World Economy

APEC summit kicks off in China: What to expect

A general view of the APEC logo at the Olympic Park in Beijing, China.
ChinaFotoPress | Getty Images

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit kicks off this week in Beijing. World leaders including U.S. President Barack Obama, along with top businessmen, will attend events based on the theme "Shaping the Future through Asia-Pacific Partnership" in the Chinese capital.

Trade ministerial meetings were already under way since Thursday, ahead of the CEO summit at the weekend where Chinese President Xi Jinping will outline his country's position on regional cooperation to business and political leaders. The major pow-wow will take place on November 11, when the heads of states converge to discuss major topics ranging from economic integration, reform to growth prospects.

The APEC community consists of 21 economies including the U.S., China, Japan and Russia, which account for 40 percent of the world's population and 44 percent of global trade.

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1. Why this is a big deal for China

This is China's second time hosting the conference and the biggest political event taking place under the charge of President Xi. The 61-year-old leader, who ascended to power in November 2012, will want to showcase the rise of China, analysts say.

"It's the first grand-level world event for the leader [so] it's clearly an important occasion to display China's arrival to the world stage, establish geopolitical credentials [and] portray a good image to the world," said Hoo Tiang Boon, assistant professor with the China Program at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University.

The host nation has spared no expense in readying the capital for the summit. Pollution-control measures – like tight limits on car use and a temporary shutdown of factories – were rolled out.Officials have also lifted the ban on Facebook and Google, allowing delegates full access toforeign websites at the APEC media center, according to Chinese media.

"In the Chinese culture, when you have guests coming you clean up your house and that's what China is doing," said NTU's Hoo. "They want to put up a good show."

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2. Which trade deal will get its way?

The U.S. will be keen to drive negotiations in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) but China is expected to push its own trade pact known as the Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP).

The latter has been on the APEC's agenda for years but has been relegated to the backseat as the U.S. focused on the TPP, a free-trade deal involving 11 nations but excludes China.

Analysts say the US-led TPP will likely remain the key agenda at this summit. "The U.S. is concerned that if APEC commences negotiations for the FTAAP, this could deflect focus away from the TPP and therefore the U.S. is unlikely to agree to FTAAP talks in Beijing," said Ian Bremmer, president of Eurasia.

Read MoreCan China host a smog-free APEC summit?

3. Will politics steal the show?

Bilateral meetings are set to take place on the sidelines of APEC and attention will fall on the scheduled talks between China's Xi and his western counterparts – U.S. President Obama and Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

However, confrontations over recent geopolitical events are unlikely.

"Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said last week that China wants to host a 'harmonious and smooth' APEC. Obama won't press on the issue of Ukraine because at present, he has too many things on his plate, from the midterm elections to ISIS," said NTU's Hoo.

A meeting between Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Chinese counterpart has not been confirmed but should it materialize, it is unlikely to mean a thaw in Sino-Japan ties.

"Speculations are that it will be an informal standing summit," said Hoo. "But that doesn't mean any fundamental change – it is more like a polite gesture. As Japan has been pushing for a meeting, if Xi was to reject, it won't reflect nicely on him."

Read MoreThanks to APEC, Beijing gets another 'Golden Week'

4. Beware of Hong Kong's 'Occupy Central'?

Student organizers of Hong Kong's pro-democracy protests are reported to be seeking direct dialogue with China's top leaders when APEC gets under way. Officials have attempted to discourage the students from making the journey, with the city's Chief Secretary Carrie Lam, calling the idea "unrealistic."

"It is very unlikely that any significant Hong Kong-related protests will be aired in Beijing during the APEC Summit, which has a very heavy security blanket," Rajiv Biswas, senior director and Asia-Pacific chief economist at IHS, wrote in an email.

"It is more likely that there could be some efforts by protestors in Hong Kong to attract international media attention during the APEC Summit, with plans by protestors to stage a march in Hong Kong to the Chinese government liaison office," he added.