Chinese Premier Li Keqiang rejects claims Beijing is trying to buy global influence

Nation is on a path of peaceful development, leader says in two-hour speech to close National People’s Congress

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 March, 2018, 7:16pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 March, 2018, 11:30pm

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Tuesday rejected suggestions that China was leveraging its economic strength to gain political influence on the world stage.

In answer to a question posed at a press conference at the end of the National People’s Congress in Beijing, Li said that such an interpretation would be a “misreading or misunderstanding”, and that China was on the path of “peaceful development”.

The United States, Germany, India and Australia have all raised concerns about China’s growing influence, which has expanded significantly through its trade and infrastructure development plan known as the “Belt and Road Initiative”.

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Li, however, defended the US$900 billion scheme – a pet project of Chinese President Xi Jinping – and pointed to the transparency of the investments made through it.

“The assistance that we have provided for underdeveloped countries is within our reach and without any political conditions. It cannot be deemed as political infiltration,” the premier said in a largely scripted two-hour briefing.

“As for a greater role in the international community, China is willing to shoulder responsibilities compatible with those of developing countries.”

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All deals with foreign countries were made based on market rules and business principles, he said, adding that China was not an expansionist nation.

“We will uphold our territorial integrity and will never lose one inch of our own land and will never occupy one inch of others’ land,” he said, echoing the words used by Xi in his closing speech two hours earlier.

“The Chinese people and the Chinese nation have a shared conviction that not a single inch of land can be ceded from China,” the president said.

“The Chinese people’s aspirations, sincerity in actions to contribute to mankind’s peace and development should not be misinterpreted, much less be distorted by anyone. Justice will finally prevail,” Xi said.

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China is currently embroiled in territorial disputes related to the South China Sea with at least five southeast Asian countries. Beijing claims almost all of the waterway in which it has built artificial islands and conducts regular naval patrols.

Last summer, China engaged in a 72-day military stand-off with India, sparked by a road-building project on the Doklam plateau close to the trijunction with Bhutan.