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Xi Jinping calls for greater role for China after Saudi Arabia-Iran deal

Chinese President Xi Jinping today called for a greater role for China in resolving international issues, after Beijing hosted negotiations that culminated in an agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran to restore diplomatic relations.

China should “actively participate in reforming and building the global governance system” and promote “global security initiatives”, Xi said at the closing of the annual session of the National People’s Assembly (NPA), China’s top legislative body.

Xi Jinping on Friday won an unprecedented third term as head of state. He was appointed without any votes against from the nearly 3,000 APN delegates.

Greater intervention by China in international governance will bring “positive energy for world peace and development and create a favourable international environment for our country’s development,” Xi said.

He did not give details of the Chinese Communist Party’s ambitions, but Beijing has taken on an increasingly assertive foreign policy since Xi took power in 2012.

The Chinese leader has called for changes to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and other entities that Beijing says do not reflect the needs and wishes of developing countries.

The Chinese Communist Party has also used China’s growing clout as the world’s second largest economy to promote trade and infrastructure building initiatives that the US, Japan, Russia and India view with suspicion in the face of expanding Chinese strategic influence.

Beijing raised concerns in the US and Australia in early 2022 when it signed a security agreement with the Solomon Islands that would allow Chinese navy ships and security forces to be stationed in the South Pacific island nation.

Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang warned Washington last week of possible “conflict and confrontation” if the United States does not “change course” in bilateral relations, which have deteriorated in recent years over disputes over Taiwan, human rights, Hong Kong, security and technology.

In Monday’s speech, Xi Jinping used the term “national rejuvenation” eight times, part of his agenda to restore China’s role as a global economic, cultural and political leader.

Consecrating his status as the strongest Chinese leader since the founder of the People’s Republic of China, Mao Zedong (1949 – 1976), the new governance team appointed by the National People’s Assembly has long-standing professional and personal ties to the Chinese leader. Xi has thus managed to alienate rivals and fill the main organs of state with cadres he trusts.

He said that before the Communist Party gained power in 1949, China was “reduced to a semi-colonial and semi-feudal country, subject to intimidation by foreign countries”.

“Finally, we have eliminated national humiliation and the Chinese people are now masters of their own destiny,” Xi said. “The Chinese nation has risen, has become rich and is becoming strong,” he added.

Reflecting China’s growing role in foreign affairs, Iran and Saudi Arabia on Friday in Beijing announced an agreement to restore diplomatic relations severed by Riyadh in 2016 following attacks on its diplomatic headquarters in the Persian country.

China also put forward a plan for peace in Ukraine, which Western countries downplayed as putting “aggressor and victim” on the same level.

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