China not trying to ‘replace America’: Foreign minister

China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi speaks to the media after a news conference during the National People's Congress (NPC), China's parliamentary body, in Beijing on Thursday. (Reuters)
Updated 09 March 2018
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China not trying to ‘replace America’: Foreign minister

BEIJING: China’s foreign minister sought Thursday to downplay concerns about Beijing’s global ambitions, while also hinting at consequences for countries that do not fall in line on issues like Taiwan.
Pledging that China had no desire to “replace America” on the global stage, Wang Yi said the Asian nation’s path “is totally different than the one that has already been taken by traditional major powers.”
“The more China develops, the more it can contribute to the world,” Wang said in a wide-ranging press conference.
Wang spoke as 3,000 members of China’s mostly ceremonial national legislature have gathered for their annual meeting in Beijing, where they are set to grant President Xi Jinping a nearly limitless mandate to realize his vision of a resurgent China.
Xi’s ambitions are not limited to home: He has clearly articulated his vision of putting China at the center of world affairs, a position reflecting its Chinese name: “the Middle Kingdom.”
The departure from the country’s long-held stance of keeping a low profile had raised fears abroad of spreading Chinese influence.
On Thursday, Wang tried to strike a balance between reassurance and assertiveness, as Beijing deals with pressure from countries like the US to change its behavior.
Here are some of the main takeaways:
As US President Donald Trump threatens a trade war with China, Wang warned that Beijing is ready to take an “appropriate and necessary response.” He said: “China’s development and rejuvenation can’t be stopped. Some Americans think that therefore China wants to replace the US’s international role, but that is a fundamental strategic misjudgment.” China and the US “don’t need to be rivals, they should be partners.”
Nevertheless, China will not give an inch in the South China Sea, where it has built an archipelago of artificial islands hosting military facilities that the US and other nations say threaten freedom of navigation through the strategically vital waterway.
Beijing’s “resolve to protect the peace and the stability of the South China Sea cannot be shaken,” Wang said about the region, where it has overlapping territorial claims with the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei. The problems in the region are due to “foreign forces” which “have sent fully armed warships and fighters to the South China Sea to flaunt their military might,” he said, referring to operations by the US, Australia and Britain to assert their right to sail through the region.
Although China does not recognize the self-ruled island as an independent nation, Wang took questions about Beijing’s relationship with Taipei, warning that the Taiwanese government must come around to China’s way of thinking if it hopes to enjoy “peaceful development.” The relationship between Beijing and Taipei has soured since the election of President Tsai Ying-wen, who has refused to acknowledge the so-called “1992 consensus,” which agrees that there is only one China without specifying whether Beijing or Taipei is its rightful representative.
“The person who locked the door should open it,” Wang said.
Only by taking the “correct path” of recognizing the consensus can “cross-strait relations restart building a promising prospect for peaceful development.”
Japanese Prime Minister Abe is expected to make a visit to China after years of tense relations set off by a territorial dispute and festering disagreements over the legacy of the Second World War. After mocking a Japanese reporter’s Chinese language skills, Wang said that China “wants the Japanese side to speak credibly in its politics, to behave properly in its actions.”
Wang cautiously welcomed the apparent breakthrough over the North Korea nuclear issue as an “important step in the right direction.” He urged the US and North Korea to hold talks as soon as possible after Seoul said that Pyongyang was ready to discuss denuclearization with Washington in return for security guarantees. “Now is the crucial moment to test the sincerity of the parties to solve the nuclear issue,” he said.


