FocusWPF special video conference concludes with call to deepen cooperation among major powers

The World Peace Forum (WPF) special video conference concluded last Wednesday, with experts agreeing that cooperation among major powers should be deepened in order to maintain international peace and prosperity.

The two-day virtual conference of the forum was organized by Tsinghua University under the theme of “Post-Pandemic Era: China and the World.”

China’s first non-governmental high-level forum on international security, the WPF held two panel discussions on “Asia-Pacific Security after the COVID-19 Pandemic,” and “China-US Relations in Post-Pandemic Era” on the last day of the conference.

Tsinghua University Vice President Yang Bin said he was inspired by the two-day online gathering’s discussions on major geopolitical issues and challenges the world faces in the post-pandemic era.

“We had a great dialogue, very enlightening, helping us to understand the current situation and futures of the world politics,” he said, adding, “despite differences on certain specific issues, there is a great deal of consensus among the distinguished speakers that international cooperation, especially between major powers, is critical to world peace and prosperity.”

The conference was attended online by leading academics, influential political leaders and former top diplomats from all around the world. The WPF, which has been holding its annual meeting every year around June or July in Beijing since 2012, had to organize the event online this year due to the ongoing pandemic.  

Vice President Yang said the conference was helpful in finding answers to major pressing questions, including “how will the world look like after the Covid-19 pandemic? how will the great power competition evolve? how to avoid a new cold war? how to maintain peace and prosperity in the Asian Pacific Region and how to make better use of AI technology to serve the interests of humanity?”

He said Tsinghua University and the forum will continue to promote international cooperation on world peace.

The forum secretariat, meanwhile, surveyed experts attending the forum to better understand their perceptions, similarities and differences, on the issues discussed in the conference. The survey indicated that the support for multilateralism is still solid because there are still high expectations for international institutions to play a significant role in addressing global challenges.

He thanked all the speakers for sharing their insightful analysis and enlightening thoughts on China and the world in the post-pandemic era and said he was looking forward to receiving them at the WPF annual forum at Tsinghua next year.

In the panel discussion on “Asia-Pacific Security after the COVID-19 Pandemic”, moderated by Prof. Yan Xuetong, Dean of Institute of International Relations at Tsinghua University, four former top diplomats - Surakiart Sathirathai, former Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand, Kim Sung-Hwan, former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Republic of Korea, Shivshankar Menon, former National Security Advisor and former Foreign Secretary of India, and He Yafei, former Vice Minister, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, China - shared their views on the security trend in the Asia-Pacific region and its implications in the post-pandemic situation. 

According to Sathirathai, all the regional organizations should be strengthened to play a more important role in peace dialogue and fostering post-Covid-19 and social cooperation. "Functional cooperation in the South China Sea should be encouraged as well."

Likewise, former diplomat Kim from South Korea said that the bilateral relationship between China and the U.S. is important, and crucial for regional security. “Some people argue that no single country can resolve Covid-19. There should be a collective effort by the community. Strengthening between the U.S. and China is important,” he said.   Former diplomat and strategist from India Menon said multilateral institutions have failed to deal with the pandemic effectively. "We should start building issue-based coalitions. We cannot build one architecture to take care of all issues, especially non-traditional issues that require cooperative solutions," he said.

Likewise, former Chinese diplomat He said there was a lack of consensus to build a regional governance mechanism to deal with a crisis like the ongoing pandemic.

"COVID-19 has broken key links of the supply chain. In the post-pandemic years, we need to focus on the supply chain. The economy is the number one concern for all countries, and we need to continue to cooperate with others. Regional efforts are much better than individuals."

The fourth panel discussion was on “China-US Relations in Post-Pandemic Era” moderated by Fu Ying, Chairperson of the Center for International Security and Strategy at Tsinghua University.  Kevin Rudd, former Prime Minister of Australia, and now President of the Asia Society Policy Institute, USA, Zhu Min, former Vice President of IMF and the current Chairman of the National Institution of Financial Research Institute at Tsinghua University, Susan Shirk, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, USA, and the current Chair of the 21st Century China Center at the University of California-San Diego,  and Professor Wang Jisi, President of the Institute of International Strategic Studies at Peking University, were the panelists.

Kevin Rudd from Australia said that "COVID-19 damages China and the United states in real power and understanding. The only way for that to be avoided is for senior cabinet officials on both sides to meet and to have direct exchanges."

Prof. Zhu Min from Tsinghua said the international community should work together and should start a dialogue to improve the global peace situation and improve the global economic-financial situation to prevent relations from further deteriorating. “We need global cooperation.” 

Prof. Shirk from the U.S. also stressed that China and the U.S. should deepen their cooperation in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. She said that the two countries had cooperated well in the past on SARS, on H1N1, and more. "Why cannot we do it now?"

Prof. Wang Jisi from Peking University said, "I am not sure if the post-pandemic era will come anytime soon or whether any country can declare victory over the coronavirus." He continued: "three bottom lines should be upheld in China and the U.S. relations. First, the two countries must avoid war. Second, technological -  we must maintain a certain scale of technological engagement and sustain global finances. Third, the two countries must maintain communication and cooperation in the education sector."


Writer: Haroon Hayat
Editor: Guo Lili, Sangeet Sangroula, John Olbrich
Photo Designer: Bella Lim