, which has brought its territorial disputes with China to international court, is reportedly not included in the Silk Road initiatives.
Finally, China-Japan relations received a slight reprieve during the APEC summit, as Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe awkwardly shook hands for the camera, the first time in three years for leaders of the two countries. Representing the world’s second and third largest economies, recent relations have been cool and sometimes hostile over the Diaoyutai or Senkaku Islands, claimed by Japan, Taiwan, and China (through its claim over Taiwan).
Immediately following APEC, Southeast Asian leaders, including those not part of the APEC club, met in Naypyidaw, Myanmar, for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit. On the agenda was China’s South China Sea behavior, but as China increases its economic incentives in loans and trade deals with Southeast Asia, ASEAN is not expected to come to consensus on a strong reaction against China.