Unnecessary Fussing: China, the United States and APEC

The parents on the global stage of power are bickering and now, such entertainingly distracting forums as APEC (the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum) are left without a unifying message.  This should hardly matter, but the absence of a final communiqué of agreement is being treated in some circles as the preliminary perturbations to conflict between Beijing and Washington.

Often forgotten at the end of such deliberations is their acceptable irrelevance.  APEC as a forum was already deemed by former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans in 1993 to be “four adjectives in search of a noun.”  Charles E Morrison of the East-West Centre in Hawaii noted another view.  “Some wag described it as an international dating service for leaders.”  On this occasion, the dates failed to reach a merry accord.

Such gatherings provide distractions and fodder for the global press corps to identify trouble, brewing or actual.  They can also supply the converse: that the state of adherence to international norms, whatever they may be, is better because of such meetings.  But in Port Moresby, coarseness emerged with tartness.  China and the United States were jostling.

US Vice President Mike Pence, who revealed his interest in the summit by basing himself in Australia rather than staying in Port Moresby, threw down what must have been a gauntlet of sorts.  At the Hudson Institute in October, he was moodily accusing Beijing of pilfering military blueprints,…

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