With a polished performance, the president arrives on the world stage President Hu Jintao may be a diplomatic novice but he put in a solid performance at the Apec forum which ended yesterday. He showed the world that China's fourth-generation leadership has fully assumed power and taken its place on the international stage. This year's Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation gathering was the first time Mr Hu has appeared at a global event as a full participant. Although he attended the G8 meeting of industrialised nations in Evian, France, in June, it was as a guest of French President Jacques Chirac. At the Apec meeting, he was arguably the star, at times stealing the show from host Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, and even US President George W. Bush. Mr Hu's speech to Apec leaders focused on three themes for regional co-operation: building mutual trust, striking a balance between economic and social development, and stepping up mutual opening of markets and improving on the multilateral trading system. His speech was designed to signal that China has severed all links with its 'communist pariah' past. Speaking to a summit of business leaders held alongside the Apec forum, he focused on a concept close to the modern capitalist's heart: sustainable growth. 'Mr Hu's appearance at Apec was extremely important,' said Hu Biliang, a senior economist at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing. 'This helped give the world the image of a stable China. That a new leader is participating is also very important. It demonstrates China's fourth-generation leader has come to the world stage. 'Everyone has been worried about China's economic and political stability. They can now see China's power transition has been smooth and is now complete.' Mr Hu even gave a conference to foreign correspondents, the first time he has held a formal press session since becoming president. Poised and confident, Mr Hu answered the questions comfortably. However, some analysts believed the fact that Mr Hu held his first press conference abroad rather than in China indicated he was still careful not to outshine former president Jiang Zemin and his Shanghai faction at home. 'He clearly has taken power, but he still has to watch his back,' said a leading Apec delegate. 'His performance here has been quite impressive and perhaps it will help him solidify his power base at home.' That Mr Hu stood firm in his meeting with President Bush on the yuan dispute will win him accolades from diehard conservatives at home who fear an inexperienced leader might give too many concessions to the US. 'President Hu emphasised the government's official line, but he also gave Mr Bush face by offering to intensify co-operation on trade, economics and financial reforms,' said Mr Hu, of the Academy of Social Sciences. The Chinese leader's tough stance with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi will also shore up his support at home. He told the Japanese leader that a 300 million yen (HK$21.2 million) cleanup effort for chemical weapons left by the Japanese Imperial Army at the end of the second world war was not enough. Yet, he also offered an olive branch to Mr Koizumi by declaring that China would not bow to North Korea's demand that Japan be left out of talks on the Korean nuclear crisis. Mr Hu's message to Southeast Asian leaders was reassuring: a rising China was not a threat but a vast export market. The new president made it clear China was a willing 'partner' in the world community. And yet by being tough with the US and Japan, Mr Hu also sent a message to his audience at home: he would always seek China's best interests. Seven months ago, many asked if Mr Hu was skilled enough in foreign affairs to succeed Mr Jiang as president. His performance at Apec has removed any doubt: Mr Hu has succeeded, admirably.