Former foreign minister says 'China will never seek to become a hegemonic power'
'China will stick to the path of peaceful development,' says Li Zhaoxing
Li Zhaoxing, the no-nonsense former foreign minister of China who often courts international controversy with his blunt style, made headlines again last week when giving a speech at a university campus in Shenzhen.
“There are some that believe China and the US are two global powers and could govern the world together. Only a fool would believe this kind of talk,” Li said during an event on September 12 organised by the Atlantic Council of the United States at the Research Institute of Tsinghua University in Shenzhen.
Several Chinese media outlets misinterpreted this quote, and reported Li had said, “Only a fool would believe that China is now number two in the world.”
In another Atlantic council event in Washington DC last night, Li addressed this misinterpretation, and explained that striving for hegemony and ranked status among nations was not China’s priority, Chinanews.com reported.
“China will never seek to become a hegemonic power,” Li said, a line that he has repeated for decades. “China will stick to the path of peaceful development and will rely upon the sweat and tears of its own people to expand and grow. China will never seek to become number one, number two, or number three.”
Li also said that China was still a developing country, with one hundred million living people below the poverty line, and needed to reach a consensus with other nations on power relations and “mutually beneficial co-operation.”
“China should strengthen co-operation with other developing countries as a foundation for diplomatic work and engage in positive relations with its neighbours,” Li said. “Of course, it is also particularly important for China to develop relationships with global powers such as the US.”
Li is no stranger to the Sino-US relations, and first came to prominence as China’s ambassador to the United Nations between 1993 and 1995. He later served as China's ambassador in Washington.
His most famous outspoken remarks include calling Nato's bombing of China’s Belgrade embassy “no casual mistake" in 1999.
He has also spoken out against improper usage of the Chinese language, and said in 2012 he “detested … people who like to mix English words in their [Putonghua] conversations.”