Time for China to have a bigger global say, Xi tells world

President says Beijing won’t ‘swallow’ anything that harms its interests

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 October, 2017, 10:11pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 October, 2017, 11:20pm

China will try to extend its global reach by having a bigger say in the way international institutions are run.

That was the message President Xi Jinping delivered as he outlined the country’s foreign policy direction in his report to the Communist Party’s national congress in Beijing on Wednesday.

Diplomatic observers said the report signalled that China was keen to have a hand in setting international norms and rules, which Beijing maintains are now dominated by Western powers.

In his address, Xi warned that China would not sacrifice its national interest for anyone, but added that China would be a peaceful power.

He said China had entered a new era of foreign policy, engaging in “major country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics”.

“China will never pursue development at the expense of others’ interests, but nor will China ever give up its legitimate rights and interests,” Xi said. “No one should expect China to swallow anything that undermines its interests.”

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Xi repeated China’s opposition to protectionism and isolation, calling for a more open, inclusive and balanced global economic order.

With just three weeks to go until US President Donald Trump visits China, Xi also called for joint international efforts to tackle climate change.

“No country can alone address the many challenges facing humanity; no country can afford to retreat into isolation,” Xi said. “China will continue its efforts to safeguard world peace, contribute to global development, and uphold international order.

“China will continue to play its part as a major and responsible country, take an active part in reforming and developing the global governance system, and keep contributing Chinese wisdom and strength to global governance.”

Steve Tsang, director of the SOAS China Institute in London, said such statements indicated that China under Xi required the rest of the world to pay respect to it.

“The rest of the world must now take into account China or the Chinese Communist Party’s views on the matter, so China will not accept rules being made by others, and China will be part of the rule-making process,” Tsang said.

Xue Li, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said there were clear signs that Xi wanted diplomacy to not only “create favourable external conditions for China’s development” but also to have a lasting impact on the world.

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“He wants to achieve something and China’s greater strength gives him the conditions to do that,” Xue said. “He repeated that China would uphold rather than overturn the existing international order, but under this system, China demands a status that befits its power and strength.”

Jia Qingguo, dean of international studies at Peking University, said Xi’s focus on “China’s legitimate rights” was a reference mostly to sovereignty issues.

“[He] is referring to bad consequences from trying to intervene in China’s sovereignty, which includes territorial rights and internal politics, for example its ruling power over Hong Kong, Taiwan and Xinjiang,” Jia said.

In the past, China has tried to have a greater say over global rules by pushing the International Monetary Fund to give developing countries a bigger share of voting rights in the institution. It has also vigorously defended its territorial claims, such as through massive land reclamation in the South China Sea.

But while vowing to defend China’s interests, Xi said China would not pose a threat to any other country.

“No matter what stage of development it reaches, China will never seek hegemony or engage in expansion,” he said.

Xi stressed that “China champions the development of a community with a shared future for humanity”.

Xue said this signalled China’s desire to work with major powers and aid smaller countries.

Additional reporting by Kinling Lo