China's Xi calls for 'bridges' amid trade, diplomatic frictions

Since the 1950s, China's ruling Communist Party has gone from not being recognised by the United Nations to boasting the biggest diplomatic footprint in the world and presiding over the second-biggest economy.
Last Updated : 28 June 2024, 05:27 IST

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Beijing: Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday called for the building of "bridges" in the global economy, as Beijing grapples with economic, trade and territorial disputes with its neighbours and trading partners around the world.

China will never leave the road of peaceful development, Xi said at a conference commemorating China's guiding principles for foreign affairs first formulated 70 years ago.

China will also not become a "strong" state that would try to dominate others, Xi told conference attendees that included former Myanmar President Thein Sein and former General Secretary of the Vietnamese Communist Party Nong Duc Manh.

"Facing the history of peace or war, prosperity or unity or confrontation, more than ever before, we need to carry forward the spirit and connotation of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence," Xi said.

The Five Principles first appeared in a 1954 pact reached with regional rival India over their Himalayan border. Even so, Indian officials were absent from the front row of the audience reserved for guests of honour.

Since the 1950s, China's ruling Communist Party has gone from not being recognised by the United Nations to boasting the biggest diplomatic footprint in the world and presiding over the second-biggest economy.

Beijing now signals a desire that other countries see it as a diplomatic heavyweight, even as other countries accuse it of economic coercion and unfair competition.

After China brokered an unexpected detente between Iran and Saudi Arabia last year, Wang Yi, China's top diplomat, said the country would continue to play a constructive role in handling global hotspot issues.

But Beijing's unwillingness to condemn Russia's invasion of Ukraine and pursuit of a "no-limits partnership" with Moscow present hurdles to that ambition and saw China skip a summit on a peace conference in Switzerland earlier this month.

China's trade ties with the European Union have also come under strain as the 27-state bloc plans to impose additional tariffs on Chinese-made electric vehicles, potentially opening up a new front in the West's tariff war with Beijing which began with Washington's initial import duties in 2018.

The EU accuses China of flooding its market with cheap EVs produced by Chinese automakers that have benefited from heavy state subsidies.

"In the era of economic globalisation, what we need is not to create chasms of division, but to build bridges of communication, and not raise the iron curtain of confrontation but to pave the way of cooperation," Xi said.

'Dangerous period'

China has striked a softer tone in its dealings with the world recently, releasing an Australian journalist from prison and stabilising ties with Canberra, resuming informal nuclear talks with the US, and agreeing to debt restructuring deals with its many creditors.

Yet tensions with countries closer to home remain elevated.

India-China relations have been tense since the biggest military confrontation in decades on their disputed Himalayan border killed 20 Indian and at least four Chinese soldiers in June 2020.

Since the clash, India has made it difficult for Chinese companies to invest, banned hundreds of popular apps and severed passenger routes, although direct cargo flights still operate between the Asian giants.

Tensions with the Philippines have also risen in the South China Sea, where Manila and Beijing have competing claims, leading US officials to remind Beijing that the mutual defence treaty obligations it has with the Philippines are ironclad.

"At the end of the day, we need a forum where people can talk, regardless of your size, your strength, your economic might, your military might," Siddharth Chatterjee, UN Resident Coordinator, China, told Reuters on the sidelines of the Beijing commemorative conference on Friday.

"It is about making sure that we have dialogue, be engaged, because right now where we are in the state of affairs, it is a dangerous period that you've entered."

Published 28 June 2024, 05:27 IST

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