In the wake of more isolationist political thinking in the West, and with many developed economies turning inward, China is reaching out, seeking stronger trade, and investment links with its economic partners.
ASEAN is one of them. Economic relations between China and ASEAN have been growing strongly, with the Central American Free-Trade Agreement (CAFTA), the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and the new Belt and Road Initiative.
However, faced with uncertainties from Trump's Asia-Pacific strategy as well as geographic disputes in this region, the question of how to deepen ties to fight against anti-globalization and protectionism is a prime issue for East Asian economic integration.
During this year's Shangri-La Dialogue security talks in Singapore, CGTN's Yang Rui sat down with five panelists to talk about Trump's withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement and whether the US is giving up its leadership role and will China replace it in the Asia-Pacific region.
Andrew Staples, director of the Economist Corporate Network in Southeast Asia said withdrawing from the Paris Agreement certainly indicated that the US was stepping back from its leadership role, particularly in the post-war period.
Trump's pullout of the TPP was evidence of that, but at the same time, there was a ramp-up of military operation within this region as well, so it's very difficult to conclude that the US is stepping back its leadership role, but it seems to be evolving and changing.
Asked whether Japan or China will be the second country to assume global leadership during the absence of the US, Brendan Taylor from Australian National University said the order of Asia will be very different over the next few decades. There will be an emergence of multi-polar order with many countries trying to play leadership, not a single country.
Benjamin A. Schupmann at Division of Social Sciences at Yale-Nus College said although Trump has been attempting to withdraw the US from a lot of important relations including relations in Asia, other centers of gravity in the US government have at least attempted to show up at what Trump seems to want to destroy. Obviously Trump is the most significant center of gravity, but there is a move against it within the US.
Rohan Mukherjee, an assistant professor of Political Science at Yale-NUS College, said the new Silk Road focuses on central Asia. There's no inherent challenge to the Belt and Road Initiative or the other way around.
India boycotts this process because the sea pact of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor runs through contestant territory between India and Pakistan. But India misses the Belt and Road Initiative as an opportunity. India can benefit from a large amount of investment from the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), from China. It's short-sighted by not engaging with China on this issue.
When asked about the reason that intra-ASEAN trade is less than trade with outside partners through bilateral FTA or domestic initiative, Lim Tai Wei from the East Asian Institute, National University of Singapore said ASEAN is based on consensus-seeking and decision-making processes.
In December 2015, ASEAN formed an economic community, with the hope that an ASEAN economic community can strengthen production networks intra-ASEAN so that the whole region can be more integrated and become more competitive, especially in the face of fast-emerging large economies like India and China.
So it's trying to push forward this project and this is where AIIB and the Belt and Road Initiative play a role in the infrastructure construction. The ports and highways and railways help to integrate the economies of ASEAN closer together so that the countries within ASEAN can base its comparative advantage and produce certain parts of particular product for exports within and outside ASEAN.
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