China needs to reassure world on its role - Clinton

WASHINGTON, March 7 Wed Mar 7, 2012 5:58pm EST

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WASHINGTON, March 7 (Reuters) - China's growing clout means it can no longer selectively follow global rules and must now demonstrate it can play a constructive role on international issues such as the Syria crisis, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday.

"The world is looking for China to play a role commensurate with its new standing," Clinton said.

"We do believe that China will have to go further to fully embrace its new role in the world, to give the world confidence that it is going to ... play a positive role."

Clinton's remarks at an event marking the 40th anniversary of U.S. President Richard Nixon's groundbreaking 1972 trip to Beijing surveyed the growing interdependence between the United States and China, now the world's second biggest economy.

Washington and Beijing have both sought to keep relations on an even keel despite flare-ups over issues ranging from China's exchange rate policy and human rights record to its decision to side with Moscow in vetoing a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to give up power.

Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, widely expected to move into the top job next year, recently concluded a U.S. visit designed to show continuity and stability despite the almost constant low-level diplomatic static between the two sides.

Clinton - who has visited China five times as secretary of state - said Washington would keep working with Beijing to develop a cooperative partnership that few envisioned possible when they first set up diplomatic relations in 1979.

"This is, by definition, incredibly difficult. But we've done difficult things before," she told the conference, which included pivotal figures in U.S. China policy such as Nixon-era Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, the architect of the 1972 presidential visit.

Clinton also laid out a series of expectations for China, echoing growing U.S. calls for Beijing to become a more responsible international partner on everything from trade policy to global security.

"It is understandable that the international community wants some confidence that a country's growing power will be used for the benefit of all," Clinton said. "This is particularly true for a country that has grown as rapidly and as dramatically as China."

Clinton asserted that China must demonstrate it will use its foreign policy to contribute more toward solving international problems, citing Syria as an example.

She also said that Beijing, which announced it was boosting military spending by 11.2 percent this year, needed to explain its defense buildup to reassure its neighbors and avoid misunderstandings.

Clinton said China must show if it is ready to sign on to a "rules-based" system for global trade and investment, hearkening back to repeated U.S. accusations that Beijing artificially undervalues its currency and takes other short cuts to win unfair trade advantages.

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