• Thu
  • Dec 18, 2014
  • Updated: 10:08am

Xi Jinping says world has nothing to fear from awakening of 'peaceful lion'

President issues message of peace, but use of quote attributed to Napoleon shows desire for more assertive foreign policy, analysts suggest

PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 March, 2014, 1:49pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 March, 2014, 9:08am

Xi Jinping's decision to compare China to the proverbial "king of the jungle" yesterday was seen as the latest sign that the president intends to pursue a more muscular foreign policy.

Xi used the lion metaphor in a speech in Paris to commemorate the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations with France.

He introduced it via a quote often attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte more than two centuries ago: "China is a sleeping lion. Let her sleep, for when she wakes she will shake the world."

Watch: Journalist activists protest in Paris during Chinese president's visit

Xi told an audience that included French President Francois Hollande: "Today, the lion has woken up. But it is peaceful, pleasant and civilised."

The remark could signal a subtle but substantial shift in how China - the globe's second largest economy since 2010 - wants to be viewed by the rest of the world, analysts said.

In recent years, Communist Party leaders have sought to avoid any language that might feed into perceptions that China's military and economic rise was in any way threatening.

Former premier Wen Jiabao used the term "peaceful rise" to describe China's expansion into world affairs during a visit to the United States in 2003, only to have president Hu Jintao exchange it for the more innocuous sounding "peaceful development" the next year.

Jin Canrong , a professor of international studies at Renmin University, said Xi's speech suggested he was less afraid of stirring controversy than his predecessors.

"I am surprised by [Xi's] remarks," Jin said. "Xi is basically admitting that China is powerful, and that he is aware that some countries will be nervous about it, but they have to get used to China's status."

China has been more assertive since Xi came to power in late 2012, getting tough over regional territory disputes and vowing to develop a new model of international relations with the US.

Yesterday, Xi was careful to say that if China was a lion, it was a docile one. "Chinese people treasure peace and hope to seek, maintain and enjoy peace together with other nations in the world," he said.

Jean-Pierre Cabestan, head of the political science department at the Hong Kong Baptist University, said Xi's remarks represented a warning.

"Have you ever seen a peaceful, civilised and not aggressive lion?" Cabestan said. "A lion is a big, wild and predatory animal, very much like China in its relations with other countries."

The lion quote cited by Xi is well known, but historians are divided about whether the words were uttered by Napoleon.

One popular account has it that the French leader made the comparison while warning British ambassador Lord Amherst about conflict with China.

Kerry Brown, a professor of China studies at the University of Sydney, said Xi appeared to be using the lion metaphor to say China needs to be looked up to as a big player on the world stage.

"Xi, like other Chinese leaders, really wants to be regarded as a key important leader of a country which is reacquiring its position as a major player," he said.

Pang Zhongying , another professor of international relations at Renmin University, said China had long been focusing on economic ties with other nations, but it remained relatively weak on global security and diplomatic affairs.

"China needs to be, and is going to be, more responsive with more actions over global incidents that affect peace," Pang said. "Compared to the economic side, China is indifferent in political engagement."

Xinhua did not mention the lion metaphor in its report, but it released the full transcript of the speech. Other state media, such as the People's Daily website, released commentaries describing China as a large but responsible nation.

Xi arrived in Berlin yesterday and said China and Germany shared broader common interests and new co-operation opportunities.

"I look forward to working with German leaders to map out the blueprint for the development of China-Germany relations … to discuss co-operation and build up friendship and bring the China-Germany strategic partnership to a higher level," he said.


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China compared to the USA and her allies is indeed more peaceful. Apart from the border war with India in 1962 which India started and lost (at the instigation of the CIA), the border war with Vietnam in 1979 in order to prevent the invasion of Indochina, China's rise is basically peaceful. The Diaoyu islands conflict with Japan is over a piece of territory owned by China illegally administrated by Japan which was supposed to return all stolen territories to China under the Cairo and Potsdam Declarations. The South China Sea dispute is nothing but the Philippines making a mountain out of a mole hill where the Philippines under the idiot Aquino instigated by Japan and the USA makes illegal claims on Chinese territory. In contrast in the last few decades the US and her allies have continuous wars with Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Panama, Grenada etc. The US war on terrorism is actually a war on Muslims over oil. And also by supporting a fascist Japan the US is doing itself a misfavour.
You should be sitting at the altar in the Yasukuni War Shrine so that Shinzo Ab and the Japanese fascists can pray to you.
“China is a sleeping lion,” Napoleon said. “Let her sleep, for when she wakes she will shake the world.” ....When a lion is not asleep and hungry, she always picked on the weaker animals such as deer, zebra or helpless tamaraw for their meal....As what communist China is doing to their smaller Asian neighbours now...Trying to take and eat up everything that doesn't belong to them just to feed their 1.3 billions people....Their sea resources are deteriorating because of their poor management and fishing abuses...They will never gain respect from the Asian neighbour countries because of their aggressive, greedy and selfish act....WHAT A SHAME AND PURELY A RUBBISH COMMUNIST GOVERNMENT...
'Peaceful rise' is the Chinese way of describing how they are seeking trouble with basically all their neighbours, except the other 2 fascist states North Korea and Vietnam.
I wonder how many readers and commentators here are actual Hongkongese, and how many are so abhorred by China's rise that they have to make a nasty comment or two. What a loser's mentality!
China's rise is indeed very peaceful so far. Would any of you below say Diaoyu is Japan's? Would any of you argue that South China Sea is called that name for the precise reason that it is China's? The only difference between now and 10 years ago is that China now has military presence in these areas. And that is called threatening? You must be kidding me - just look at how many US troops are in the region!
Hongkongese who does not like China, please leave. You are not entitled to stay here as a Chinese.
Wow, who would have expected him to say "don't worry, we have only peaceful aims." What he meant is peaceful aims if you do what we tell you when we tell you to do it. Too funny.
I guess you have not been keeping track of what they are doing in Africa.
........Unless they live in one of the many Asia countries, where China has invented territorial claims.
Sorry you are so allergic to the truth. JR. Just like your masters in Beijing. Poor baby.
Vietnam is not China's friend either. Vietnam's is also disputing China's ridiculous claim to the whole South a China Sea.



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