18th Party Congress
The Chinese Communist Party's 18th Congress, held in Beijing November 8-14, 2012, marked a key power transition in China. A new generation of leaders, headed by Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang, took over from the previous leadership headed by Hu Jintao. The Communist Party's Politburo Standing Committee was reduced in number from nine to seven. Unlike his predecessor Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao handed over both the Party General Secretary and Chairman of the Central Military Commission positions to Xi.
Xi Jinping warns Japan to 'rein in its behaviour' over Diaoyu Islands
Vice President Xi Jinping said Japan's "purchase" of the Diaoyu Islands was a farce on Wednesday and urged Japan to stop any behaviour that infringes upon China's sovereignty.
"Japan should rein in its behaviour and stop any words and acts that undermine China's sovereignty and territorial integrity," Xi said in a meeting with visiting U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
It was the first time Xi had commented on the Diaoyu Islands since the Japanese government announced its decision to "purchase" the Diaoyu Islands on September 10.
He said Japan's "purchase" openly questions the legal effects of the Cairo Declaration and the Potsdam Proclamation and has intensified the neighbours' territorial disputes.
Xi said the international community will never tolerate Japan's attempt to deny the outcomes of the World Anti-Fascist War.
Xi recalled the "September 18 Incident," which directly preceded Japan's invasion of northeast China in 1931, saying Japanese militarism affected not only the Chinese, but also the United States and Asia-Pacific countries.
Rather than reflect on the trauma Japan brought to neighbouring countries and some Asia-Pacific countries, Japanese political forces have continued to make mistakes by staging the farce of "purchasing" the Diaoyu Islands, Xi said.
Xi also called on the United States to act in the larger interest of regional peace and stability, mind its words and actions, not to get involved in issues regarding the sovereignty of the Diaoyu Islands and refrain from doing anything that might escalate tensions and complicate the situation.
“I believe that your visit will be very helpful in further advancing the state-to-state and [military-to-military] relations between our two countries,” Xi told Panetta during a welcoming ceremony at the Great Hall of the People.
Pentagon spokesman George Little called the more than one-hour discussions constructive and candid, covering issues ranging from North Korea to “the importance of the peaceful resolution of maritime territorial disputes”.
Critics in China believe that a US move to shift its strategic focus to the region has encouraged countries like Japan to be more bold when dealing with Beijing.
But Panetta, in remarks later to cadets at a Chinese military academy, sought to convince Beijing that the shift in focus was not an attempt to hem in China, whose neighbours have expressed concern about its expanding military reach.
Panetta told students at the Armoured Forces Engineering Academy that expanding US missile defences in Asia were aimed at North Korea, not China, and that deepening US defence ties with allies in the region were to reinforce a security system that had helped China flourish.
“Our rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region is not an attempt to contain China,” he said. “It is an attempt to engage China and expand its role in the Pacific. It is about creating a new model in the relationship of two Pacific powers.”
Panetta’s remarks echoed the message he has delivered in meetings with defence and political leaders during his three-day visit.
But the message is difficult to sell to a sceptical Chinese audience concerned about US missile defences in Japan, expanding military ties with the Philippines and suspicion that Washington wants military access to Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam.
“The Chinese just don’t buy it. They are not convinced,” said Bonnie Glaser, a China analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think-tank.
“Moreover they see the US as emboldening nations like Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam who have territorial disputes with China to directly confront Beijing,” she said.
Panetta has said the United States takes no position in the territorial dispute between Japan and China, though acknowledges US defence obligations in the event of an attack on Japan.
Panetta said that while Washington and Beijing would not always agree on issues, it was important to look beyond the disagreements to areas where they could work co-operatively together.
“We cannot let those disagreements and challenges blind us to the great opportunities that exist,” he said. “If we work together and co-operate together, we can solve problems together.”
Panetta said to do that, the United States and China needed to focus on building confidence and understanding between their two militaries by enhancing the quality and frequency of their dialogue and interaction.
He cited combating terrorism, responding to natural disasters, ensuring maritime security and preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction, piracy and drug trafficking as areas where the US and Chinese militaries could cooperate to their mutual benefit.