The theme of the 11th Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) leaders' meeting - "A world of differences: partnership for the future" - was a reflection of the forum member economies' strong will for the democratization of international relations and the diversification of development patterns.
Though the meeting's emphasis remained the promotion of regional economic prosperity, the leaders talked a lot about security issues such as countering terrorism and dealing with the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula.
Chinese President Hu Jintao stressed at the meeting in the Thai capital Bangkok that stability is a "prerequisite for development" and that APEC members should enhance mutual trust.
That is true both within and outside APEC.
The world has changed considerably since the APEC economic leaders' meeting in Los Cabos, Mexico, in October 2002.
The current world order has been greatly affected by the unilateralism of the United States, which waged a war against Iraq without United Nations approval.
Contrary to Washington's own wish for "absolute security," terrorism seems to be going rampant all over the world rather than being rooted out.
In terms of the economy, the Doha round of trade talks launched in 2001 stalled last month at the World Trade Organization ministerial meeting in Cancun, Mexico. The failure was the result of disagreements over agriculture and a proposal by Japan and the European Union to launch negotiations on cross-border investment, competition policies, trade facilitation and transparency in government procurement.
The two-day APEC leaders' informal meeting in Bangkok undoubtedly provided them with an ideal occasion for co-ordination.
Differences constitute the basic truth in international relations, whether economic or political. Unless countries choose to bridge or at least live with such differences, trust - the most essential asset for country-to-country ties - is impossible.
APEC, a major economic co-operation forum in the Asia-Pacific region, is an important link connecting its 21 members across the Pacific Ocean.
To make sense in this increasingly interdependent world, APEC has to go beyond economic and trade concerns.
Cultivating trust between and among its members will in turn serve its economic purposes.
In this sense, the organization's future lies in improving the way it works and expanding the range of co-operation.
(China Daily October 22, 2003)