SOURCE: TODAY ONLINE
Premier Li Keqiang struck an optimistic tone on China’s relations with the United States and at the same time said Beijing did not want the Association of South-east Asian Nations (Asean) to feel compelled about having to choose between the two superpowers.
The world’s two biggest economies share extensive common interests on jobs, foreign exchange and security, Mr Li said at a press conference after the close of the annual National People’s Congress yesterday.
“We do not want to see any trade war breaking out between the two countries. That would not make our trade fairer,” he said, adding that Chinese bilateral trade and investment created nearly one million jobs in the US last year.
“Our hope on the Chinese side is that no matter what bumps this relationship hits, we hope it will continue to move forward in a positive direction … We may have different statistical methods, but I believe whatever differences we may have we can all sit down and talk to each other and work together to find solutions.”
Issues that cannot immediately be solved should be “shelved” for the time being, he added.
The Premier used his most high profile public appearance of the year to endorse Mr Xi’s status as the Communist Party’s “core” before a twice-a-decade leadership reshuffle later this year. His Parliament-ending press conference is the only time each year that foreign journalists are allowed to put questions to a member of China’s elite leadership inner circle, though they are pre-approved.
American President Donald Trump has attacked China on issues ranging from trade to Chinese assertiveness in the disputed South China Sea and what he perceives as China’s lack of interest in reining in nuclear-armed North Korea.
During his controversial election campaign, Mr Trump had threatened to label China a currency manipulator and impose huge tariffs on imports of Chinese goods. He incensed Beijing in December by talking to Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen and saying the US did not have to stick to the policy, vaguely suggesting that he may abandon the policy as part of negotiations for a better trade deal with China.
Mr Trump later agreed in a phone call with President Xi Jinping to honour the “One China” policy in a diplomatic boost for Beijing, which vehemently opposes criticism of its claim to self-ruled Taiwan.
Mr Li said yesterday that diplomats are discussing a potential meeting between Mr Xi and Mr Trump, confirming reports the two leaders will meet in Florida next month with the goal of reducing tensions over North Korea.
Turning to America’s and Beijing’s role in the Asia-Pacific, Mr Li said the fundamental principle should be to maintain peace and stability.
“The Asia Pacific region is a common homeland for countries in the region. We don’t want to see things like ‘picking sides’ based on a Cold War mentality,” he said.
The Premier was responding to a question on how China and the US will peacefully co-exist in the region amid concerns by Asean member states that they may be asked to pick sides.
“We think of the Asean as the priority of our neighbouring diplomacy and support the construction of the Asean community and their central role in regional cooperation. We want the region to be a stable and orderly region that can reach consensus through negotiations, manage conflicts and have the wisdom to resolve its conflicts.”
He stressed that China and the US have been working together in the Asia-Pacific region for many years.
“We hope that the common interest of China and the US keeps expanding to benefit Asean countries instead of getting in the way.”
Mr Li also stated during the press conference that China‘s economy is strong and not at risk of a hard landing, while stressing Beijing’s support for globalisation and free trade at a time of rising protectionism.
China has cut its economic growth target this year to around 6.5 per cent from its 2016 goal of 6.5 to 7 per cent, while vowing to push through reforms to tackle rising debt and guard against financial risks. AGENCIES