China looking for more friends
BEIJING: China is in the midst of a major diplomatic ascent designed to help its domestic development and is looking for “as many friends as possible” across the world, the country’s foreign minister said on Saturday.
In a wide-ranging, rare news conference about China’s foreign policy, Li Zhaoxing bristled at notions that China is making no progress on human rights, dismissing foreign critics as people who “see the trees but not the forest.” “The Chinese government and the Chinese leadership are the ones who care about human rights the most,” Li said on the sidelines of the country’s legislative session. “But a handful of foreigners, they turn a blind eye to the big picture. They see the trees but not the forest.”
Li, a veteran diplomat, broke little new ground but focused what most believe is the main spin of modern Chinese diplomacy - a multilateral world where unity among nations counterbalances major powers like the United States.
“We are trying to make as many friends as possible,” Li said, smiling. “The more friends China has, the better.”
He added: “We work to create a favourable international environment for China’s stable domestic economic development.”
Li’s tenure as foreign minister coincides with the biggest sea change in Chinese foreign policy since the communists took power in 1949. The country is making obvious efforts to abandon traditionally brittle diplomacy and emerge as a regional player _ as evidenced by its mediation in the dispute between Washington and Pyongyang over North Korea’s nuclear programme.
“The role China plays is to promote peace talks and make peace,” said Li. He is a predictable face for such an era. A former ambassador to the United States and accomplished raconteur, he was in fine form Saturday at his two-hour news conference. He recited poetry, quoted Confucius, corrected the translator in English, grinned at compliments and parried with foreign reporters.
Answering a question on asylum-seekers from neighbouring North Korea, Li was unsympathetic. While he said China has been handling such cases in accordance with law and “humanitarian principles,” he said “a small number of people are trying to politicise this issue.”
“They even use the concept of human rights to create political incidents or force their way into consular missions in China. This is not acceptable,” he said. “These people are not refugees. They are illegal border-crossers. It is very important to make such a distinction.”
But his strongest comments were saved for questions about China’s human rights policy - something he has defended for years in many forums. —AP