China must modernise before boosting global role: Official

DAVOS (AFP) - China's new leadership will focus on modernising the country before it increases Beijing's role in international affairs, a top official told the Davos forum on Saturday.

Senior Chinese planning official Zhang Xiaoqiang told economic and business leaders gathered in the Swiss ski resort that the whole world would benefit if China completed its development programme.

"I think that the new leader of the Chinese government and the Communist Party has emphasised the strategic agenda for China in the future is to realise the modernisation of China," Mr Zhang told the World Economic Forum.

"And of course for the largest developing country itself, modernisation must be a great contribution for the human beings' progress and development," said Mr Zhang, a deputy director of China's National Development and Reform Commission.

Mr Zhang was taking part in a panel at the annual World Economic Forum that discussed China's future global agenda, with other members including former British prime minister Gordon Brown and ex-Australian premier Kevin Rudd.

China's once-in-a-decade leadership transition is due to take place at a key congress in March, after the Communist Party in November chose current Vice President Xi Jinping to take over the reins from current President Hu Jintao.

Mr Brown, British premier from 2007-2010 and now a UN special education envoy, argued that China should take a more prominent role in global affairs given that it would soon become the largest economy in the world.

"China should now want to play its rightful role in what is not a unipolar world any more but a multipolar world," he said. He added that the world economy was growing "far slower" than it should because of a lack of cooperation.

But Mr Zhang said China was already playing a global role, and urged patience.

"In fact China already takes a lot of efforts in many global challenges, such as dealing with the international financial crisis, the government changes, food security," he told the forum.