GP Short Notes

GP Short Notes # 630, 24 April 2022

China: Boao Forum for Asia brings the world's attention to the Indo-Pacific
Avishka Ashok

What happened?
On 20 April, China hosted the Boao Forum for Asia in Hainantitled "The World in COVID-19 and Beyond: Working Together for Global Development and Shared Future." President Xi Jinping delivered the keynote address and stressed promoting multilateralism to develop the post-pandemic global economy and proposed a Global Security Initiative to promote the security of all countries in the world. 

Xi said: "It is important that we stay committed to maintaining security in both traditional and non-traditional domains, and work together on regional disputes and global challenges such as terrorism, climate change, cybersecurity and biosecurity."

He also highlighted other challenges that the Global Security Initiative would work towards these challenges include respecting and protecting the sovereignty and integrity of all countries, rejecting the cold war mentality in international affairs, avoiding sanctions, and resolving issues through diplomatic means. On protecting regional peace and stability, Xi said: "we should resolutely safeguard peace in Asia. Peace and stability in our region does not fall into our lap automatically or come as charity from any country. Rather, it is the result of the joint efforts of countries in the region. The Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence and the Bandung Spirit, first advocated by Asia, are all the more relevant today."

The forum was attended by over 3000 delegates representing the governments, businesses, academia, and media worldwide. The forum also invited religious leaders and others. 
On 23 April, a CGTN opinion said: "It is believed that BFA 2022 can be an opportunity for representatives from various countries to come together to find creative solutions for the problems facing Asia and the world at large. The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the fragile nature of the international order, both politically and economically."

What is the background?
First, China's increasing engagement in Asia. China has become the largest trading partner for many countries. However, Beijing's engagement has been the highest in Central Asia, Southeast Asia and South Asia. China began investing deeply in the socio-economic and political aspects of the Central Asian countries in the early 2000s. It is currently collaborating on promoting green energy and nuclear energy in Central Asia. A report on 'China's Engagement with Smaller South Asian Countries' by the United States Institute of Peace also observed a similar pattern of heavy Chinese funding in South Asia since the 2000s. China has funded several projects in Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh. Owing to the geographic proximity and the "good-neighbourly" policy, China has stepped up its activities in Southeast Asia. The country has also increased its participation in regional organizations like the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), ASEAN and BRICS. In March 2022, it was invited to participate in the OIC summit in Pakistan, portraying the importance given to China by regional groupings. 

Second, China's Belt and Road Initiative and Asia. Out of the 146 countries engaging with China on BRI, 47 countries belong to the Asian and Pacific region. China has 261 ongoing projects in Central Asia and plays a crucial role in developing rail and road connectivity, energy connectivity, industrial development, agriculture and food production, petroleum exploration, finance and IT and people-to-people exchanges. The BRI in South Asia includes four sub-projects: China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor, the Trans-Himalayan Corridor and the Maritime Silk route which seeks to engage with Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. Energy and transport infrastructure remains China's major investments in Southeast Asia.

Third, the push to have the Chinese Yuan as an alternative financial engagement. In 2010, the Boao Forum for Asia, the yuan's flexibility was discussed in detail and was the most captivating issue that was discussed. In 2015, the yuan climbed nine ranks in three years to become the fourth most-used currency globally. China under Xi Jinping has advocated the use of yuan and expressed the desire to offer an alternative to the dollar for the past decade. In 2022, Russian banks observed a sharp increase in the use of yuan after the US and the West imposed sanctions and restricted the economy dependent on the dollar. China is slowly inching closer to its dream of replacing the dollar as the globally accepted legal tender for international trade. 

Fourth, China's efforts to address the Indo-Pacific push. The Boao Forum for Asia is a strong response to the growing interference of foreign countries in the Indo-Pacific region. In the last two decades, China has strengthened its position as the regional superpower and has reacted strongly to the interference of the US, the EU and other Western countries. The growing cooperation amongst countries in Asia with groups like the Quad have further caused concern in China over the growing anti-China sentiments in the world order. As the fight for the Indo-Pacific intensifies, China is making sure that it retains its influence in its backyard.

What does it mean?
The Boao Forum for Asia in April 2022 registered the primordial fight for the Indo-Pacific region. China has made sure to emphasize its influence in the region. It also recognizes its stakes and investments in Asia and knows that it cannot afford to lose ground to any other country. The main challenges to the Chinese hegemony in Asia is caused by the US and the growing investments of the West. Although it's hard to restrict the actions of other sovereign countries, the forum aimed to reinforce its supremacy in the Indo-Pacific. The Asian countries will play a vital role by becoming the deciding factor that can impact the future of the world order.