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Congress sidesteps foreign policy

What will China's foreign policy be in the next decade? While outgoing president Hu Jintao addressed China's disputes with neighbouring nations, the focus of deliberations was clearly domestic, Sutirtho Patranobis reports.

world Updated: Nov 16, 2012 03:31 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

What will China's foreign policy be in the next decade? Other than outgoing President Hu Jintao's speech at the inauguration of the 18th National Congress, no insight about the second most powerful nation's foreign or diplomatic policies were made public in the key week-long Congress.

The Congress only happens once in 10 years when power is handed over to a new set of leaders.

The focus of the deliberations was clearly domestic.

In his statement last Thursday, Hu made points that have been said repeatedly over the last few months, especially in context of disputes that Beijing has with its neighbours.

Hu told delegates that China would increase its unity with other developing economies and expand their voice in international affairs. He warned that China is firm in its resolve to protect its sovereignty, security and developmental interests.

The reduction in numbers of members in the Standing Committee of the Politburo is meant to sharpen decision-making, also in international relations.

If there was any talk about cooperation with other countries during the Congress, it was only in general terms.

There was no mention about Beijing's troubled relationship with the United States of America. It is being speculated that new general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC), Xi Jinping, could want to pursue a more pacific policy.

But whether that's possible with US's increasing involvement in waters near China remains to be seen.

US President Barack Obama is set to wade into the troubled waters of Asia's maritime disputes at a regional summit next week, with allies hoping for support in their efforts to contain China.

Sino-India relationship is also a big question, especially when the two countries' burgeoning trade relationship has slowed down.

What is on formal schedule as far as India is concerned is the visit by chief of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) - sort of a parallel to the Planning Commission of India - Zhang Ping later this month.

Lu Jing, deputy director of the Institute of International Relations at China Foreign Affairs University, told China Daily that China will face challenges in gaining the full trust of countries with different political systems and cultures, while the US strategic repositioning toward Asia has encouraged some neighbours to increase regional frictions.

Because of the continuity of political process, China's policies towards other countries or international issues are likely to continue.

China's ongoing tussle with Japan over a cluster of islands in the East China Sea, for example, is unlikely to disappear.

New Communist Party general secretary Xi Jinping is heading a special committee that's looking into the dispute. So, it's unlikely that Xi will abruptly change tack.

On an issue like the unending civil war in Syria, Beijing is likely to continue oppose international intervention.