Chinese premier warns Australia ‘taking sides’ could lead to new cold war

Li Keqiang says Beijing pursues foreign policy of peace and seeks ‘development paths suited to our traditions’

Chinese premier Li Keqiang told Malcolm Turnbull that Beijing respects Australia’s foreign policy.
Chinese premier Li Keqiang told Malcolm Turnbull that Beijing respects Australia’s foreign policy. Photograph: David Gray/Reuters

The Chinese premier, Li Keqiang, has warned China does not want to see a new cold war, emphasising that throughout his country’s history, peace has “always been the most precious thing”.

With increasing tensions in the South China Sea a significant backdrop to his visit to Australia, Li told parliamentarians in Canberra on Thursday that China did not want to see countries “taking sides, as happened during the cold war”.

Li used a lunchtime address to say Beijing pursued an independent foreign policy of peace, and pursued “national development paths suited to our traditions”.

He said China respected Australia’s chosen foreign policies and that “as long as they are consistent with the United Nations charter and international rules – we will work together to maintain them”.

Li’s explicit warning against taking sides could be interpreted not only as broad ranging diplomatic advice to his host, but a rebuke to Australia’s foreign minister Julie Bishop, who recently argued the United States remained the pre-eminent global strategic power in Asia, and the “indispensable strategic power in the Indo-Pacific”.

In a rare negative public commentary about China’s political system, the Australian foreign minister also used her speech in Singapore in mid-March to suggest China’s lack of democracy was a constraint on the country reaching its full economic potential. Bishop is not in Canberra for the Chinese premier’s visit, instead attending a meeting in the US about the campaign against Islamic State.

With China’s assertive posture in the Asia Pacific region generating significant tensions, Li said Beijing was intent on executing a peaceful rise, and was not seeking to display dominance in the region.

He said China wanted to grow its economy, giving people a better life and boosting living standards, and that required “a stable regional environment and a stable world environment”.

“Throughout China’s history, peace is always the most precious thing,” premier Li said. “That is our tradition. Now China is firmly committed to being on the path of peaceful development.

“That is determined by our tradition, that is also driven by our reality and it will continue to remain so in the future and that serves the interests of not only the Chinese, but people across the world.”

Li said as China grows in the future, “we will never seek dominance,” and he said China stood ready to work with Australia “for peace in our region, for maritime navigation freedom and the freedom of overflight, and we will continue to do that”.

In Bishop’s Singapore speech, she noted China’s provocative behaviour in the South China Sea was one of the challenging manifestations of emerging geopolitical competition in the region, and said the region was anxious in the absence of a clear signal from the Trump administration.

Bishop said the US did not have territorial disputes with other countries in the region, and the democratic and liberal rules-based order exemplified in the American political system reflected what Australia sought to “preserve and defend” in the region.

Bishop also issued a pointed warning that the importance “of liberal values and institutions should not be underestimated or ignored”.

“While non-democracies such as China can thrive when participating in the present system, an essential pillar of our preferred order is democratic community,” the foreign affairs minister said.

The Australian prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, who welcomed Li to Canberra on Thursday before discussions on trade and regional security, said the two leaders would discuss the “importance of upholding and maintaining stability in our region”.

Turnbull said Australia and China would work together “to counter the rising tide of protectionism” but he noted that free trade could “only thrive in a peaceful and stable environment”.

“Both our countries know this well,” Turnbull said. “Australia and China have both benefitted immeasurably from the stability in our region that has been underpinned by the rules based international order.

“During this visit, premier Li and I will discuss, as we have before, the importance of upholding and maintaining stability in our region. We believe China has much to contribute to global peace and prosperity in this time of rapid change.”

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This entry was posted in Australia, Biển Đông (SCS), China and tagged , , , , , by Trần Đình Hoành. Bookmark the permalink.

About Trần Đình Hoành

I am an attorney in the Washington DC area, with a Doctor of Law in the US, attended the master program at the National School of Administration of Việt Nam, and graduated from Sài Gòn University Law School. I aso studied philosophy at the School of Letters in Sài Gòn. I have worked as an anti-trust attorney for Federal Trade Commission and a litigator for a fortune-100 telecom company in Washington DC. I have taught law courses for legal professionals in Việt Nam and still counsel VN government agencies on legal matters. I have founded and managed businesses for me and my family, both law and non-law. I have published many articles on national newspapers and radio stations in Việt Nam. In 1989 I was one of the founding members of US-VN Trade Council, working to re-establish US-VN relationship. Since the early 90's, I have established and managed VNFORUM and VNBIZ forum on VN-related matters; these forums are the subject of a PhD thesis by Dr. Caroline Valverde at UC-Berkeley and her book Transnationalizing Viet Nam. I translate poetry and my translation of "A Request at Đồng Lộc Cemetery" is now engraved on a stone memorial at Đồng Lộc National Shrine in VN. I study and teach the Bible and Buddhism. In 2009 I founded and still manage dotchuoinon.com on positive thinking and two other blogs on Buddhism. In 2015 a group of friends and I founded website CVD - Conversations on Vietnam Development (cvdvn.net). I study the art of leadership with many friends who are religious, business and government leaders from many countries. In October 2011 Phu Nu Publishing House in Hanoi published my book "Positive Thinking to Change Your Life", in Vietnamese (TƯ DUY TÍCH CỰC Thay Đổi Cuộc Sống). In December 2013 Phu Nu Publishing House published my book "10 Core Values for Success". I practice Jiu Jitsu and Tai Chi for health, and play guitar as a hobby, usually accompanying my wife Trần Lê Túy Phượng, aka singer Linh Phượng.

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