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 Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

China will 'never seek hegemony,' Xi says in reform speech

December 18, 2018 - 1:42 am

BEIJING (AP) — China will never seek 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 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 for downplaying the role of Deng, widely considered the architect of the changes, in favor of elevating 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.

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.

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.

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