The signatures of almost 300 foreign political leaders on a document praising Chinese President Xi Jinping’s contribution to world peace has provided him valuable ammunition to counter arguments by those who fear the country’s rising international clout.
The so-called Beijing Initiative was signed Sunday at the end of a four-day Communist Party gathering that brought together hundreds of political representatives, including Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen. The document said, among other things, “We highly praise the great effort and major contributions made by the Chinese Communist Party with General Secretary Xi Jinping as its core leader to build a community of shared future for mankind and a peaceful and fine world.”
China’s largest-ever global interparty dialogue represented Xi’s latest play for greater overseas clout since outlining plans in October to make his country a great power by 2050. One challenge facing Xi is overcoming suspicion that China, which already has the world’s second-largest economy and one of its most powerful militaries, would seek to use its growing influence to coerce smaller countries.
The Beijing event showcased a growing willingness to let China assume a leadership role as U.S. President Donald Trump’s “America First” policies and Brexit negotiations undermine confidence in the established Western powers. While most participants were from left-leaning parties in developing nations, Italy’s Democratic Party, New Zealand’s Labour Party, South Korea’s Democratic Party and Japan’s Komeito Party also sent representatives.
“Many political parties in the world are confused and struggling and searching for new path,” said Wang Yiwei, director of at Renmin University’s Institute of International Affairs and a speaker at the event. “As Brexit and Trump have shown, there’s no teacher of liberal democracy and teachers have made mistakes. There is no universal model of development.”
Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate who addressed the gathering Friday, has sought to improve ties with China amid Western criticism over her country’s crackdown on the Rohingya ethnic minority.
Xi, who emerged from a Communist Party congress in October as China’s most powerful leader in decades, told cadres then that the country’s party-state model could provide an alternative for developing countries. On Friday, Xi sought to reassure dialogue attendees that China would neither import foreign development models nor export its own.
The document signed in Beijing also endorsed Xi’s signature “Belt and Road” trade-and-infrastructure initiative, saying it “suits people’s interests” in countries along a route spanning from Asia to Africa and Europe.