Dr. HO, C.P. Patrick
Deputy Chairman and Secretary General, China Energy Fund Committee
Ladies and gentlemen,
Welcome to the third round of Sino-US Colloquium. Let me begin by expressing my thanks to all you who have travelled here from far and wide, to brave the cold today.
Given the ongoing rise of Asia’s influence and status in global strategic affairs, if the China-US-Japan strategic relation isn’t already the most important trilateral relationship in the world, it will almost certainly be so in the very near future!
The importance of the trilateral relations
This is because, whether in the overall size of their economy, energy consumption, military expenditure or other key indicators, all three countries are world leaders in virtually every dimension of national power. China and the United States are not only Permanent Members of the UN Security Council, they are also members of the super-exclusive global “nuclear club”. Japan and the United States have the two most technologically advanced economies in the world. They have historically contributed the most foreign aid, and continue to maintain long-term military ties. Individually, each of the three countries has an extraordinary impact on regional and global developments; if they work together that influence will be greatly magnified. More significantly, a refusal or inability by any one of the three to cooperate will have equally powerful negative consequences.
Political Trust and Global Security
Since America’s announcement of its pivot to Asia strategy, Sino-US relations became increasingly intense. Simultaneously, Sino-Japanese relations have sunk to the lowest point in decades triggered primarily by the dispute over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands. Complicating matters further, China and Japan both recently underwent a change of leadership and administration, while American President Obama was returned to the White House but has had to make important changes to his Cabinet. The situation is literally bubbling with pertinent questions. How should the United States and Japan perceive China’s relatively sudden rise to becoming the leading Power of Asia? And how should China react to America’s pivot to Asia? What different policies might arise as a result of fresh minds holding influential positions in the new administrations?
Other issues are muddying the waters. On the one hand, U. S. strategists and Japanese observers are taking a grim view of the successful tests made recently by China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, which has come through rigorous operational manoeuvers with flying colours.
Meanwhile, returning to the present situation, how should China, the U.S. and Japan overcome their current political reservations, if not outright strategic mistrust, to collaborate on the creation of a stable and prosperous new order in the Asia-Pacific regions . . . a new order that would be welcomed across the Asia-Pacific region because of the peace and prosperity it will bring.
The Asia-Pacific and Regional Stability
The first 12 years of the new millennium have seen dynamic change continue for China, and to a far lesser extent Japan, while the United States – like several countries in Europe – has continued to plunge into the abyss of a staggering burden of debt that continues to grow by the hour. As a result, the balance of power among the three is remarkably different from what it was less than 50 years ago. Also, national strategies and policies have undergone sweeping change. Thus the direction of the Sino-US-Japan trilateral relationship is highly dependent on the three governments’ perception of the best course they should take in furthering their individual interests. Also each will have to analyse and interpret the two other countries’ national interests and strategic plans, while also considering the predicted development of other Asia Pacific countries besides their own.
For example, how should China, the U. S. and Japan deal with the problem of North Korea, which seems to enjoy the confusion and fear it generates with its increasingly worrying rocket tests? Will the festering boil of the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands issue be lanced, and if so by whom? Can differences over offshore resources and navigational safety be settled amicably? And what of the biggest question of all – Taiwan? Will its status quo be maintained, or what other solution might be found regarding its ultimate fate, bearing in mind that Hong Kong returned to China in 1997 and Macau two years later.
And so we come down to the very pith of the matter -- What approaches could be taken to establish stable and effective modes of cooperation between Asia’s “Big Three” to mitigate the threat of conflict and ensure lasting peace and a continuation of prosperity throughout the Asia Pacific region?
Energy Security and Trilateral Cooperation
Let me herewith propose a practical and viable means of bringing the “Big Three” together with one purpose. Kindly consider the increasingly important focus the whole world is now placing on energy security. China, the U.S. and Japan are three of the world’s four largest primary commercial energy users. Their thirst for energy is reflected more broadly throughout the world: China now is the world’s second largest oil consumer just after the United States. Japan is the third largest net importer of oil, the second largest importer of coal and the largest importer of LNG. More than half (51%) of Chinese crude oil comes from the Middle East. Japan has a far greater ratio which reached 87% in 2011.
Although America’s dependency on Middle East oil has dropped due to the oil sands found in Canada and large oil reserves in the Gulf of Mexico, Saudi Arabia was still the third largest source of U.S. petroleum imports in 2011. Cooperative efforts in energy security – ranging from sharing technology to securing supplies – are the best entry point for facilitating trilateral cooperation for protecting the energy security of the Asia-Pacific region. In what ways could the “Big Three” most gainfully cooperate, not just in energy security but across the whole related field, including oil and gas drilling and development, technological advances and transfers, pipeline development and freedom of navigation, nuclear safety and nuclear non-proliferation, international monitoring and exchanges of information, plus policies on oil reserves and financial aspects?
While taking these steps to secure future energy supply, how could the “Big Three” also take action to mitigate problems and avoid future differences arising from zero-sum games so as to arrive at harmonious and win-win solutions?
Meanwhile, regarding energy security, an important point to remember is that China has most to contribute to development of new energy because of its admirable track record in solar power, hydropower, and windpower, being an acknowledged global leader in all three fields.
Reason for Trialogue
Let us also remember one thing, which I believe all pragmatists would agree concerning the region’s future peace and prosperity. “In this 21st century, no single Power (by which I mean country) will be able to dominate the Asia Pacific region, and no single Power will be capable of forcing others to accept such a Power’s own interests, rule and point of view.”
My argument is that China, the U.S. and Japan are too big and too important to one another to be dealt with as anything but fully autonomous partners. Dialogue and cooperation are essential because they constitute the only road toward regional stability and economic development. And that is the reason why we are here today.
Calling for Wisdom
Ladies and gentlemen, I know you did not come here today just to listen to the views of our speakers, or merely to attend this Colloquium itself. We are here because we believe in the importance of the proposed trilateral relationship. We are here because we believe there is an urgent need to get rid of the myth of zero sum confrontations. We are here because we have faith in in-depth dialogue as the only way to translate good political will into decisions and actions.
This Colloquium will not solve all the problems in one day, but I believe that at least it will create an environment more conducive to their resolution. I trust that with your enthusiastic support, we will help bring our “Big Three” together for a much healthier and trusting relationship that will bring peace and prosperity to all who live in the Asia Pacific region.