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Straight from the Specialists

Word and deed must match in Xi Jinping’s Boao speech

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily of Reuters)

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s maiden speech at the Boao forum is to be welcomed – but cautiously. The vision he has outlined of harmonious co-operation and co-existence among members of the global community has echoes of the 1954 Sino-Indian panchsheel (five principles of peaceful coexistence) agreement. History reminds us that the two Asian giants engaged in a brief border war in October 1962.

However, it must be noted that in its current form, the Xi vision is forward-looking, normative and unexceptionable and hence, to be carefully commended. The challenge for Beijing will be to match these words with appropriate deeds and actions.

The tenure of Xi’s predecessor Hu Jintao was accompanied by the ‘peaceful rise’ formulation but this was not how some of Beijing’s principal interlocutors saw China’s actions. Towards the end of the Hu tenure, it would be fair to note that Beijing had generated more anxiety than admiration or adulation in the neighbourhood and this has become the dominant global perception. On sovereignty issues, it has been a case of the Chinese way – or the highway.

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