Jiemian YANG finds the enduring UN principles amid challenging global and regional changes (16/10/2015)

 In his keynote speech at the 15th East Asian Seminar on the UN system, Jiemian YANG, President Emeritus, Shanghai Institutes for Int’l Studies noted the need for East Asia to build up more consensus on the future orientations of their partnerships of regional and global governance.

 YANG Jiemian (楊潔勉) was the President of the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, SIIS (2007-2013) and now is Senior Fellow and Chairman of the SIIS Council of Academic Affairs and the Shanghai Municipal Government’s Counselor. Concurrently, Dr. Yang is a member of the Foreign Policy Advisory Group of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China, Vice President of China Association of American Studies, President of Shanghai Society of International Strategic Studies. He has been directors of many national and Shanghai key projects of social sciences. Dr. Yang specializes in the studies of international system and major power relation, and the author or co-authors of two dozens of relevant books and more than one hundred professional essays either in Chinese or English. He delivered the keynote speech at the outset of the trilateral annual seminar of the UN academic councils of China, Japan and Republic of Korea.


United Nations and East Asian Partnership
in Global and Regional Governance

Keynote Speech at the 15th East Asian Seminar on the UN System

Fudan University, Shanghai, October 16, 2015

Jiemian YANG, President Emeritus, Shanghai Institutes for Int’l Studies


Ladies and Gentlemen:

 It is both a great honor and challenge to deliver a speech centering on the United Nations and the East Asian Partnership in Global and Regional Governance on the occasion of the UN 70th Anniversary. It is, of course, a great honor for me to be entrusted to talk about this important topic to this distinguished audience. It is also a daunting challenge since so much has been talked, discussed and expounded about. Finally, I decided to approach this great topic by examining what have remained true and what have had to be readjusted in the past 70 years, and looking forward to the UN and East Asia in the upcoming years.

I. Time-Tested and -Honored Truth
1.1. The world and East Asia have both witnessed great changes since the end of World War II and the Founding of the United Nations.

 These great changes are mainly of three kinds. The first kind of changes is about war and peace. The world and East Asia have witnessed the Cold War, Korean War and Vietnam War, as well as the post-Cold War developments with bi-foci of non-proliferation efforts and non-traditional security concerns. On the whole, both the world and East Asia have avoided the massive and bloody wars of the WWI and WWII kind.

 The second kind of changes is related to economic development. If the world achieved economic recovery from the devastating Second World War faster than expected, then East Asia has been an important engine of new development by continuous economic growth and restructuring to higher planes. Japan took the lead in East Asia’s economic recovery and take-off. The ROK was prominent in the emerging of the Newly Industrializing Economies (NIEs) or the Four Small Dragons. China’s economic progresses earned the global recognition of the East Asian economic miracle.

 The third kind of changes is about global and regional endeavors for better governance against the background of globalization, regionalism and information age. The agendas have greatly been broadened. The actors have, both intensively and extensively, been expanded. The complexities of the global affairs have been ever deepening.

 All of the above mentioned and non-mentioned changes have constituted for our time’s trends of peace, development and win-win cooperation. These changes have also provided us with new point of departure and perspectives of the global, regional, national and sub-national affairs.

1.2. Many of the changes have not outdated UN guiding principles and continuous practices but renewed them in the changed and changing circumstances. In my opinion, the following have stood the test of time as well as changes:

 Firstly, the purposes and principles the UN Charter are not outdated. They have remained as relevant as ever before in the past 70 years. President Xi Jinping pointed out at a study session of the CCP Politburo on October 12, 2015 that the world’s continuous chaos should not be blamed for the outdatedness of the UN Charter but its non-compliance and non-implementation. Of course, it is also important that the international community renews and updates the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and, more importantly, enriches and reinvigorates them in light of the trends of our time and the needs of the world. Therefore, the most pressing jobs are the addition of global efforts, consultation, coordination and promotion of meeting global challenges.

 Secondly, the international system and order centered on the UN and its affiliations are not outdated. The United Nations is the most universal, representative and authoritative international organization of the present world. It has greatly contributed to peace and development through its organizations and mechanisms. Any reform and updating of the international system should base them on the United Nations. In the earlier years of this century, the U.S. tried to bypass the UN on the Middle East issues, only resulting its own discredits and the present messy situation in Libya, Syria and the like.

 Thirdly, the world’s main agendas set by the United Nations are not outdated. In the past 70 years, the UN as the most representative and authoritative intergovernmental organization in the world, with its three pillars of peace and security, development, and human rights, has played an irreplaceable role and accomplished a great deal in promoting human progress. Having said so, we must also recognize the new changes and challenges of today’s world.

II. Keeping Up with the Times

 70 years is just less than a split of a second in the long history of the mankind, yet a period long enough to see the fundamental developments in international politics and world economy. The world should never be complacent with what it has had but strives for new principles, new agendas and new mechanisms, in other words, the global and regional governance. Therefore, the United Nations as well as East Asia should work hard at readjusted and adaptation in order to keep up with the times.

