China looks to Russia, Africa after transition
By Kelly Olsen ,AFPBEIJING -- China's new president will pay a state visit to Russia and three African countries, the foreign minister said Saturday, with Beijing looking to step up diplomacy after a protracted leadership transition.
March 10, 2013, 12:13 am TWN
Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said the visit would take place “soon” and that Tanzania, South Africa and the Republic of Congo would comprise the African destinations.
Communist Party leader Xi Jinping is due to be named state president during China's annual National People's Congress (NPC) parliament session under way in Beijing, which will conclude the country's once-a-decade leadership transition.
Xi took over the ruling party reins in November.
Yang did not provide exact dates for the visit, but the legislature wraps up on March 17 and a summit of BRICS nations — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — that the president will attend in South Africa starts March 26.
The choice for the new president's first overseas visit appears to combine respect for China's historical ties with Russia, with which it shares a long border, and Beijing's increasingly prominent role in Africa.
“China and Russia are each other's biggest neighbors,” Yang told reporters at the NPC, at what was likely to be his last press conference as foreign minister.
“We want to work with the Russian side to seize the opportunity ... to inject new and strong impetus to the growth of the comprehensive strategic partnership.”
Russia and China stand together on several global diplomatic issues, including the two-year conflict in Syria, where the two permanent U.N. Security Council members have blocked resolutions that would have introduced sanctions against Bashar al-Assad's regime.
“We don't protect anyone,” Yang said of China's position on Syria, re-iterating Beijing's stance that the crisis could only be resolved through “dialogue and negotiations” and not by military means.
He said Syria's people were “bleeding and suffering” and that China was “distressed and concerned.”