We’ve said goodbye to APEC, and most of us here in Beijing are more concerned with the return of the smog than the results of the conference. Though it may be difficult to get past Obama’s gum-chewing and sassy eye contact between world leaders, this summit actually had tangible agreements that have great potential to improve relations between Pacific rim countries. For those of you who want to impress your friends with your vast knowledge of international affairs or just like a good old story of world power plays, here’s a quick roundup of the agreements, disagreements, and fashion choices of last week’s summit:
- For foreign students and workers, our mutual visa difficulties are over. Between the United States and China, student visas are now extended to 5 year multiple entry visas and business visas are extended to ten year multi-entry visas. This marks a major change for foreigners in China, who’ve grown used to renewing their visas every six months to a year.
- Star Trek uniforms replaced Shanghai APEC’s traditional Chinese tángzhuāng (唐装) for the APEC family photo. While netizens are questioning if when the APEC Spaceship will open, or where Obama left his communicator, the world leaders endured their shared dorkiness with good-humored waves and smiles.
- While their handshake was notably frosty, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to disagree on the Diaoyu islands, which have been the cause of tension between the two countries.
- China and Russia signed their second large gas deal, with Russia agreeing to use the proposed Altari pipeline to supply China with over 30 billion cubic meters of gas for the next thirty years. While this agreement is smaller than the previous $400 billion USD agreement, analysts are calling it Russia’s pivot from relying on European customers to East Asian clientele.
- The summit approved a plan to officially begin moving towards the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific, which was actually the original reason for the founding of APEC in the first place. Pretty much what it sounds like, the FTAAP would increase economic integration in APEC countries and someday eliminate tariffs and trade barriers.
Though the fancy drummers, APEC-shaped fireworks, and near constant Weibo commentary on any drama between the major leaders of the conference may have made any diplomacy seem obsolete, this was actually one of the most successful APEC conferences to date.
If you want more U.S.-China political relations, check out our series Nixon to Obama: Presidential Visits to China.