CHINA and its neighbours are capable of producing "sounds of harmony" instead of "jarring noises", if all sides observe mutual respect and pursue shared interests, said Premier Li Keqiang.
"When neighbours interact with each other, it is only natural that sometimes they will run into problems of some kind or another," he said on Thursday morning at a press conference wrapping up the annual National People's Congress session.
"As long as they respect each other, properly manage differences and pursue mutual benefits, there will be harmonious sound instead of jarring noises."
Mr Li was asked about how he saw the development of China's ties with its neighbours amid ongoing territorial disputes in the South China Sea with four Asean countries and Taiwan, and in the East China sea over the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands with Japan.
He said that China's philosophy on relations with its neighbours adheres to the 1953 "five principles of peaceful co-existence" mooted by late premier Zhou Enlai: mutual respect for each other's territorial integrity and sovereignty, mutual non-aggression, mutual non-interference in each other's internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful co-existence.
Also, China needs a stable and peaceful external environment to continue on its developmental path, he noted, adding that he believes peace in the region is what all the citizens of the countries involved want.
He once went to Vietnam and visited a small shop incognito at night after the official programme, he said. When he asked the female shopkeeper how she saw ties between their countries, she replied that it would be best to be peaceful and friendly.
"This is what the people want and I think we should work hard to expand areas of mutual benefit and minimise areas of differences."
Mr Li also emphasised repeatedly the philosophy of minimising differences and maximising mutual benefit when later asked about China's relationship with the United States and with Europe respectively.
While China and the US have different histories, cultures and stages of development, managing their differences on an equal basis, and expanding areas of common interest and benefit, would bring ties to a new height, he said.