Senior political leader James Soong will represent Taiwan at this week's APEC leaders summit in Vietnam. There are unconfirmed reports that Soong will meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping during the summit to discuss Taiwan's relations with China. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Yang Ming

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) is made up of 21 economies whose members are home to about to 2.8 billion people and account for nearly 60% of global GDP, 48% of global trade and 53% of foreign direct investment.

Vietnam this week is hosting the APEC  leaders summit in the coastal city of Da Nang. The summit will focus on four priority areas:

  1. Promoting sustainable, innovative and inclusive growth.
  2. Deepening regional economic integration.
  3. Strengthening competitiveness and innovation in micro, small and medium enterprises.
  4. Enhancing food security and sustainable agriculture in response to climate change.

Populist politics, transactional politics, rising protectionism, widening inequality, disruptive technology, and climate change are worrying issues dogging world economies.

Open multilateral trade and investment

In this environment, China is promoting an open multilateral economic system to facilitate trade and investment. Its ambitious transnational One Belt One Road project aims to include all regional entities, including APEC.

China also wants to promote cross-border commerce with its Asia-Pacific “Model of E-port Network” to create better information sharing among regional ports.

Taiwan has played an active role at each APEC summit, and while China disputes the island country’s legitimacy, Beijing doesn’t discourage Taipei from participating at regional and international economic events as a separate economic entity.

APEC is much more than a regional forum for Taipei because it provides a valuable platform for Taiwanese officials to make direct contact with developing and developed economies.

Since Tsai Ing-wen was elected president of Taiwan, the communication gap between Beijing and Taipei has improved, even though China believes Tsai wants formal independence for Taiwan, an unacceptable move for Beijing.

Taiwan willing to cooperate with Beijing

Senior political leader James Soong, who will represent Taiwan at this week’s summit, said the island country is willing to engage and cooperate with Beijing. “ … both sides of the Taiwan Strait should have some constructive dialogue,” Soong told reporters. He plans to convey the island’s desire for peace, stability, and exchange if he speaks to (Chinese) President Xi Jinping.

A meeting between Soong and Xi, which has not been confirmed, may help deter detractors who are unwilling to see a shared future with Beijing and Taipei and who resist cross-strait reconciliation.

The meeting would come less than a month after the Communist Party of China elected a new leadership is at its key party congress. During the 19th CPC congress, President Xi spoke of sharing development, “peaceful unification,” and described the people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait as brothers and sisters.

After Xi’s speech, Tsai Ing-wen said that a breakthrough in cross-strait relations would benefit both sides in the long term.

APEC was established to help increase interdependence among Asia-Pacific economies and to build strong regional integration. The concept of a common community can play a vital role at this summit. Beijing and Taipei can work together and as long as they employ common courtesy then confidence and mutual trust will improve.

Imran Ali Sandano

Dr Imran Ali Sandano is author of Sufism and Peace: A Counter Strategy of Extremism and Separatist Movement of Balochistan: A Nontraditional Security Threat. He holds a PhD in nontraditional security management, an MPhil in peace and conflict studies, and a master's degree in international relations. Dr Sandano is Assistant Professor at University of Sindh, Pakistan and visiting research fellow at the Center for Nontraditional Security and Peaceful Development, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China.