China will ‘never seek hegemony,’ Xi says in reform speech

Chinese President Xi Jinping applauds during a conference to commemorate the 40th anniversary of China's Reform and Opening Up policy at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018. (AP)
Updated 19 December 2018
0

China will ‘never seek hegemony,’ Xi says in reform speech

  • Xi’s speech espoused “above all else,” said Julian Gewirtz, an international affairs scholar at Harvard, “the distinctiveness and absolute correctness of China’s path under the party’s leadership”

BEIJING: China will never pursue hegemony, President Xi Jinping said Tuesday as global concerns persist over the country’s growing economic influence.
During a speech to mark 40 years of market reforms, Xi repeated China’s commitment to a multilateral trading system and further opening of its economy. However, he did not announce any new initiatives to counter a slowing economy and trade frictions with the United States.
The Chinese leader said China would not develop “at the expense of other countries’ interests.”
China’s expanding footprint worldwide — from Asia-Pacific to Africa and beyond through a broad network of infrastructure projects called the Belt and Road Initiative — has led some nations to raise the alarm over what they call China’s long arm of influence, which has been criticized for being political as well as economic.
While Xi said China is “increasingly approaching the center of the world stage,” he also noted that the country pursues a defensive national defense policy.
“China’s development does not pose a threat to any country,” Xi said. “No matter how far China develops, it will never seek hegemony.”
Xi chronicled at length the country’s recent achievements, giving special credit to former leader Deng Xiaoping, whose reforms Xi said saved China from the brink of economic collapse following the tumultuous Cultural Revolution.
Other celebrations of reform and opening up have been criticized by scholars for downplaying the role of Deng, widely considered the architect of the changes, in order to elevate Xi.
This time around, Xi spared no praise for Deng, as he began by remarking on the significance of 1978 — the year Deng implemented his first reforms.
During the ceremony, 100 individuals were recognized as pioneers of reform. The eclectic slate included NBA player Yao Ming, Alibaba founder Jack Ma and Nobel prizewinning scientist Tu Youyou. They received their medals to the tune of “Story of Spring,” a patriotic ballad paying tribute to Deng.
Throughout, Xi emphasized the absolute rule of the Communist Party and its upholding of Chinese sovereignty.
“No one is in a position to dictate to the Chinese people what should or should not be done,” he said. “We will resolutely reform what can and needs to be reformed, and we will resolutely uphold what cannot and does not need to be changed.”
Xi’s speech espoused “above all else,” said Julian Gewirtz, an international affairs scholar at Harvard, “the distinctiveness and absolute correctness of China’s path under the party’s leadership.”
“This was a broad attempt to provide a really positive, confidence-building story of China’s past 40 years and its future,” said Gewirtz, who has written a book about China’s economic reforms.
The address won’t assuage concerned private entrepreneurs and foreign businesses, who had hoped Xi would use the occasion to announce concrete industry-opening measures to shift dominance away from state corporations.
China’s push to dominate the high-tech industry by 2025 is a sore point with Washington and a contributing factor in trade tensions that have seen the world’s two largest economies slap billions of dollars in punitive tariffs on each other’s products this year.
In a move welcomed by global stock markets, President Donald Trump agreed Dec. 1 to postpone more US tariff hikes on Chinese imports for 90 days while the two sides negotiate over American complaints about Beijing’s technology policy.


Suicide bombers in deadly attack on Afghan ministry

Updated 32 min 33 sec ago
0

Suicide bombers in deadly attack on Afghan ministry

  • At least 7 people were killed in the attack on the Afghan communications ministry in Kabul
  • The area around the building was sealed off by police as at least 3 attackers battled security forces for several hours

KABUL: Suicide bombers and gunmen attacked the communications ministry in central Kabul on Saturday, officials said, in a deadly, hours-long assault that destroyed weeks of relative calm in the capital.
The Taliban said it had “nothing to do” with the attack, which left some 2,000 people stranded in the tall office building for hours at the start of the Afghan work week.
No other group claimed immediate responsibility, but the Afghan branch of Daesh has previously carried out multiple deadly attacks in the capital.
“As a result of today’s explosion/attack in Kabul city, two people have been martyred (killed) and 6 others are wounded,” the health ministry spokesman wrote in a tweet, adding 3 of the injured were women.
In a statement, the interior ministry said four civilians and three soldiers had been killed, though unverified social media posts suggested the final toll could be higher.
AFP journalists heard one big blast around 11:40 am (0710 GMT), followed by sporadic gunfire for hours afterwards.
“The information that we have is four attackers have placed themselves near the communication ministry and are engaged in gunbattles with the Afghan security forces,” Amanduddin Shariati, a security official in Kabul told AFP.
By about 5:00 p.m. (1230 GMT), the interior ministry declared the assault over.
“Operations finished. All suicide bombers killed & more than 2000 civilians staff rescued,” the ministry said on Twitter.
Panicked workers inside the 18-story building, believed to be Kabul’s tallest, moved up to the top floor as gunmen and Afghan security officials battled lower down.
One woman said she had been in a group of about 30 people on the 10th floor when the assault started, then was told to move up to the 18th floor as gunfire increased. They were all eventually rescued by commandos.
“Women were screaming and children of the kindergarten were the first to be evacuated,” the woman, who did not want to be named, told AFP.
Afghan authorities gave conflicting reports during the incident. The information ministry initially said three suicide bombers had attacked a post office building at the ministry.
General Sayed Mohammad Roshan Dil, the Kabul police chief, said four attackers had been wearing police uniforms and had targeted a shrine near the ministry.
Footage on local television showed a small plume at the building, and people climbing out windows on a lower level.
The presidential palace said in a statement “the enemies of Afghanistan have conducted a terrorist attack.”
“Once again they have created fear and have killed or wounded a number of innocent countrymen,” the statement read.
The communication ministry is located in downtown Kabul, about two kilometers (1.25 miles) from the green zone, a heavily fortified compound for foreign embassies.
The area is the city’s main commercial zone and is home to a large hotel.
Aside from a grenade attack on a military vehicle last week and persistent crime, the capital has in recent weeks enjoyed a period of relative calm.
Last year however saw a string of attacks including one where a massive bomb concealed in an ambulance killed more than 100 people.
The attack comes a week after the Taliban announced their annual spring offensive and amid ongoing fighting across Afghanistan.
It illustrates the sprawling nature of Afghanistan’s conflict, and the obstacles to peace even if a deal is reached with the Taliban.
This week in the Qatari capital Doha, a summit planned between the Taliban and officials from across Afghanistan was scrapped at the last minute due to bickering over who should attend the conference.
The collapse comes at a critical time and amid continued bloodshed in Afghanistan, where the Taliban now control or influence about half of Afghanistan and 3,804 civilians were killed there last year, according to a UN tally.
Taliban officials are separately negotiating with the United States, which wants to forge a peace deal with the militants.