GERMANY - President Xi Jinping on Friday countered fears over China's national defence and economic buildup, saying that the country will stick to friendly partnership with its neighbours.
Xi made the remarks in response to a question on China's rising defence budget after a speech sponsored by the Koerber Foundation in Berlin on the first day of his two-day state visit to Germany.
China announced a 12.2 per cent increase in military spending earlier this month, with its national defence budget standing at 80.82 billion yuan ($13 billion) this year.
Xi defended the national defence buildup, saying the country's defence matches its size.
Xi dismissed perceptions that the nation's economic might makes it a threat. There are those who "portray China as being the terrifying Mephisto, who would someday suck the soul of the world," Xi said. But that notion "couldn't be more ridiculous, yet some people regrettably are never tired of preaching it."
China's rapid economic growth has helped drive the growth and aid the creation of jobs in its major trade partners, including many of its Asian neighbours. Yet some countries, especially those with territorial and maritime disputes with China, have played the "China threat" card in recent years.
Xi said that as one cannot choose its neighbour, adhering to friendship and partnership with its neighbours is the only right choice for China.
As for the disputes: "We advocate properly handling the frictions and manage disputes through negotiation and dialogue, but on important issues concerning China's sovereignty and territorial integrity, we will not stir up trouble, but we are also not afraid of trouble, and will firmly safeguard China's legitimate rights".
Chinawill never seek "hegemony or expansion", but China will also not repeat the historic tragedy of being enslaved and colonised by the big powers after the Opium Wars, Xi told his audience.
He also reflected on the country's past as the victim of colonial aggression, and said Japanese atrocities during World War II are something "still fresh in our memory."
Relations between China and Japan have been stalled by a dispute over the Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to the Yasukuni Shrine, which honors the country's Class-A war criminals.