Chinese parliamentary sessions 2014

China and US can overcome frictions with co-operation, says Li Keqiang

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 March, 2014, 2:41pm
UPDATED : Friday, 14 March, 2014, 6:01am

Ties between China and the US would remain strong as long as both sides kept the focus on their common interests instead of the differences, Premier Li Keqiang has said.

Li acknowledged frictions between the world's two biggest economies, but said they shared interests and called for mutual respect of core concerns.

It is only natural that these two countries have some differences and frictions

"Wise people will seek a common interest, while unwise ones will focus on the differences," Li said at the end of the National People's Congress in Beijing.

"As long as the two sides respect each other's core interests and major concerns, properly manage their differences and engage in equal consultations, in particular continuing to expand their converging interests, these two countries will be able to further raise the level of their relationship."

Sino-US ties have been strained in recent years due to territorial disputes between China and its neighbours.

Washington is concerned regional security is threatened by China's increasingly assertive tone over its sovereignty claims in the East China and South China seas. Beijing fears its dominance in the Asia Pacific region will be contained by the US "pivot" towards Asia.

"China and the US are different in history, culture and stage of development," Li said. "So it is only natural that these two countries have some differences and frictions in the course of their co-operation."

Li said President Xi Jinping and his US counterpart, Barack Obama, had agreed to build a new model for Sino-US ties, and had vowed to avoid confrontation.

"There is much more that we can do to further unleash the potential of Sino-US co-operation," he said.

Li struck a similar tone in assessing China's relationship with Southeast Asian nations. He said Beijing had "an unshakable view in safeguarding China's sovereignty and territorial integrity" but also stressed it had an "abiding commitment to pursuing peaceful development".

He recalled a local shopowner he met on his visit to Hanoi last year telling him there should be peace between the two nations.

Although Li's portfolio is domestic, his characterisation of foreign relations at the public conference following the wrap of the National People's Congress is closely watched. Last year, he hit out at Washington for making "groundless accusations" against China concerning cybersecurity.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Saturday there was no room for China to compromise on historical and territorial issues.

Sun Zhe, a professor of international relations at Tsinghua University, said the premier was attempting to allay fears concerning China's growing assertiveness by stressing peaceful development and co-operation.

Su Hao, a professor with the China Foreign Affairs University, said Li was seeking to strike a balance between acting tough and maintaining a friendly posture. "Too much tough rhetoric may backfire," Su said.