2.1. We must strive for conceptualization and theory Building.

 Both the United Nations and East Asia have transformed their ideas and ideals of global and regional governance. Three aspects have stood out prominently. Firstly, re-defining the roles of state and government. Nation-state had long been the basic actor in international relations since the establishment of Westphalia system in 1648. However, in the context of globalization, pluralism and diversifying levels of sub- and trans-national actors, great efforts are being made to re-conceptualize the roles of the state and the government.

 Secondly, promoting neo-regionalism. In the absence of world government and effective management in global governance, the United Nations has given greater recognition of regionalism. East Asia has sought for a neo-regionalism based on inclusiveness and focused on economic affairs. The ASEAN, “10+3”, EAS and some other sub-regional cooperation frameworks constitute East Asian regionalism efforts.

 Thirdly, working at globalism. The United Nations has been absorbing new ideas and concepts, such as global governance, new security concepts and trans-national outlooks. It also has been attaching greater importance to development and human rights. In addition, East Asia is more conscientiously integrating its regional efforts with global implication.

2.2. We must redefine and expand the agendas.

 Among the three main contents of the UN agenda, peace and security has no doubt to be the UN’s first and foremost one. But what the UN’s security concerned in the 1940s through to the 1960s is very different from what the current concerns of the United Nations. Thanks to the UN efforts, the world has both expanded the contents and promoted the consensus. Nowadays, security has included both traditional and non-traditional matters. Most of the countries and people have agreed that common security is much desirable than exclusive one because security with others is safer and securer than security against others.

 Development was equated to economic growth in the initial decades of the United Nations’ then agendas. People did have good reasons to think so and act accordingly in the long years of poverty, scarcity and longing for economic wealth. Later on, the world has recognized that economic growth alone was far from enough. Consequentially, the United Nations has gradually replaced economic growth with comprehensive, balanced and sustainable development.

 Comprehensive development includes the fields of economic growth and restructuring, social progresses and good governance. Balanced development calls for consulted and coordinated developments both inside and outside any given country. It also aims at social justice and equality. Sustainable development attaches greater importance to environmental protection and ecological awareness. All these have been added into the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals, which put out higher targets and specific and indexed requirements for the world in general and East Asia in particular.

 Human Rights were already the UN goals in its initial years. In 1946 United Nations set up the Commission on Human Rights. In 1948 the United Nations formally adopted Universal Declaration of Human Rights. However, the replacement of the Commission on Human Rights by the UN Human Rights Council in 2006 was an epoch-making event and ushered in a new era of UN promotion of human rights in the present world. Despite the fact that there are some differences and debates on the human rights issues, the UN’s roles in this respect are mainly positive. East Asia human rights are also making great progresses by attaching greater and deepening importance to this issue. Human rights like anything else, there is no “best” but a bettering process in the constant progresses.

III. Better Region, Better World

 East Asia is the region that the global gravity is shifting to geo-strategically and economically. Its improvement and enhancement of regional governance constitute one of the most important components of the global governance.

3.1. There are both strength and weakness in East Asian Partnerships in term of regional governance.

 The strength of East Asian partnership mainly lies in the economic field. East Asia enjoys relatively solid economic basis and closer economic intertwining. It has built up economic cooperation framework centering on the APEC, ASEAN plus and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). Much of the weakness is related to geo-politics and geo-strategies. East Asia is the only region that has to face with the lingering leftover of the Cold War. The Korean Peninsula remains the hotbed of turmoil and military conflicts.

3.2. We must enhance regional partnership for better governance. Governance has many levels.

 On the regional level in East Asia, regional political and security order stand out most prominently. East Asian countries have their important and pressing responsibilities to reduce tensions and increase cooperation. More specifically speaking, East Asian countries must make progresses in regional security cooperation and manage the North Korean nuclear issue in particular. Besides, the countries concerned should also pay greater attention to the complex combination of both traditional and non-traditional security threats.

 Without regional partnership, especially that of China, Japan and the ROK, and that of the ASEAN plus China, Japan and the ROK, any attempts to improve governance are just empty talks. Therefore, China, Japan and the ROK must find their way of overcoming their differences and achieving new cooperation. All the parties concerned should realize that the emphasis of their partnership building and preserving must be laid on the political and security aspects. Japan should look for the appropriate way to go out of the shadow of the WWII instead of denying the history and wrong moves at present.

 While stressing the importance of political and security aspects, East Asia must go forward with their economic efforts. First of all, East Asia must strengthen the regional economic framework in promoting economic progress and cooperation. East Asia should transcend the spaghetti noodle overlapping of economic mechanisms and move into more integrated and streamlined ones. Besides, East Asia must lift up their competence in managing economy and promoting international economic exchanges. East Asia’s past and present efforts include financial and monetary fields. It is unfair that President Obama denies China’s right of economic rule-making and excluded China from the initial and forming of the TPP. Therefore, East Asia must move up the economic ladder by playing a bigger role in financial and monetary matters. Finally, East Asia must work at economic restructuring and innovation, thus staying in the forefront of economic development.

