US Bastardizes APEC, PRC Bastardizes Boao Forum

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 4/11/2014 02:56:00 PM
There's interesting commentary over at The Diplomat concerning the ongoing Boao Forum, formerly China's World Economic Forum wannabe/knock-off featuring the movers and shakers in politics and business in Asia. Supposedly a non-government organization to discuss economic issues in Asia, its role is evolving to become a mouthpiece for its largest backers. Namely, the Communist Party.

There's a lot of interesting stuff in the article, but I am particularly struck by it dropping its veneer of being a pan-Asian initiative and nakedly pursuing topics and discussion points favored by the PRC leadership:
One of the perks of being the forum’s perpetual host is setting the agenda: on the docket for discussion were several hot topics of great interest to Beijing, including sessions on “Reviving the Silk Road” and “Urbanization of People.”
However, recently the Boao Forum has been moving beyond purely economic topics to discuss other regional issues. Given China’s leading role in the Boao Forum, the expansion of the forum’s agenda reflects China’s regional leadership ambitions. In 2013, the forum introduced non-economic topics to its agenda for the first time, including food safety and America-Asia relations (not coincidentally, those two topics are of major interest to Beijing). This year, the forum has expanded its scope yet again, with plans to include discussions on potential cooperation in South China Sea, a code of conduct for cyberspace [re: NSA spying], and China-U.S. relations in the Asia-Pacific region.
So yes, China is using the Boao Forum to fry its favorite fishes. Then again, the same has been going on in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)--the United States' favored venue for (mis?)characterizing itself as an "Asia-Pacific" economy and politicizing an "economic" gathering:
Chinese officials have raised similar complaints about the U.S. reshaping APEC to take on regional security issues rather than remaining a purely economic forum. Apparently, China has decided that “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” — and Beijing is now slowly turning the China-led economic forum into a platform for discussion on major regional issues. The U.S. has had success framing conversations on sensitive issues like conduct in cyber-space and how to handle the South China Sea disputes. By raising these same issues in its own forum, Beijing can set the agenda for a change.
I guess sometimes it's not the economy (stupid).

UPDATE: ECNS has a summary of the talks given at the event.