LONDON - China "naturally loves peace" but will take "resolute measures" to protect regional stability, Premier Li Keqiang said Wednesday, affirming a dual-track foreign policy of power and peace despite tensions with nations including Japan and Vietnam.
Li insisted that an urge for expansion was "not in the Chinese DNA" and that a "stable neighbouring environment" was necessary for China's continued economic development.
He was speaking in the City of London financial district on a three-day trip which aims to build trade ties and repair relations strained when British Prime Minister David Cameron met exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama in 2012.
China is currently facing territorial disputes with Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines amid a hardline approach pursued by Li's administration.
"We want to have a stable external environment. The Chinese naturally love peace. Confucius taught us that we should not do to others what we don't want done to us... this has been imprinted on to the DNA of the nation," Li said in a speech to foreign policy experts, business leaders and politicians.
"Expansion is not in the Chinese DNA nor can we accept the logic that a strong country is bound to be hegemonic."
But he added that China would take action "to protect the stability of the region" where necessary.
"For those acts of provoking incidents and undermining peace, China will have to take resolute measures to stop them, to prevent the situation from getting out of control," he said.
"This is to protect the stability of the region."
In an address referencing famous Britons including World War II prime minister Winston Churchill and poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, Li also dismissed the possibility of a "hard landing" for the Chinese economy.
"This will not happen," he said, arguing that modernisation and urbanisation offered "huge potential" for growth fuelled by domestic demand.
The Chinese economy grew 7.7 percent in 2013 -- the same level as 2012 but the slowest rate since 1999 -- and Li has set a minimum target of 7.5 percent growth for this year.
A handful of pro-Tibetan protestors demonstrated outside during the speech alongside a larger pro-Chinese contingent.
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