Mandela’s widow urges world: put egos aside and end violence

Graca Machel, member of the Elders speaks at the Nelson Mandela Peace Summit during the 73rd United Nations General Assembly in New York, US, September 24, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 25 September 2018
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Mandela’s widow urges world: put egos aside and end violence

  • Garces said Mandela “represents a light of hope for a world still torn apart by conflicts and suffering”

UNITED NATIONS: Nelson Mandela’s widow challenged world leaders celebrating his life on Monday to put their egos and partisan politics aside and honor his legacy by ending the “senseless violence” plaguing too much of the world.
“History will judge you should you stagnate too long in inaction,” Graca Machel told a UN “peace summit” commemorating the 100th anniversary of Mandela’s birth. “Humankind will hold you accountable should you allow suffering to continue on your watch.”
With peace a scarce commodity, Machel’s challenge was echoed by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and other leaders who acknowledged the world is far from achieving Mandela’s ideals which also include human rights and global cooperation.
“Today, with human rights under growing pressure around the world, we would be well served by reflecting on the example of this outstanding man,” Guterres said. “We need to face the forces that threaten us with the wisdom, courage and fortitude that Nelson Mandela embodied.”
The tributes to Mandela began with a rare UN honor — the unveiling of a $1.8 million statue of the South African anti-apartheid campaigner who became the world’s most famous political prisoner, played a key role in ending white-minority rule, and became president in the country’s first democratic election. The statue is a gift to the United Nations from South Africa.
Mandela’s arms are outstretched in the statue, as if to embrace people everywhere. But after the cover was pulled off, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, with help from Guterres, placed a small South African flag in his lapel.
The day-long summit, with nearly 160 scheduled speakers, set the stage for Tuesday’s opening of the General Assembly’s annual meeting of world leaders, where conflicts from Syria to South Sudan, rising unilateralism, and tackling a warming planet and growing inequality are among issues expected to be in the spotlight.
With a bang of the gavel by General Assembly President Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garces, the leaders on Monday adopted a political declaration resolving “to move beyond words” to promote peace and prevent, contain and end conflicts. “Dialogue is key, and courage is needed to take the first steps to build trust and gain momentum,” it said.
Garces said Mandela “represents a light of hope for a world still torn apart by conflicts and suffering.”
Like others, she warned of the rise of populism and unilateralism and its threat to the 193-member United Nations.
“Drifting away from multilateralism means jeopardizing the future of our species and our planet,” Garces said. “The world needs a social contract based on shared responsibility, and the only forum that we have to achieve this global compact is the United Nations.”
The appeal for collective action to tackle the world’s many conflicts, hotspots and challenges is being tested by the “America First” agenda of US President Donald Trump and populist governments in Italy, Hungary, Austria and elsewhere as well as Britain’s impending divorce from the European Union.
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi warned that “unilateralism and protectionism are on the rise” and urged the international community to “stand united under the umbrella of multilateralism.”
The Trump administration and China have been engaged in a trade war in recent months, with the two sides imposing higher tariffs on imports from each other.
Wang said “the UN is the symbol of multilateralism” and “an important guardian of world peace.” During Mandela’s time, he said, it was the “strong moral pressure” of the UN and the international community “that accelerated the disintegration of apartheid.”
“The international community must stand united under the umbrella of multilateralism, uphold the central role of the UN in international affairs and provide more predictability and stability in this turbulent world,” Wang said.
Addressing the Mandela event, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani never mentioned the United States — which has accused Tehran of promoting international terrorism, a charge it vehemently denies.
But Rouhani appeared to be taking aim at Trump and his pledge to build a wall on the US-Mexican border when he said Mandela was a model for the “historical reality that great statesmen tend to build bridges instead of walls.”
Alluding to the Trump administration, Cuba’s President Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez said recent announcements about military expenditures are “alarming” and are pushing the world into a new arms race “to the detriment of the enormous resources that are needed to build a world of peace.”
South Africa’s Ramaphosa said his country’s “deepest hope” is that the summit, “in the name of one of our greatest exemplars of humanity, serves as a new dawn for the United Nations.”
“We hope we will rediscover the strength of will to save successive generations from war, and to overcome the hatred of our past and the narrow interests that blind us to the vision of a common future that is peaceful and prosperous,” he said. “We hope we will prove ourselves worthy as the bearers of the legacy of Nelson Mandela.”