3.3. We must reinforce the interaction between regional and global governance.

 East Asia is closely linked with other regions and countries in the world. Therefore, any efforts to enhance regional partnership and governance must be linked with the outside factors and players throughout the relevant processes. East Asia must aim high in planning and making contributions to the global governance. East Asia should and could contribute to the enhancement of international system and order, maintenance of peace and stability, and providing momentum for stronger and sustainable economic development.

 Likewise, East Asia should and could also take the advantages of good global governance while avoiding its disadvantages whenever and wherever it is possible. While combining regional efforts with the global ones, East Asia needs to work with the “outsiders” such as the United States, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, etc. Of all the outsiders, the United States is the most important factor and must be dealt in an effective and mutually beneficial manner, especially to cope with the new developments as a result of its rebalancing strategy in the Asia Pacific Region.

IV. Concluding Remarks

 To conclude, I would like to call your attention to the following four points at a time of both retrospect and prospect on the occasion of the UN 70th anniversary.

 Firstly, East Asia needs to further consolidate the bases of practices of various partnerships. As the Chinese saying goes, practice is the sole criterion for testing truth. The past 70 years of practices of partnerships in East Asia have, by and large, vindicated that partnerships come into being in the course of objective needs and subjective wants. The realities have repeatedly shown that the partnerships have been playing important and positive roles to promote peace and development in the region. Besides, partnerships have been readjusted and improved along their courses of developments. To certain extent, all the parties concerned have learnt a great deal through their respective or collective practices of trial-and-error. Therefore, we must treasure our past practical lessons.

 More importantly, East Asia needs to explore for more partnerships at present and in the future. Under the new circumstances, East Asia needs to keep on what have been proved useful and effective, and strive for what are mostly needed to strengthen and develop partnerships in economic, political, diplomatic and security fields. The AIIB is a good case in point.

 Secondly, East Asia needs to build up more consensuses on the future orientations of their partnerships of regional and global governance. Here three points merit our attentions.

 Point One, East Asia should search for maximum agreements of the practical experiences. There are many different interpretation of East Asia’s past, which would not only prevent the region’s right understanding of the past, but also the concerted efforts for the future. Sometimes, it is useful to single out the differences for searching for solutions. Sometimes, it is even more useful to stress the successful commonalities for its future implication and application. Therefore, some past successes are still useful such as making the economic partnership as the fundamental one, starting from the easy to the more difficult, and practicing compromises.

 Point Two, East Asia should work together in charting its own future. It is true that at the time of globalization East Asia must be as inclusive as possible. East Asia needs to learn from all the wisdom and experiences of the whole world. Yet it is also true that East Asia should base on its own imaginations and practices as expressed in its economic miracle and common dealing with the financial crisis in 1997.

 Point Three, East Asia should have more than one scenario and have sufficient backups both strategically and policy-wise. While charting the future, changes and the unexpected are natural. East Asia is full of diversities. Therefore, only different levels of future demands and plans could be fitting the future needs and deeds.

 Thirdly, East Asia should encourage greater meeting of minds and innovation of ideas. In the past 70 years, some other regions are already ahead of East Asia in an enlightening way. Europe has advanced its partnership in a way to lead the world. Africa has self-proved its way of continent-wide partnership in the Africa Union. In West Hemisphere the OAS is being injected new momentum in this century-old partnership.

 As being a late-comer in regional partnership, East Asia needs more imagination and creativity. East Asia should not only achieve more coordination and integration in their intra-regional partnership, but also in their inter-regional cooperation. For instances, their respective partnership with Africa should not be offset each other, but reinforcing instead. In the past, China contributed to the region by insisting on peace and development. Japan contributed to the region by wild-goose theory of economic development. The ROK contributed to the world by North-Politick. Likewise, East Asia will become more creative in thinking and effective in practices so long as it stays on the right track and strives for partnership.

 Last but not least, East Asia must take concrete steps to solve the difficulties and remove the barriers. Among others, East Asia is still suffering from the Cold War legacy, overshadowed by nuclear threats, obsessed with maritime disputes and delayed regional architecture building. There are many ways to tackle with the difficulties and problems. The parties concerned could seek for solutions unilaterally, bilaterally and multilaterally. Here enlightening might be the traditional Chinese medicine philosophy to reduce the negative by building up the positive. For example, China and ROK have greatly enhanced their bilateral relations, which has put under control their maritime disputes over Suyan Rock (苏岩礁) or Ieodo (离於岛) as well as the historical interpretation of 高句丽or Koguryo. The similar can also be said with the maritime disputes between China and Brunei and Malaysia respectively. In one word, once the overall interests overwhelm the partial differences, the possibilities of overcoming the disputes are being enhanced. If the time is not yet mature, we can wait.

 With this cautious optimism, I would like to conclude my talk. Indeed, thank you very much for your kind attention and I am ready to take up your questions and comments.

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