While playing host to the Prime Minister of Vanuatu in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing last year, President Xi Jinping said China was not seeking a "sphere of influence" in the region. "Countries, no matter big or small, strong or weak, rich or poor, are equal members of the international community," he declared, adding that "China is opposed to great power chauvinism".
But why is Mr Xi talking about so-called "spheres of influence", a notion that is widely seen as so 19th century?
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