BEIJING--China's new leader, moving to ease concerns about a more assertive China, says Beijing has no intention of "aggressively expanding its influence" over other nations.
Xi Jinping, who took the helm three weeks ago, made the remark Dec. 5 during a round-table discussion with 20 foreign business executives and researchers who work in China.
"China will consistently take a path of peaceful development," Xi, the Communist Party's new general secretary, was quoted as saying by participants who were invited to the session at the Great Hall of the People. "It will not seek to challenge or pose a threat to other nations, nor pursue an expansionist line."
Xi showed that he aims to mirror the diplomatic policy line set by Hu Jintao, his predecessor. His remarks were apparently aimed at responding to apprehension among countries with which China is at odds over sovereignty claims.
Aside from its standoff with Japan over sovereignty of the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, China has territorial disputes with Vietnam and the Philippines, among other nations, over ownership of islands in the South China Sea.
Concerns had been expressed in Japan, the United States and some European countries about Xi's hawkish approach to foreign policy.
But Xi apparently wanted to underscore China’s pursuit of "peaceful development" by meeting with foreign professionals.
Xi made no mention of Japan during the hour-long talk.
He also pledged that China will continue its policy of opening up its market to foreign competition.
Xi said China wanted to promote cooperation with its business partners. He reminded those at the meeting that Beijing has been promoting a more open economic policy for more than 30 years.
The participants at the round-table discussion represented 16 countries, including the United States and European and African nations.
One Japanese, president of a security house in China, attended.
The session represented a rare opportunity for the foreign community to hear the nation's leader talk about world affairs.
In the past, China's top leader had hardly ever discussed diplomacy and other key issues with foreign executives and media.
The participants were experts in various fields, such as law, agriculture, finance and the environment.
Four of them were asked to make comments during the talk.
Analysts said the real purpose of the meeting was to allow Xi to let foreign reporters, who were selected by the Chinese foreign ministry, know where the new leadership stands on issues.
The occasion also marked part of efforts by the new leadership to woo domestic and foreign audiences.
On Dec. 4, the party's politburo unanimously adopted an eight-point action plan to streamline party activities in a campaign designed to change the general atmosphere in the party.
The plan includes a reduction in the number of attendants to senior officials on inspection tours, and a cut in the number of people mobilized to greet the officials. The plan also calls for eliminating the use of red carpet welcomes during official ceremonies.
In addition, closing off streets and regulating traffic when senior officials travel has also been banned as a basic principle.
The announcement of these steps drew more than 350,000 responses on Weibo, China's Twitter-like microblogging service.
Xi's swift moves to highlight his policies reflect his intention to solidify his power base during this transitional period, according to analysts.
At home, Xi will have to work to restore the public's confidence in the party after the party was labeled "a group of vested interests" following revelations of corruption and other misdeeds among members.
"(The efforts) are designed to close ranks within the party as well as within society," said a Chinese historian who is critical of Beijing. "But people who will be swayed merely by what they are saying will not be a majority in the public."
Gist of Xi’s remarks at the round-table discussion as follows:
• Our efforts (to achieve a development goal) will bear fruit only after we win support from people around the world.
• China will stick with a basic national policy of opening up to the world without wavering. We will never close our doors.
• China has already achieved development to the extent that it has drawn public attention, but the country is still in the middle of development and is laden with a number of problems that need to be dealt with.
• We should not be too proud to make up for our shortcomings by learning from other civilizations and adopting their strengths.
• We want to establish a "win-win relationship" with other countries and tackle complex problems in the world economy and questions of global scale.
• China will pursue a path of peaceful development, not act for it own benefit. We are not following a development model in which only we win and others lose. China will never challenge other nations, pose a threat or adopt hegemonism.
• China’s growth will benefit the peaceful development of the world.
• China and other nations will all emerge as winners by cooperating with one another.
(This article was compiled from reports by Atsushi Okudera and Nozomu Hayashi in Beijing.)
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