Beijing: The world must get used to a rising China speaking hard truths about international disputes such as Syria, a top newspaper said on Tuesday, saying its veto of a UN resolution on the Syrian crisis showed China would be no "rubber stamp".
China said its blocking, along with Russia, of a draft UN resolution that backed an Arab plan urging President Bashar al-Assad to quit, did not amount to supporting the Syrian leader.
Activists accused Assad`s forces of bombarding part of the city of Homs before the UN vote on the weekend, killing 200 people in the worst bloodshed of the 11-month uprising. The opposition said 50 people were killed in Homs on Monday.
The head of the Arab League, Nabil Elaraby, said Russia and China had lost diplomatic credit in the Arab world by vetoing the resolution.
But the overseas edition of the People`s Daily, the mouthpiece of the ruling Communist Party, said in a front-page commentary China was right to stand up for what it believed was the correct course over Syria.
"The Syrian situation is worsening, and China and Russia`s decision to veto created a `window of opportunity` for a soft landing to the problem, which should not be wasted," wrote Ruan Zongze, who the paper identified as a foreign affairs expert.
Ruan said China should tough out the international outcry over the veto. "Today, China, because of its rapidly rising strength, sits at the main table on the global stage, and needs to get used to newly being in the limelight. The international community also needs to adjust to China`s new role," Ruan said.
"Although this means that China will face even more difficult choices when it comes to handling complex international affairs, China must dare to speak its mind, and proactively create a just, rational global political process."
"Push for dialogue"
On Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin told reporters that Western powers that initiated the UN Security Council vote on their resolution were culpable for not going far enough in seeking compromise.
"China is not playing favourites and nor is it deliberately opposing anyone, but rather is upholding an objective and fair stance and a responsible position," Liu said.
"Our goal is for the Syrian people to escape violence, conflict and flames of war, and not to make the problem even more complicated," he said.
In the People`s Daily, Ruan said the resolution had been aimed at "regime change", which ran contrary to the UN`s charter, hence China could not support it.
China was leading the charge to prevent the Security Council from becoming "just a rubber stamp", Ruan said.
"The international community ought to create conditions for national political reconciliation in Syria and push for dialogue and the narrowing of differences," he wrote.
China`s explanations are unlikely to mollify critics in Western capitals and the Middle East.
Dozens of Syrian and Libyan demonstrators on Monday threw rocks, eggs and tomatoes at the Chinese embassy in Tripoli, where they also broke windows and sprayed graffiti on walls in a show of disgust.
The conflicting Chinese and Western positions have exposed a wider rift about how China should use its growing influence and whether it should forsake its long-standing, albeit unevenly applied, principle of non-interference in other countries` domestic conflicts.
China`s siding with Russia over Syria could also add to irritants with the United States. Vice President Xi Jinping is due to visit there next week, burnishing his credentials as the Communist Party`s likely next top leader.