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Updated: October 16, 2012 19:01 IST

China boosts South Asia diplomacy

Ananth Krishnan
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A file picture of Mr. Li Changchun, member of Polit Burea standing committee of CPC.
Xinhua A file picture of Mr. Li Changchun, member of Polit Burea standing committee of CPC.

In a visit aimed at consolidating and deepening China’s diplomatic, economic and "soft power" presence in South Asia, a top Chinese official will visit Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Maldives in a three-nation tour starting on Wednesday.

Li Changchun, China’s fifth highest-ranked leader and propaganda chief, will make “official goodwill visits” to the three countries, Huang Huaguang, a spokesperson for the Communist Party of China's (CPC) International Department, told the official Xinhua news agency on Tuesday.

The Pakistani government said he will be in Islamabad on Wednesday and Thursday. Mr. Li, a Politburo Standing Committee member in charge of pushing China’s “soft power” efforts overseas, will inaugurate the State-run China Radio International’s Urdu-language FM station, the Pakistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs said. Mr. Li will also meet Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and “exchange views on the regional situation”.

Officials at the CPC International Department, when contacted by The Hindu, declined to release any further information about Mr. Li’s visit. He will be visiting the countries at the invitations of the Pakistani government, the government of the Maldives and the Awami League party in Bangladesh, Mr. Huang, the spokesperson, said.

China’s top leaders have been on a diplomacy push before the November 8 once-in-a-generation leadership transition, which will see Mr. Li and six members of the Politburo Standing Committee retire. Only Vice President Xi Jinping, who is expected to succeed Hu Jintao, and Vice Premier Li Keqiang, expected to replace Wen Jiabao, will retain their positions on the nine-member body which effectively runs China.

Security chief and ninth-ranked leader Zhou Yongkang recently visited Afghanistan – the first Chinese leader to do so in almost five decades – and second-ranked Wu Bangguo, who heads the National People’s Congress or Parliament, paid a goodwill visit to Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Iran and Fiji at the end of September.

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