Editor's note: Nelson Wong is an executive director and senior research fellow at the Shanghai Centre for RimPac Strategic and International Studies. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN.
Against the backdrop of unsettled geopolitical tensions, growing global security threats, and a looming economic slowdown worldwide, the recent G20 Summit in Bali and the subsequent APEC meeting in Bangkok have brought some hope for the way forward in an already troubled world. More noticeably, however, the meetings of many global leaders with Chinese President Xi Jinping during the two events have drawn the attention of people around the world. They also have allowed the people at home in China to gain more confidence in their country's increasingly important role on the world stage and its balanced policy to promote global stability and economic recovery for everyone.
It is fair to say that the world today is in a state of uncertainty never seen before and unwanted by many. Moving into the end of the third year since the outbreak of a worldwide pandemic, global economic recovery is still slow along with rising inflation in many countries that are at the same time suffering from a serious disruption of supply chains. The ongoing military conflict in Ukraine has caused the loss of thousands of lives and the destruction of Ukraine as a country. But the nature of the war being a direct confrontation between Russia and the U.S.-led West means that the end is still far from sight.
Parallel to the above-mentioned, the fear of China overtaking the U.S. to become the largest economy in the world has prompted Washington to initiate an economic decoupling to contain China's development. The effort, although without much success, has by and large divided the world and put many into confusion, if not despair. Adding to the uncertainty, the provocative visits of senior American officials to China's Taiwan in recent months have met with an uncompromising response from Beijing that has led some to believe that a military conflict between China and the U.S. might be inevitable.
It was under these circumstances that the G20 and APEC meetings took place this year with people around the world eagerly hoping to see their leaders at least reach some kind of a consensus. However, with the absence of many world leaders from the "group picture" which has long been symbolic of a typical G20 Summit, the lack of unity among world leaders was more than obvious. That confirmed once again the reality that our world is facing turbulent times with all of us sailing into unchartered waters.
That said, and despite the gloomy outlook in general, resilience is what makes humans special and hope is what has always kept us surviving and thriving. That hope is now in Asia. Clearly, the West-centric world has shifted towards the Pacific era with the rise of China and the strong growth of other Asian economies. The expanding importance of ASEAN and the huge potential as demonstrated by countries in Latin America, MENA and Africa, all point to the fact that our world's mechanisms, institutions, and in particular, our mentality and perception of how the world may function, will have to adjust to changes that have perhaps come quicker than expected.
As the driving force of our journey into the future, the U.S. and China, the world's two largest economies, are expected to work together as partners rather than as competitors or rivals. In this context, despite growing tensions between the two countries, the recent meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the outset of the G20 Summit sent a positive message and paved the way for subsequent communications and dialogues between the two governments. That's as they work to find solutions to resolve the differences and disputes between the two countries. After all, it takes two to tango, and now the two parties are ready to sit down and talk. That at least is a good beginning.
What is worthy of note also is that in his speeches during both gatherings, President Xi voiced China's sincerity to work hand in hand with other nations to strive for a better tomorrow. He also urged Asians to have the confidence and resolve to offer the positive energy needed to ensure the continued peace and development that the world requires more than ever. The affirmative response towards Xi's call is encouraging to the extent that many of the doubts about China's lack of transparency in its policies and global strategy for economic growth are now proven to be groundless.
Recognizing the cultural and historical differences among nations is the first step towards understanding the behaviours of different countries. It is the diversity of our cultures and civilisations that makes our world interesting, although it can sometimes also cause us to be confused and distrustful towards each other. This is why communications and interaction among peoples of different cultures have been instrumental in the advancement of our civilisations. Equally important, if not more, are the bilateral and multilateral dialogues among our country leaders and governments that are expected to manage our differences and find solutions to the challenges we are facing.
China is a newcomer to the world stage but has been trying hard to adjust to becoming an active participant and responsible actor in world affairs that befits a global power. While recognising China's rapid economic achievements and its success to have lifted almost 700 million of its people out of poverty, the world may sometimes have failed to understand that "the peaceful rise of China" is not just a statement from the Chinese government. Rather, it translates the voice of the Chinese people through our traditional values that celebrate hard work, constraint and belief in coexistence. In this context, China's leadership is right to have called for the building of a community of shared future for mankind.
It is unrealistic to expect that all of our world's problems can be resolved as a result of a few meetings of our leaders. But meetings such as the recent G20 and APEC gatherings are still irreplaceable in that the attendance of our leaders can show their shared willingness to hopefully save the world from going off track. What remains to be seen is the ensuing actions by the respective countries to settle their disagreements in order to bring peace and prosperity to us all. Those efforts will require both resolve and wisdom.