China's Xi strikes conciliatory note, broadens diplomatic focus

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s President Xi Jinping ratcheted down Beijing’s heated rhetoric and called on the government to expand its foreign policy agenda through cooperation and diplomacy.

China's President Xi Jinping attends a news conference in Wellington, November 20, 2014. REUTERS/Anthony Phelps

China should “promote peaceful resolution of differences and disputes between countries through dialogue and consultation, and oppose the willful use of threat of force,” Xi said in a major policy address this weekend, according to a report by the official Xinhua News Agency late on Saturday.

“We have advocated the building of a new type of international relations underpinned by win-win cooperation,” Xi told a meeting of top leaders convened by the Communist Party to discuss foreign policy. China championed “a new vision featuring common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security.”

Xi’s remarks are the latest indication that China is adopting more conciliatory foreign policy tactics and addressing fears its economic growth will inevitably spawn a more muscular diplomatic and military approach.

Earlier this month, China attempted to mollify relations with Vietnam, the Philippines and the U.S. during the annual Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, which was hosted in Beijing.

China also has promised more than $120 billion since May to Africa, Southeast Asia and Central Asia, including a $40-billion New Silk Road fund and a $50-billion Beijing-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

“We should increase China’s soft power, give a good Chinese narrative, and better communicate China’s message to the world,” Xi said.

China also should “firmly uphold” its “territorial sovereignty, maritime rights and interest and national unity,” Xi said.

Beijing in recent months has adopted an activist approach to securing its claims to areas of the South China Sea.

Last week, China’s foreign ministry hit back at “irresponsible remarks” from the United States, which has called on Beijing to stop a land reclamation project in the disputed Spratly Islands, after a leading defense publication said satellite images showed China was building an island on a reef that could be large enough to accommodate an airstrip.

China lays claim to almost all of the South China Sea, believed to be rich with minerals and oil-and-gas deposits and one of Asia’s most likely flashpoints. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan also have claims.

“Our biggest opportunity lies in China’s steady development and the growth in its strength,” Xi said.

Reporting by Matthew Miller; Editing by Clarence Fernandez