Boao: Chinese President Hu Jintao called on Friday for Asian nations to better cooperate in security matters to avoid disagreements in a region increasingly beset by rival territorial claims — often involving China.
Hu offered only vague ideas about a “new security concept”, but his remarks appeared aimed at reassuring neighbours unsettled by Beijing’s soaring economic growth and by its beefed-up military, which has been more assertive in staking China’s territorial claims.
“We need to seek common ground while shelving differences and enhance common security,” Hu told participants at a regional gathering in southern China. “We should reject the Cold War mentality and zero-sum approach, and advocate a new security concept featuring mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality and coordination.”
The remarks appeared significant in part because of the venue: the Boao Forum for Asia, which China bills as an Asian version of the World Economic Forum in the Swiss town of Davos. On the stage with Hu were Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, South African President Jacob Zuma, South Korean Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik and former Japanese prime minister Yasuo Fukuda.
The appeals for greater cooperation come as China has sparred in the past two years with most of its maritime neighbours over islands or rights to exploit the seas. Boao itself lies off the South China Sea — a region of key shipping lanes that is at the centre of overlapping sovereignty claims between China and five other governments.
China has sought to ease concerns over its claim to the entire sea and its island groups, saying it would not impede transit and trade through the region. But, in recent years, it has called the South China Sea a vital national interest and seized fishing boats from the Philippines and Vietnam, prompting a regional backlash that has drawn those countries closer to the United States, the region’s dominant naval power.
At the same time, Japan and South Korea have also strengthened their military alliances with the United States, partly as a result of China’s military expansion and Beijing’s reluctance to condemn provocative acts by communist ally North Korea.
“Cold War mentality” is China’s usual term for perceptions of China as a threat, especially in the US and the West.
While Beijing formally disavows all military alliances, it has sought to boost trust through exchanges of visits and joint exercises with other armed forces in the region and further abroad.