China committed to peaceful development: Xi

China committed to peaceful development: Xi

Chinese President Xi Jinping has given an assurance that China is committed to its strategy for peaceful development, a day after stoking debate and concerns over his remarks that the mainland is a "lion that has woken up".

Speaking in Germany, the third leg of his European tour following France and the Netherlands, Mr Xi also pledged that China will "never stir up any trouble". But he stressed that Beijing will "resolutely safeguard its legitimate rights", in an indirect reference to simmering territorial spats with its neighbours in the East and South China seas.

"The path of peaceful development will benefit both China and the world at large. We cannot find any reason not to stick to the way that has been proven right," Mr Xi said in an address last Friday at the Korber Foundation in Berlin.

His speech in Germany was arguably his most extensive comments on Chinese foreign policy since taking power in late 2012.

A day earlier in France, Mr Xi raised eyebrows when he cited Napoleon's description of China as a sleeping lion and said: "Today, the lion has woken up, and it is peaceful, pleasant and civilised."

Hong Kong-based analyst Jean-Pierre Cabestan told the South China Morning Post that Mr Xi's remarks represented a warning: "A lion is a big, wild and predatory animal, very much like China in its relations with other countries."

But China Foreign Affairs University analyst Zhou Yongsheng told The Sunday Times that Mr Xi's portrayal of an awakened lion is aimed largely at reflecting the reality that it is no longer a weak country.

"In describing a lion that is peaceful, pleasant and civilised, Xi has also charted the future direction of our foreign policy, so as to allay fears of China's rise and affirm our commitment towards working with others" he added.

Concerns over China's rise have grown under Mr Xi's charge. Its military, for instance, has become more assertive in maritime spats with Japan over the Diaoyu/ Senkaku isles in the East China Sea, and with four ASEAN members and Taiwan in the South China Sea.

In his remarks in Germany, Mr Xi used unusually colourful language to castigate critics who have portrayed China as a threat.

"Faced with China's growing clout, some have begun to worry while others even portray China as a 'terrifying Mephisto', who would someday suck the soul of the world," Mr Xi said, according to his prepared remarks. "Such arguments could not be more ridiculous, yet some people regrettably are never tired of preaching it".

There were initial expectations that the Chinese leader would use his visit to Germany to launch a fresh salvo in Beijing's ongoing propaganda war against Tokyo.

But the closest Mr Xi came to addressing Sino-Japanese ties was in his meeting with German President Joachim Gauck, where he said that Japanese atrocities during World War II were "still fresh in our memory".


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kianbeng@sph.com.sg

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