APEC Puts Beijing Under Spotlight

Sunnie Yi Ning '18 Contributing Writer

Nov. 5, marked the first day of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation economic leaders’ week in Beijing, coinciding with the 25th anniversary of the organization. APEC is a forum that promotes free trade and economic cooperation throughout the Asia-Pacific Region. Barack Obama, the Chinese President, Xi Jinping and leaders of 20 other APEC member countries, will participate in the upcoming conference.

Countries worldwide are turning anxious eyes to this conference. APEC consists of the three largest economies in the world — the United States, China and Japan. This year the APEC conference will prioritize the deepening of regional economic integration, advancing economic reform, as well as increasing infrastructure investment. These goals are difficult to achieve considering political tensions between the participating countries and the different levels of economic development.

China is appealing to member countries to cooperate with its ongoing anti-corruption campaign. Since Xi Jinping became China’s President, he has led a campaign in the country to weed out corruption. However, overseas assets of targets officials, estimated to be up to $1.08 trillion, have somewhat challenged and hindered China’s ability to tackle this issue. China has announced that it is hopeful that its APEC partners will sign an accord to cooperate in this anti-corruption campaign. The campaign is a key step in China’s economic structural reforms.

The APEC conference is  undoubtedly the biggest event in Beijing since the Olympic Games in 2008. Beijing has just experienced its second most polluted month of the year, and strict measures have been implemented to ensure that the air quality is ready for the conference. In order to reduce pollution in anticipation of the arrival of important global leaders, the city announced plans to reduce air pollution by as much as 40 percent, mandating that cars can only be driven on every other day from Nov. 3 to 12. Furthermore, Beijing has issued a six-day holiday, attempting to fight air pollution created by factories.  The city’s government has not implemented such strict methods since the Olympic Games in 2008.

However, air pollution is a result of an accumulative history of industrial malpractices and holes in environmental regulations. The country is paying for its rapidly expanding economy at the expense of fresh, healthy air. Short-term solutions like traffic control and holidays  essentially aim to cover up the environmental problems in China rather than solve them. Beijing focuses much more on its environment as its economic and political influences expand and its responsibilities grow.

Beijing will certainly have a challenging week. Let’s hope that APEC will result in more economic cooperation and development within the region and that important issues like long-term air pollution reduction receive greater attention from the Chinese government.