Published: 16:43, May 16, 2024
Advancing a better global future
By Marcos Cordeiro Pires

China’s 70-year-old principles of peaceful coexistence have become more relevant than ever

Seventy years ago, China put forward the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence to build a new kind of international relations and a better world in the new era. At that time, the country was restructuring politically and economically, seeking to overcome the wounds left by the anti-imperialist war, and it also faced challenges at its borders. The struggle for decolonization was also advancing in other parts of the world.

In that turbulent environment, China defined its diplomacy on the assumption that the country’s sovereign and independent action would help deal with all international issues, without allowing itself to be subjugated to any interest other than its own people. Another essential foundation of its diplomacy was the fight against hegemony and the importance of maintaining world peace.

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China has committed to not joining any military bloc or participating in an arms race. Finally, it is crucial to mention the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence: mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual nonaggression, noninterference in each other’s internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence.

Over the past seven decades, the world has transformed dramatically. In 1945, the United Nations was created by 51 countries, most of which were European and Latin American. Several African and Asian nations were still under colonial rule. Today, the United Nations has 193 nations as members, giving developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America significant weight in the global governance body.

The Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence become even more relevant when faced with contemporary challenges, such as the wars in Ukraine and Palestine. The world based on the rules defined by the UN Charter is in check, mainly because the country that claims to defend these rules has systematically circumvented them.

Egregious conduct includes attempts to interfere in the internal affairs of other nations to change regimes, invading countries without approval from the Security Council, systematic veto of UN General Assembly resolutions that seek to guarantee the rights of Palestinians, imposition of sanctions and boycotts, use of the dollar as a political weapon, the creation of alliances such as AUKUS or the Quad to stymie third countries … the list is too long.

Fortunately, the international order is being rebuilt based on South-South Cooperation, in which the principles of noninterference in internal affairs, cooperation with shared gains, and the defense of peaceful and negotiated solutions are gaining ground. In this sense, China’s diplomacy is essential for articulation with other developing countries through groupings and forums such as the BRICS, FOCAC, and China-CELAC Forum.

Also worth highlighting is the role played by the Global Development Initiative, Global Security Initiative, Global Civilization Initiative, and Belt and Road Initiative as an update to those principles postulated at the beginning of the rebirth of the Chinese nation, in the 1950s.

Finally, a critical reflection is necessary. Seventy years ago, China was a country in reconstruction, with incipient industrialization and a low level of scientific and technological development that brought it, in many aspects, closer to other nations that had emerged from colonialism and faced similar problems.

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But today, China is a country with immense industrial and technological capacity for investment. This new status could suggest that the country seeks a prominent place among the rich, far from the former “third world”. But that is not the case. China continues to be a partner that does not impose conditions, does not seek to impose its government system, still seeks cooperation with shared gains, and positions itself as a political force against hegemonism.

In this sense, it is worth recalling the late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping’s words in the first speech by a Chinese leader at the UN in 1974. He said that China is not a superpower, nor will it ever seek to be one. If one day China should change its color and turn into a superpower, and if it too should play the tyrant in the world and subject others to bullying, aggression, and exploitation, the people of the world should identify it as social imperialism, expose it, oppose it and work together with the Chinese people to overthrow it.

The author is a professor of international political economy at Sao Paulo State University in Brazil. 

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.