Chinese President Xi Jinping throws support behind UN peacekeeping

China's President Xi Jinping delivers remarks at the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters  in New York on Monday.
China's President Xi Jinping delivers remarks at the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York on Monday. PHOTO: AFP

Chinese President Xi Jinping announced a raft of measures at the United Nations on Monday to support global development and peacekeeping, as he sought to underline China's role of a global power.

Making his maiden speech at the UN General Assembly in New York, he announced that China would set up a 10-year US$1 billion (S$1.43 billion) UN peace and development fund to support the assembly's work; join the new UN peacekeeping capability readiness system, and "take the lead" in setting up a permanent peacekeeping force of 8,000 troops .

He also pledged some US$100 million worth of military assistance to Africa over five years to help the African Union establish the African standby force.

The announcement came amid initial uncertainty, especially from US watchers about China's willingness to participate in the UN-established world order that was largely formulated by western powers after World War II.

Just hours before the Mr Xi's address, US President Barack Obama had urged China to follow international law in its interaction with smaller nations on resolving territorial claims in the South China Sea issue, stressing that larger nations had a greater obligation to engage in diplomacy.

In his speech, President Xi reiterated his rejection of characterisations of China as a hegemonic power, stressing Beijing's commitment to dialogue.

And in pledging its own support of UN-led international order, he appeared to take a jab at US intervention in the domestic affairs of other nations.

"We should build partnerships in which countries engage each other as equals, engage in mutual consultation and show mutual understanding. The future of the world must be shaped by all countries. All countries are equals," he said.

"The big strong and rich should not bully the small, weak and poor. The principle of sovereignty not only means that the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of all countries are inviolable and their internal affairs are not subject to interference. It also means that all countries' right to independently choose social systems and development paths should be upheld."

He went on: "Each civilisation represents the unique vision and contribution of its people and no civilisation is superior to others. Different civilisations should have dialogue and exchanges instead of trying to exclude or replace each other."

Mr Xi also sought to position China as the champion of developing countries in the UN.

"China will continue to stand together with other developing countries," he said. "We firmly support greater representation and voice of developing countries especially African countries in the international governance system. China's vote in the UN will always belong to the developing countries."