China Says Sovereignty Tops Stability Ahead of Party Congress

(Bloomberg) -- China won’t back down from defending its territory in a sensitive political year, a senior official said.

While foreign reporters often write about how China needs stability ahead of a Communist Party gathering that will determine the country’s leaders for the next five years, concerns over sovereignty, security and development are paramount, according to Jiang Jianguo, director of the State Council Information Office.

Other countries must understand that China will never allow one inch of its soil to be infringed upon, Jiang, who is also deputy head of the Communist Party Central Committee’s publicity department, told reporters in Beijing on Thursday. He added that China always prefers a stable environment both at home and abroad.

Jiang’s comments come amid heightened geopolitical tensions in the run up to the once-in-five-year leadership reshuffle a few months from now. A weeks-long dispute with India over a contested mountainous border shows no sign of abating, while President Donald Trump’s administration is threatening punitive measures on trade after expressing frustration with China over North Korea.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will have the chance to engage with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi at meetings of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Manila this weekend. Wang on Thursday said he appreciated Tillerson’s remarks that Washington isn’t seeking regime change in North Korea.

India Tensions

Beijing has stepped up rhetoric this week against India, warning Indian troops to withdraw from the Chinese side of the border immediately. “China will take all necessary measures to safeguard our legitimate interests,” the party’s mouthpiece People’s Daily warned in an editorial on Friday.

China’s foreign ministry released a 12-page document on Wednesday related to the movement of Indian troops on the border, while the defense ministry declared late Thursday that the military has reached its limits on toleration.

India will continue to engage with China via diplomatic channels, Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj said on Thursday in New Delhi.

President Xi Jinping, who last week oversaw a military parade on the People’s Liberation Army’s 90th anniversary, will host the 19th Party Congress later this year. Nearly half of the 25 spots in the ruling Politburo, including 5 out of 7 on its supreme Standing Committee, will be up for grabs if current informal retirement rules hold.