China's President Xi Jinping preaches peace in Boao Forum keynote address

BOAO, China (Reuters) - Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Saturday that turmoil at home or abroad were not in the country's interests as its bitter past has shown, pledging that Beijing will never stray from its proclaimed path of peaceful development.

Mr Xi has jangled regional nerves with a more muscular approach to diplomacy since assuming the presidency two years ago, ramping up development of advanced weapons and being more assertive in territorial disputes in the East and South China Seas.

Speaking at a high-level forum in Boao, on the southern Chinese island of Hainan, Mr Xi said that China was ready to sign more friendship treaties with its neighbours and proposed holding dialogue among Asian civilisations. "What China most needs a harmonious and stable domestic environment and peaceful and tranquil international environment," he said, to an audience including leaders of countries like Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Nepal.

"Any turmoil or war does not accord with the basic interests of the Chinese people," he added. "China has in the past 100 years or more suffered turmoil and war, and the Chinese people will never impose upon other countries or people the tragic history our own people have experienced," Mr Xi said. "Looking broadly at history, any country trying to use force to achieve its own development goals will in the end only fail. I'm willing to use this opportunity to repeat that on the path ahead, China will unswervingly develop peacefully."

Mr Xi, who also used last year's Apec summit in Beijing to strike a more conciliatory diplomatic note, did not make any direct reference to the East or South China Sea spats.

This week China expressed serious concern after the Philippines said it would resume repair and reconstruction works on disputed islands in the South China Sea, though China is itself building on the islands it claims.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo, speaking after Mr Xi, said he supported finding peaceful solutions to issues within the region. "Tension between countries in Asia is a dangerous game, which does not benefit any nation," he said through a translator.

Mr Joko said in an interview with a major Japanese newspaper shortly before arriving in China that one of China's main claims to the majority of the South China Sea had no legal basis in international law, but that Jakarta wanted to remain an "honest broker" in one of Asia's most thorny disputes.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.