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Carrying Forward the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence in the Promotion of Peace and Development
2004-06-28 00:00

Distinguished Diplomatic Envoys,

Friends and Comrades,

Fifty years ago, the late Premier Zhou Enlai paid separate visits to India and Myanmar, during which joint government statements were issued to define and initiate what we now call the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence. These principles are: mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual non-aggression, non-interference in each other's internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit and peaceful coexistence. Half a century has gone by with these principles still shining with the radiance of truth as they continue to guide the conduct of relations among states. Now, at this moment of reflection, we cannot but feel the greatest respect for and cherish the deepest memory of those elder statesmen, Chinese or otherwise, who not only advocated the Five Principles but practiced them meticulously.

The Five Principles came about as a historical inevitability. Following the collapse of the world colonial system after World War II, there emerged a large number of newly independent nation-states in Asia and Africa. Their most pressing task was to safeguard independence and sovereignty, resist aggression and outside interference, cultivate equal relations with other countries, and secure an international environment of peace to develop their national economies. The founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949 was an epoch-making event in China's history. New China cherished its independence, actively sought peaceful coexistence with other countries around the world and worked hard to improve its external environment, particularly in its surrounding areas. It was at this critical juncture that China, India and Myanmar, countries that gained independence fairly early in Asia, went along with the tide of history by jointly initiating the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, which were enthusiastically echoed by many more countries. In 1955, the Asian-African Conference participated by over 20 countries embraced the Five Principles. Later on, an increasing number of important international documents have had these principles incorporated in their provisions as the majority of world's countries have taken them as basic norms governing state-to-state relations.

The Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence have withstood the test of time, and made a monumental contribution to the maintenance of peace and stability in Asia and the world over and the sound development of international relations. First, they provide a set of right guidelines for the establishment and development of relations among countries with similar or different social systems. Second, they point out an effective way to peacefully address the issues left over by history between countries or other international disputes. Third, they give a strong protection to the interests of developing countries and serve the improvement and expansion of North-South relations. Fourth, they have provided an important philosophical basis for the establishment of a new international political and economic order that is just and rational.

China is not only a strong proponent but also a faithful practitioner of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence. Enshrined in China's Constitution, the Five Principles have long been held as the cornerstone of China's independent foreign policy of peace. It is on the basis of the Five Principles that China has established and developed diplomatic relations with 165 countries and carried out trade, economic, scientific, technological and cultural exchanges and cooperation with over 200 countries and regions. It is on the basis of the Five Principles that China has, through peace negotiations, resolved the boundary issues with most neighbors and maintained peace and stability in its surrounding areas. And it is on the basis of the Five Principles that China has provided economic and technical aid with no political strings attached to other countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, strengthening the friendship between China and these countries. Particularly, since the beginning of the reform and opening up, China has improved and upgraded its mutually beneficial cooperation with all countries regardless of social system and development level, and contributed its share to world peace and common development. All this is inseparable from our firm, sincere and innovative adherence to the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence.

The abiding resilience of the Five Principles lies, in the final analysis, in their consistence with the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, the quintessential requirement of the evolving international relations and the fundamental interests of the people of the whole world. At the very heart of the Five Principles is the principle of sovereign equality. Given the international relations as they are, mutually beneficial cooperation can be conducted between states and peace and development can be maintained throughout the world only when the principle of sovereign equality is genuinely observed, when the right to equal treatment by all countries, big or small, rich or poor, strong or weak, is recognized, when the right of all countries, developing countries in particular, to freely choose their road of development is fully respected, and when the legitimate rights, interests and appeals of the small, poor and weak countries are taken into account and earnestly protected.

Friends and Comrades,

Both the world situation and the way international relations evolve have undergone complex and profound changes since the beginning of the 21st century. Peace and development remain the overriding themes of the times. A more secured peace and greater development is the common aspiration of the people of all lands. However, factors of uncertainty and instability in international relations are on the increase, as the various traditional and non-traditional security threats are intertwined. While the question of peace is yet to be resolved, the question of development has become even more aggravated. Finding answers to the multiple problems facing the world, immediate and long-term, requires the persistent efforts of all countries and their strengthened friendship and cooperation. Thus the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, as the basic norms governing international relations, remain highly relevant. Facts have and will continue to show that the Five Principles are applicable not only to countries with similar social systems but also to those with different social systems, not only to the developing countries but also to the developed countries, and not only to the political relations of countries but also to their economic relations. Under the new historical conditions, the Five Principles should be observed with all seriousness and implemented in real earnest. To carry forward the Five Principles in the promotion of world peace and development, the Chinese Government is ready to work with other countries in the following areas:

