Former Communist Party of China leader briefs media ahead of next week’s border talks in Beijing

Ahead of the India-China border talks in Beijing next week, a senior Chinese leader urged both sides to reach an agreement on the dispute by meeting each other’s claims half way. Admitting that the 1962 border clash between India and China and the subsequent tensions along the border had hindered optimum development of bilateral ties, Li Junro, former deputy head of the Communist Party of China’s (CPC) Central Party School, said both sides must “turn over to a new page as soon as possible.”

“We are happy that the two governments are engaging increasingly in dialogue, which has led to a better understanding of each other. Both should make compromises and meet each other half-way,” said Mr. Li, head of a Chinese delegation that is in South Asia to brief journalists, political parties and academicians on the recently concluded 18th National Congress of the CPC.

The team has already visited Pakistan and, after briefing political parties and thinkers here, it engaged with journalists and left for Sri Lanka. Similar delegations have fanned out to other regions except the U.S., for which a more senior team from the CPC will be earmarked. “China needs to know more about the world and the world needs to know more about China,” he said while encapsulating the reason for similar teams heading for Europe, Australia and South East Asia, besides South Asia.

Mr. Li reasoned that states took time to reach an understanding with each other but once the issue [border dispute] was resolved, nothing would hinder the development of bilateral relations. Asked about China’s aircraft carrier project, he said the current phase — a subject of much interest in the western media — was aimed at mastering the techniques of handling the vessel. Thereafter, it would be “normal” to have a functioning aircraft carrier whose major function will be to defend China’s maritime sovereignty. Even India has operated aircraft carriers for a long time, he pointedly noted.

On the tensions in the South China Sea and the East China Sea between China and several of its maritime neighbours, the Chinese leader reiterated the official line — these islands were part of China, but after the discovery of oil and gas, others started laying claim to them; and China wanted dialogue, but would not countenance a show of force.

On the party conference, Mr. Li attributed the smooth transition of the top leadership due to changes made in the country’s political structure. “We abandoned the outdated method of life tenures and, therefore, we had a normal and successful transition of the top leadership,” he said. Similar changes have been continuously made over the past 30 years because success in reforming and opening up the economic structure cannot happen without changes in the political structure.”

During his interaction with the media, Mr. Li said the move towards “consultative democracy” could be the next major political reform in China. The trends were visible — the run-up to the recent party conference saw more multiple candidates and direct candidature. Asked about the land acquisition and rehabilitation issues, he admitted there were problems. India, which was taking the same path to modernisation, could use China’s experience in this regard as a reference, he offered.

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