Xi sets out priorities for foreign policy

Maintaining a stable environment among neighbours is priority, says president

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 26 October, 2013, 3:46am
UPDATED : Saturday, 26 October, 2013, 3:46am

President Xi Jinping called for a comprehensive strategy to engage China's neighbours as he laid down foreign policy directions at a two-day conference that ended yesterday.

The conference was chaired by Premier Li Keqiang and attended by party elite from all levels along with chiefs from the central bank, key financial institutes and state-owned enterprises. The State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office director Wang Guangya was also present.

A conference on such a scale is rare and signals the top leadership's determination to push for a broad, all-embracing approach to improving China's ties with its neighbours, observers say. By asking so many leaders from different levels to attend, Xi was showing he wanted a more co-ordinated and comprehensive effort among state departments to push for the goal.

Both Xi and Li have stepped up their regional manoeuvres in recent weeks amid growing tensions over territorial disputes. Xi has visited Indonesia and Malaysia, and Li has been to Brunei, Thailand and Vietnam.

In the conference, Xi said China should proactively improve ties with neighbouring countries "strategically important to China".

"Maintaining a peaceful and stable environment among our neighbours should be the aim of our diplomacy," he was quoted as saying by state-run CCTV.

Maintaining ties with neighbouring countries was key to the "renaissance of the Chinese nation", and both economic and security co-operation should be stepped up with these countries.

Xi reiterated his proposal to build a "maritime silk road" and tighten infrastructure connections with Southeast Asia.

"China's development will be better integrated with its neighbours, and we will seek mutual development with them," Xi said.

Diplomatic priorities have been reshaped since the new leadership was installed in March.

Professor Su Hao of the China Foreign Affairs University said the attendance of representatives from a wide spectrum of institutions indicated that Beijing wanted all parties involved in diplomacy to look in one direction.

In addition to the Foreign Ministry, a number of agencies, such as the Ministry of Commerce and the central bank, are involved in dealing with other nations. Su said the mainland's diplomatic efforts were sometimes hampered because these agencies "do things in their own way".

"It is not sufficient if only the Foreign Affairs Ministry adhere to the directive. Other agencies should also bear that in mind," Su said. "This high-level directive by Xi is an indication that these agencies should work together."