Strong words as Straw urges China to play by global rules

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The Foreign Secretary will today warn that China has to "play by the rules" in order to match its new-found economic clout with political responsibility if it wants to become a constructive and "non-threatening" international partner.

In an unusually strongly worded speech reflecting mounting exasperation with China's refusal to join the Western consensus in dealing with thorny diplomatic problems such as Iran's nuclear threat and the Darfur conflict, Jack Straw will list specific areas where Beijing needs to reform.

If China wants to respond to the "core interests" of the international community, it must introduce "more democratic accountability, strengthened rule of law and improved governance," he will tell a seminar of specialists, politicians and businessmen at the Smith Institute.

Mr Straw will also argue that China must end restrictions in gaining access to the internet, and regarding freedom of expression. "I would argue that the best way to manage the social tensions within the country thrown up by rapid economic change is through political reform and greater enfranchisement of ordinary citizens."

Mr Straw's speech, described by a Foreign Office spokesman as "frank", tackles head-on the challenge to the world provoked by China's economic rise.

"We want to see a predictable and reliable international partner in addressing the common challenges of the 21st century and a China which is seen to be managing the economic, political, environmental and social risks of its rapid development," Mr Straw will say.

Noting that China is now present in in 49 countries across Africa, and had invested in both Iran and Sudan, Mr Straw will urge the Communist leadership to consider the broader picture and the "wider responsibilities."

China should be "a partner which plays by the rules of global business, contributes to international security and stability, looks for cooperative and market-oriented ways to secure energy supplies, and works with others to promote sustainable development and good governance," Mr Straw will say.