BEIJING: Chinese premier Li Keqiang embarks this weekend on his first foreign trip since taking office, heading to India, Pakistan, Switzerland and Germany as Beijing seeks to address security and economic disputes.
Li’s journey follows one by Chinese President Xi Jinping to Russia and three African nations in March after the two men assumed their new positions, concluding China’s once-a-decade leadership transition.
Since then a long-running border dispute with New Delhi has flared up with an alleged incursion by Chinese troops into Indian-claimed territory in the Himalayas, while trade disputes with the European Union have intensified.
The official Xinhua news agency said the trips illustrate Beijing’s “overall diplomatic
strategy, with which the new Chinese leadership aims to show the outside world its commitment to peaceful development.”
Li starts his nine-day journey in India on Sunday.
“There are some historical issues between China and India, including the boundary question,” Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Song Tao told reporters, but stressed their similarities as “ancient civilizations and emerging markets.”
“I think we have the wisdom and resourcefulness to properly manage our differences,” he said at a briefing this week.
“And we have the ability to prevent these differences from affecting the overall growth of China-India relations.”
The Asian giants are the world’s two biggest countries by population, accounting for more than one-third of the world’s seven billion people.
China is India’s second-largest trading partner, with two-way commerce totaling $66.5 billion last year, according to Chinese Vice Commerce Minister Jiang Yaoping.
It was targeted to reach $100 billion by 2015, he told reporters, adding the goal was “expected to be realized on schedule.”
The two countries are both members of the BRICS group of emerging economies, which also includes Brazil, Russia and South Africa.
But geopolitical relations between the nuclear powers have been characterized by a mutual wariness with its roots in a Himalayan border war in 1962.