Beijing seeks to defend world order, says senior diplomat

China does not seek to overturn the existing world order or export its development model, a senior Chinese diplomat has said.

Neither is the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), President Xi Jinping's signature foreign and economic policy plan, a geostrategic tool, said Mr Zhang Yesui, a spokesman for the National People's Congress (NPC).

Instead, China sees itself as a defender of the international order, and wants to make it more just and equitable for all nations, Mr Zhang said at a press conference yesterday, before China's Parliament, the NPC, convenes today.

China also does not believe in a universal development model, but that each country should find a path that fits its national conditions, he added.

"China sticks to its own path, and it neither imports others' models nor exports the Chinese model, nor does it require other countries to copy China's practices," he said.

"If some countries are interested in the experience and practices of China's development, we are willing to discuss and share it with them, but we will never impose it on others."

Those who view the BRI as a tool by which China's clout will grow also misunderstand its purpose, said Mr Zhang, who is also Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs.

NO UNIVERSAL DEVELOPMENT MODEL

China sticks to its own path, and it neither imports others' models nor exports the Chinese model, nor does it require other countries to copy China's practices.

MR ZHANG YESUI, spokesman for the National People's Congress.

The BRI is an economic cooperation initiative that is focused on equal partnership, mutual benefits and win-win results, he said. The initiative, a global economic plan to create regional connectivity through infrastructure development, turns five this year.

"It is an open and inclusive platform, not exclusive or targeted at any country, and we welcome all interested countries," he said.

China will also introduce new laws this year to create a transparent, stable and predictable environment that eases market access for foreign investors while safeguarding their rights, he added.

But in a break from tradition, Mr Zhang did not provide an estimate for how much China's defence budget will rise this year.

Exact figures for defence are likely to be announced today, as part of the Premier's work report delivered at the opening of the annual meetings.

Last year, however, the number was not revealed in the report, an omission that raised questions about China's commitment to transparency. The official Xinhua news agency released the figure of a 7 per cent increase a day later. This put China's military budget last year at 1.044 trillion yuan (S$217 billion), a slight dip from the 7.6 per cent increase in 2016.

Mr Zhang's remarks come as more countries have become wary of China's influence, which has grown in tandem with its economic strength.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned last week that European Union member states participating in Chinese infrastructure initiatives should be mindful not to undermine the bloc's common foreign policy stance towards China.

China has held annual summits since 2012 with 16 Central and Eastern European countries, most of whom are EU members as well. Its investment in these countries reached US$9 billion (S$11.9 billion) last year, while investment in the other direction was US$1.4 billion.

Mr Zhang said China has always adhered to the policy of developing friendly cooperation with all countries. "China's development is conducive to the peace, stability and prosperity of the world," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 05, 2018, with the headline 'Beijing seeks to defend world order, says senior diplomat'. Print Edition | Subscribe