Journal

Advance with the Times, Persist in the Connotations of the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence and Carry Forward the Spirit of the Five Principles

Zhou Gang Former Chinese Ambassador to India, Indonesia, Pakistan and Malaysia
June 28 and 29 this year mark the 60th anniversary of the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence initiated successively by China-India and China-Myanmar. Over the past 60 years, the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence have stood the test of the vicissitudes of the international situation and demonstrated strong vitality. Accepted by the United Nations and more and more countries, they have become the basic principles guiding state-to-state relations. At present, the international situation is continuing to undergo complex and profound changes. To maintain peace, promote development, boost cooperation and seek win-win outcome have become the policy orientation of the members of the international community and the common aspirations of the people of all countries. In order to reach this noble goal, it is still of great realistic significance to persist in the connotations of the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence, advance with the times and carry forward their fundamental purposes and spirit.
 
I. Initiation of the Five Principles was the urgent necessity of China, India, Myanmar and other emerging countries to safeguard national independence and restore economic development
 
On June 15, 1949, on the eve of the founding of New China, Chairman Mao Zedong stated in his address to new Political Consultative Conference: People’s China was “willing to discuss with any foreign government the establishment of diplomatic relations on the basis of the principles of equality, mutual benefit and mutual respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty. The Chinese people wish to have friendly cooperation with the people of all countries and to resume and expand international trade in order to develop production and promote economic prosperity.” At the grand ceremonies of the founding of New China on October 1, 1949, Chairman Mao Zedong, on behalf of the government of New China, proclaimed to the world its foreign policy, defining the principles for handling China’s relations with all countries and, based on these principles, to conduct negotiations with other countries on the establishment of diplomatic relations. It can be said that the foreign policy of New China embodied the basic contents of the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence initiated later on.
 
In meeting with the Indian delegation holding negotiations with China on local relations with China’s Tibet on December 31, 1953, Premier Zhou Enlai stated: New China after its founding has established the principles for handling China-Indian relations, i.e., mutual respect for territorial sovereignty, mutual non-aggression, non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit and peaceful co-existence. The Indian delegation agreed that these principles be the guiding principles for negotiations. The above-mentioned five principles were included in the preamble of the Agreement on Trade and Transport between China’s Tibet Region and India concluded between China and India on April 29, 1954.
 
Premier Zhou Enlai visited India from 25 to 28 June, 1954. Premier Zhou and Indian Prime Minister Nehru reiterated in the joint statement on June 28 that the principles of mutual respect for territorial sovereignty, mutual non-aggression, non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit and peaceful co-existence were the principles guiding China-India relations. They believed that these principles were not only applicable to country-to-country relations, but also to international relations in general. When visiting Myanmar on June 29, Premier Zhou Enlai and Prime Minister U Nu issued a joint statement, confirming the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence as the principles guiding China-Myanmar relations. They reiterated that the people of all countries had the right to choose their national system and ways of life without interference by other counties. Thereafter, the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence have been renowned throughout the world.
 
It was by no means accidental that China-India and China-Myanmar initiated the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence.
 
Before their independence and liberation, China, India and Myanmar had been giving support to and showing sympathy for each other in their struggles against the aggression and oppression of Western colonialism. After independence and liberation, the three countries urgently needed to safeguard their independent sovereignty, accomplish national reunification (such as China’s liberation of Taiwan and India’s recovery of Goa) and oppose the threat and interference in internal affairs by colonialism and neo-colonialism. They all faced the tasks of economic recovery and development and improvement of livelihood. They needed to learn from each other and help each other. Problems left over by British colonial rule had to be resolved appropriately. Therefore, the initiation of the five principles not only reflected the common desire of China, India and Myanmar, but also conformed with the tide of times featuring the awakening of the Asian and African people and the rising of national liberation movements after the World War II. The five principles, embodying the wisdom of oriental civilization, are valuable contributions to the contemporary world.
 
The Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence have played positive roles in the development of China-India and China-Myanmar relations. Following the five principles, China and India resolved the problem of privileges in China’s Tibet region left over by India during the period of British colonial rule. The five principles pushed China-India relations to a new high. The slogan “Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai” (meaning Indians and Chinese are brothers) resounded in the vast urban and rural areas of China and India. They were expressions of the hearts of the Chinese and Indian peoples for friendship from generation to generation. The wide-spread popular will was the foundation of the five principles. The vitality of the five principles is also reflected in the normalization of relations in the 1970’s after overcoming the consequences resulted from the brief border conflicts in 1962. What’s more, when the bilateral relations were impacted by Indian nuclear tests in 1998, China-Indian relations again returned to normal and healthy track of development on the basis of the five principles and under the preconditions of constituting no threat to each other. Thereafter, following the five principles and accommodating each other’s concerns, China and India have kept upgrading their relations to new levels, setting a good example for the relations between adjacent major countries which lived in amity, conducted mutually beneficial cooperation and properly handled disputes. Over the past several decades, China-Myanmar relations established on the basis of the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence have been developing along a healthy path.
 
II. The Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence have become the principles guiding state-to-state relations in conformity with the calling of the times
 
The Asian-African Conference with the participation of 29 Asian and African countries was held in Bandung in April 1955. Thanks to the joint efforts of China, India, Myanmar and the host country Indonesia, the conference was a success and made valuable contributions to the cause of Asian-African unity against colonialism. The Asian-African Conference issued a final communiqué, setting forth the well-known Ten Principles for promoting world peace and cooperation. The Ten Principles of Bandung Conference are extensions and development of the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence. The Five Principles are fully embodied in the Ten Principles. They reflect the realistic desires of the vast numbers of newly-independent Asian and African countries to safeguard hard-won national independence and sovereignty, oppose colonialism, promote world peace and push for economic and cultural cooperation among the participating countries.
 
The Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence are in conformity with the purposes of the UN Charter. They echo the fundamental requirements for maintaining national independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and non-interference in internal affairs in contemporary international relations. They reflect the desire of the broad members of the international community for peaceful co-existence and embody the spirit of equality and mutual benefit among all nations. On December 11, 1957, Yugoslavia, India and Sweden initiated in the U.N. a resolution on peaceful co-existence including the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence and the resolution was unanimously adopted. Thereafter, the five principles have been accepted widely by the international community as the norms guiding international relations. Since the 1970s, China has established diplomatic relations with more than 100 countries in the world on the basis of the five principles. This fully shows that the five principles, in the 6 decades after their initiation, have echoed the calling of the times and gave expression to the aspirations of the people of all countries. This is where the inexhaustible source of the life of the five principles lies.
 
III. It is of great realistic significance to carry forward the spirit of the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence in pace with the time
 
The current international situation is undergoing complex and profound changes. New problems and challenges keep emerging one after another. Peace, development and cooperation remain the themes of the current world. Peace instead of war, development instead of poverty, cooperation instead of confrontation and a world of lasting peace and common prosperity are the common desires of the people of all countries. However, hegemonism, power politics and neo-interventionism are on the rise. Traditional security threats and non-traditional security threats including terrorism, transnational crimes and cyber security problems are troubling the world.
 
In order to meet the common challenges facing mankind, the international community should demonstrate its determination, courage and wisdom. It is particularly important to abide by the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence in the current and future international relations. If the principles of “mutual respect for territorial sovereignty”, “mutual non-aggression” and “peaceful co-existence” had been adhered to, hegemonism would find it very difficult to launch wars in Kosovo, Iraq or Afghanistan. If the principle of “non-interference in each other’s internal affairs” had been abided by, the “color revolution” and “regime change” would find no market. If the principle of “equality and mutual benefit” had been accorded with, there would have been no such phenomena that a certain superpower has been dominating the world for a hundred years and several developed countries have been dominating international political and economic orders favorable to themselves but unfavorable to the vast number of developing countries. As the late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping said, the practice of international relations over several decades proved that the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence are the best method for handling state-to-state relations and can best stand tests.
 
Under the new situation, the international community should advance with the times. As President Xi Jinping remarked at the Fourth Summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia, “We need to keep pace with the changing circumstances and evolving times. One cannot live in the 21st century with the outdated thinking from the age of Cold War and zero-sum game.” With regard to Asian security, he stated: “We believe that it is necessary to advocate common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security in Asia. We need to innovate our security concept, establish a new regional security cooperation architecture, and jointly build a road for security of Asia that is shared by and win-win to all.”
 
To advocate and implement a new security concept, mutually beneficial and win-win cooperation concept, to persist in the connotations of the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence and to further carry forward the spirit of the times are of not only great realistic significance but also far-reaching significance to peace, development and cooperation of the world at large. In my view, this is where the true significance lies for our grand occasion to mark the 60th anniversary of the initiation of the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence.


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