By Wang Fengjuan
“Model meetings are an integral piece of the China-ASEAN Youth Summit, so we choose practical topics that spur discussion so we can see the vision of young leaders,” explained Lim Qin Yong, secretary general of the fourth China- ASEAN Youth Summit. “Such events allow youth to consider the common development of the international community while acting as national representatives, giving them a strategic perspective and more profound understanding of ASEAN countries as a whole.” According to Lim, model meetings at the summit are particularly popular with young participants. Through conducting discussions on the same issues that frequently appear on the agendas of governments and international organizations, youth can demonstrate their ideas and opinions that contribute to China-ASEAN cooperation.
Big Picture from Tight Angles
Model meetings at this year’s summit cover eight issues: enhancing cooperation on Asia-Pacific security, ASEAN fiscal integration, cooperation and opportunities for developing the blue economy, the path to market integration: working together to bridge economic disparities, e-commerce cooperation among SMEs, exploration of clean and renewable energy sources, market potential of emerging AI business models and the future of Lancang-Mekong cooperation for youth development. Covering multiple aspects and timely, considering current circumstances, the discussions resulted in significant breakthroughs that inspired the students to find new insights on society and its development.
On strengthening the cooperation in Asia-Pacific security, young participants discussed issues ranging from terrorism, drugs, cyber security and maritime management to illegal immigrants. They concluded that terrorism was kindled by marginalization, neglect of root problems and external influences, which makes improved education access and better international cooperation across an array of fields even more crucial.
On the topic of exploring clean and renewable energy sources, youth representatives offered four proposals: First, break barriers restraining technology and talent to bridge technological and labor resources gaps across Southeast Asia. Second, encourage private companies to invest in renewable energy and realize greater fiscal independence through renewable energy (RE) projects. Third, pave the way for the transition from traditional energy to renewables. Finally, devise plans for regions prone to natural disasters to secure energy supply and prevent disruptions or damage.
To test the market potential of new AI business models, the participants organized a model ASEAN Plus Three Summit. While ASEAN has a relatively high AI penetration rate in high-tech telecommunications, finance, transportation and logistics, different ASEAN countries have distinct strengths: Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand are prominent in applying AI in hightech telecommunications while Singapore and Malaysia utilize AI more in the financial sector. AI is also widely employed in Singapore’s transportation and logistics sectors. Young representatives deemed AI a powerful tool to empower industries. For example, in pushing for combination of AI and agriculture, they propose to hold agricultural AI exhibitions, set up ASEAN Plus Three panels to discuss prevention of agricultural disasters and promote a data platform integrating tracing (planting and production) and trade of agricultural products.
“I was deeply touched to hear their discussions in the model meetings,” revealed Han Zhili, associate research fellow at the Institute of Asian Studies of China Foreign Affairs University. Han commented that even though they were focused on issues as general as international relations, economics and society, they tackled specific problems pragmatically and produced constructive proposals.
Responsibilities of Youth
“The model meetings were quite enlightening to me, and I think they present a precious opportunity to get a better picture of the youth’s thoughts and attitudes towards social problems,” opined Luo Yongkun, associate research fellow at China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations. Luo considers it essential for young students from different nations to talk on behalf of other countries to help them stand in the shoes of other people and obtain new perspectives. Cheng Hongbo, a division head from the Department of Asian Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, expressed delight in hearing the ideas of the youth and called their proposed AI applications “enlightening.”
During the summit, young attendees voted to pass the China- ASEAN Youth Declaration and Lim Qin Yong read it at the closing ceremony. The event culminated with Lim handing the Declaration over to attending guests from ASEAN-China Centre, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China and Peking University so that the proposals can translate into results.
On regional security, the Declaration proposed to enhance cooperation between China and ASEAN countries and pursue common interests to settle disputes and maintain peace. In addition, an ASEAN-China committee for emergency response and security cooperation was recommended.
On economics and trade, the Declaration suggested that technological communication and transfer should be expanded through offering alternative e-payments and better developing the China-ASEAN digital financial market. To promote transnational trade and e-commerce, China and ASEAN countries should encourage investment in information technology infrastructure, and financial support should be prioritized in rural areas to increase the liquidity of investment, trade and production.
On technological innovations, the young leaders propose in the Declaration to build a concentrated incubator for innovation and entrepreneurship as well as a park for intelligent technologies for common development and the shared prospects of private enterprises from China and ASEAN. Beyond that, they suggested a database that is open to China and ASEAN to set up digital network based on shared information resources.
On natural resources, a mechanism for coordinated governance was advocated to help dispose of plastics and reduce pollution damage. Students suggested China and ASEAN share their experience in prevention and control of water, air and soil pollution.
On marine resources, they suggested relevant countries reach a sustainable and enforceable cooperation mechanism to protect oceans and develop marine technologies, tourism and ocean resources which would include unified standards for the blue economy.
On youth affairs, the young participants recommended organizing a league of China-ASEAN universities with focus on talent training and sharing high-quality educational resources. By building a resource network accessible to China and ASEAN, the league would facilitate win-win results and international integration, promote joint studies and enhance cultural understanding as well as cultural and educational exchange.