Tue, Oct 21, 2003 - Page 3 News List

No need to fear China in ASEAN: economics adviser


Despite being an economic giant, China has many structural problems and its presence in ASEAN wouldn't make the association more important than APEC.

That was the view yesterday of Wu Rong-i (吳榮義), president of the Taiwan Institute of Economic Research, who is attending the APEC forum in Bangkok.

"Given China's problematic economic system, I am rather pessimistic about China's economic outlook," Wu said in an interview yesterday

Wu, an adviser with Taiwan's APEC delegation, is accompanying President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) special emissary Lee Yuan-tseh (李遠哲) in the ongoing Economic Leaders' Meeting.

ASEAN -- established in 1967 with a mere five member states -- has now grown to encompass 10 nations, including Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia.

China had expressed its interest in joining ASEAN, which has given birth to the term "ASEAN plus one."

Japan and South Korea have also subsequently voice their interest in joining in the regional organization, spawning the term "ASEAN plus three."

Wu acknowledged that China's motivation for participating in ASEAN "is the ambition to expand its influence and power in the Asian region."

The possibility of China being part of a formal ASEAN plus three has led some to worry that the group's influence in the Pacific Rim would surpass that of APEC -- a group in which the US has played a big role.

Wu said that such a scenario would happen only when the US allowed it -- and not until.

If the US really wanted to exercise its might to the fullest, China would have no chance of using the ASEAN to expand its its influence in Asia.

"It just that the US, so far, has been rather low-profile about its position in the APEC," Wu said.

Asked what he thought of China's participation in the ASEAN, Wu said that the group welcomed Beijing mainly out of intimidation. What it really wants to do is get Japan into the fold, because it believes Tokyo's participation would greatly benefit their economic interests.

"It is Japan which ASEAN has its eye on," Wu said.

"In order to get Japan interested, ASEAN first pulls China in to make Japan feel anxious that it might be missing something and might be left out," Wu said.

On another matter, Wu said he "is optimistic about Taiwan's economic outlook."

He said he was especially optimistic about the IT industry, which has been the envy of many countries that are now interested in cooperating with Taiwan in this area.

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