China's rise is peaceful, Xi Jinping tells foreign experts
The nation's progress 'is absolutely not a challenge or threat to other countries', vice-president tells foreign delegation
The new Communist Party general secretary, Xi Jinping, assured foreign experts in Beijing yesterday that China was not seeking hegemony and would continue to open up to the world.
Xi made the remarks during a meeting with 20 experts from 16 countries at the Great Hall of the People, his first meeting with foreign visitors since his appointment.
"China is following a path of peaceful development," Xi told the experts, who are all working in China.
He added that the country's progress was not detrimental to other countries. China's development "is absolutely not a challenge or threat to other countries. China will not seek hegemony or expansionism," Xi said.
The remarks come amid rising tensions between China and its neighbours over territorial disputes in the East China and South China seas, and increasing rivalry with the United States in the Asia-Pacific region.
Xi attributed China's "tremendous" success to opening up to the world, a policy initiated by the late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping more than three decades ago.
He reassured his audience that it would remain China's policy.
Xi said China would continue to open the door to the outside for further development.
His guests included scientists, agricultural experts, engineers and the president of a business school, all invited to work in China by the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs.
In the three weeks since Xi took the helm of the party, his schedule seems to have been carefully choreographed to send messages in a variety of areas, from appointing his first general to show his firm grip on the army, to a lengthy speech calling for an end to the use of empty words by officials.
A Politburo meeting has also ordered a limit on official pomp and bureaucracy, while in a speech on Tuesday, Xi promised that China would uphold the law and its constitution. He also met HIV/Aids patients on the eve of World Aids Day last week, promising to curb the spread of the disease and end discrimination.
"He is setting a basic tone, one by one, for the basic areas of his political platform," said Liu Junning, a mainland political scientist. "When new leaders come to office they tend to make promises but we need time to see if these promises are measures that can be fully implemented or just talk."
Professor Zhou Yongsheng, of China Foreign Affairs University, said Xi had used yesterday's meeting as an opportunity to tell the world that the new leadership would follow the foreign affairs policy decided decades ago by Deng and would co-ordinate with other countries on important issues.
Zhou said Xi chose to relay the message at a meeting with foreign experts instead of foreign government leaders to reinforce his populist image.
In what analysts see as an effort to win back lost trust of people, the Politburo meeting on Tuesday pledged that the party would also reduce or restrict airport welcoming and seeing-off ceremonies for visiting leaders and cut spending and the number of escorts for leaders on official domestic and overseas visits.
The leadership also took aim at wordy meetings, saying the arrangements for national meetings of officials and major events would be strictly regulated and improvements made to the efficiency of official conferences and the issuing of official documents.