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East Asia Summit 2021: New Milestones

Tough confrontation or mutually beneficial cooperation - the participants of the East Asian summit were looking for answers to the age-old question of the coexistence regime.

The 2021th East Asia Summit, which took place at the end of October 16, is known to a wide Russian audience, first of all, for the speech of the President of Russia, V.V. Putin. Naturally, the agenda of the summit is not determined by the speech of the head of one state, and the significance of such an event goes beyond the speech of the leaders of the participating countries. Both the rhetoric of specific participants and joint statements indicate that the international community is trying to find the most effective ways of development in the post-like world.

East Asia Summit 2021: New Milestones
Photo: East Asia Summit Organizing Committee

The East Asian Summit was first convened in 2005 under the auspices of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), when it became clear that regional problems and solutions were not limited to the South East Pacific. Therefore, Australia, India and the countries of Northeast Asia are among the participants, and in 2011 Russia and the United States officially joined. In total, 18 participants represent 54% of the world's population and 62% of the world's gross product. As a rule, the meetings of the leaders of the participating countries end with a final statement, which deals with the most problematic and acute issues in international relations. This year, both at the level of ambassadors and ministers and heads of state, issues of environment and energy, education, finance, health in a global context, interaction within ASEAN, economic cooperation and trade, food security and shipping were discussed.

At the end of the 2021 program, the countries made three joint statements. Firstly, it is the need to restore the tourism sector to ensure economic growth. Indeed, the budget of many states in the region is filled by the tourism industry by 10%, or even all 20-30%. However, we are talking not only and not so much about tourism in its “pure form”, but about the whole reforming of the system of movement of large human flows, which are one of the mechanisms of globalization and an open world, which many participants are trying to preserve. If we call everything by their proper names, then it is appropriate to talk about an attempt to return to “dock-like” rates of economic growth, but not about a breakthrough in the field of foreign economic activity.

Secondly, it was announced about cooperation in the field of preserving the mental health of citizens. And in this case, it is appropriate to assert that we are talking about a problem of a broader nature than the prevention of mental illness. It should not be forgotten that the coronavirus pandemic was preceded by a long economic downturn that began with the crisis in the American economy in 2007-2008. The decline in incomes of the population, the "shrinking" of the middle class, the instability of financial institutions - all this, as well as other economic problems, has already negatively affected the social structure of most states. These phenomena are taking place against the background of accelerating changes in the areas of transformation of society and the development of technology. The global outbreak of COVID-19 exacerbated the already precarious situation in the global economy and dealt a painful blow to humanity and, above all, to the poorest and most protected segments of the population. Thus, the depressing state in the socio-economic sphere obviously affects specific citizens and their families. Moreover, everything described assumes the growth of large-scale problems and, taking into account the curtailment of many socially-oriented projects.

Third, the need for sustainable recovery measures was voiced. In fact, such a statement is not so much a call "for all good versus all bad." Far from it! It is about the need to make informed decisions for all participating States. This is quite problematic both on a global scale and at the level of East Asia in the conditions of a “perfect storm”. Accordingly, the topic of the third statement is as obvious and topical as it is, and is just as difficult to implement from the point of view of real politics.

In fact, the previous speeches of each leader representing his state are an attempt to outline that very stable development in the real field of interests of one or another participant.

In this context, the points of view of the leaders of individual states on certain prospects and problems of international development are interesting. Thus, US President Joe Biden expressed "deep concern over China's actions in the Taiwan Strait." The Prime Minister of Japan also supported him. And it is natural that such an attempt to focus international issues in the Pacific region on the alleged aggressive actions of the PRC caused discontent and harsh rebuke from Beijing.

Canberra endured similar rhetoric when Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison began by “supporting prosperity and stability in the region with ASEAN at its core,” and ended with an apologia for the newly born militarist bloc AUKUS (Australia, Britain and the United States).

Naturally, out of 18 participants, there were also those who directly opposed such statements. The President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, in his characteristic manner bluntly stated on this matter: "The proposals should complement, not complicate our working methods for cooperation."

In turn, the leading player in the region, India, declared the desired future for the development of East Asia, without trying to aggravate the situation. Despite serious contradictions with the People's Republic of China, New Delhi wisely limited itself to fixing problem areas, signaling its readiness to peacefully solve emerging problems, including shipping problems.

Against this background, the speech of the President of Russia V.V. Putin looked quite weighty, who, having touched upon the importance of economic cooperation with the participating states, was able to unite both the global and local agendas.

Noting the growth of threats in the region, Vladimir Putin stressed that coronavirus infection has become a trigger for many negative processes. In this regard, the Russian leader spoke of the need for common efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Mutual recognition of vaccines is also becoming significant in this context, which in the future will contribute to the restoration of world trade and investment flows. Already with a greater local focus, the idea of ​​training epidemiologists from ASEAN countries on the basis of the Vladivostok Center for the Study of Biosafety Problems in the Asia-Pacific Region (APR) was voiced. Another important component was the question of terminating the Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles in the Region. Vladimir Putin recalled that Russia was conducting a unilateral moratorium on the deployment of intermediate and shorter-range missiles in the Asia-Pacific region.

Thus, the East Asia Summit 2021, despite certain disagreements among the participants regarding the regional agenda, became one of the tools for creating the contours of a new world order. To some extent, we can say that at the Summit of East Asian States, the participating countries discussed the dilemma of forming either rigidly outlined structures based on regulation through military mechanisms, or a more labile system of regional relations built on the basis of economic cooperation, taking into account humanitarian component. It is hoped that the second option has more chances for development.

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