First, firmly upholding the principle of sovereign equality. Sovereignty is the birthmark of any independent state, the crystallization of its national interests and the best safeguard of all it holds dear. The increasing interaction and interdependence among countries, thanks to surging economic globalization and technological revolution, does not mean that the status and role of sovereignty can in any way be neglected or weakened. It is imperative to have greater democracy in international relations. No country has the right to impose its will on others, nor can it undermine or deny other countries' sovereignty under whatever excuse. Facts have proven that such practices as disregarding other's sovereignty, bullying the small and the weak by dint of one's size and power, and pursuing hegemony and power politics would not get anywhere. The affairs of a country should be decided by its own people, and the affairs of the world should be handled by consultation among all countries on an equal footing.

Second, respecting and maintaining the diversity of world's civilizations. The diverse civilizations are a hallmark of human society and an important driving force behind human progress. Our world today has over 6 billion inhabitants living in more than 200 countries and regions. They break down into over 2,500 ethnic groups and speak more than 5,000 different languages. Be it historical tradition, faith and culture, or social system, values and level of development, those countries or regions are often different from one another. It is these differences that make our planet dazzling, colorful and bustling with life. Such diversity is a legacy of history and will keep on living into the future. The ancient Chinese thinker Confucius once said, "All living creatures grow together without harming one another; ways run parallel without interfering with one another." Instead of harboring bias against or deliberately belittling other civilizations, we should uphold the great thought of peaceful coexistence and give full respect to the diversity of civilizations. Instead of shutting each other out in mutual exclusion, we should encourage dialog and exchange between civilizations so that they can learn from each other in mutual emulation. Instead of demanding uniformity and imposing one's will on others, we should promote common development of all civilizations in the course of mutual tolerance and seeking agreement while shelving differences.

Third, promoting common development of the world's economies on the basis of equality and mutual benefit. The Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence are not just principles for peace; they are also principles for development. In applying the Five Principles to the economic realm, we should respect the right of the countries to make independent economic decisions, their equal right to participate in competition on a level playing field, and their access to mutual benefit and economic success. Finding an answer to development, first and foremost, requires the efforts of the developing countries themselves. But the developed countries must also live up to their share of responsibilities, by taking further steps in opening up their markets, expanding trade, increasing aid programs, and reducing and forgiving debts. In formulating or revising international economic rules, it is necessary to respect and reflect the rights and interests of the developing world. Once made, the rules must be faithfully observed by all parties. In utilizing the international resources or opening up the global market, it is necessary to adopt a long view, be prepared to offer while taking and to look after other's interests while working for one's own. In the event of trade frictions, it is necessary to address them through equal-footed consultation and refrain from unilateral sanctions or retaliation. In the face of rapid technological revolution, it is necessary to facilitate technological transfer and cooperation while giving full respect and best protection to intellectual property rights so that all nations can share the benefits of scientific advances. With accelerated capital flows across national borders, it is necessary to step up economic policy coordination between countries in a joint effort to fend off financial risks and maintain economic security. The Earth is the common home of all human beings. Every country must give adequate attention to the orderly use and protection of the resources, energy and the environment in the interest of sustainable development.

Fourth, maintaining peace and security through dialog and cooperation. The Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence are an important political underpinning for world peace and security. History shows that the old security concept centered around military alliances and arms build-ups did poorly to keep the world safe. Resorting to use or threat of force at every turn can only impede, even jeopardize, peace and tranquility in the world. The Cold War mentality must be done away with in favor of a new security concept featuring mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality and cooperation. Security should be secured through dialog and stability through cooperation. Terrorism is a common enemy to all mankind. While standing on guard against and striking hard on terrorism in all forms and manifestations, it is essential to remove the root causes that breed the menace. With respect to weapons proliferation, drug trafficking, trans-boundary crimes and other non-traditional security threats, it is necessary to take on them with strengthened international cooperation consistent with the principles of international law. In the face of such global concerns as HIV/AIDS, environmental degradation and other threats to mankind's health and survival, it is necessary to step up a globalized approach bearing in mind a keen sense of responsibility for the welfare of future generations.

Fifth, giving full scope to the important role of the UN and other multilateral mechanisms. The United Nations is the most universal, most representative and most authoritative international organization in today's world. The UN Charter, which crystallized mankind's political wisdom in the 20th century finds the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence an important embodiment of its spirit. Promoting world peace and common development under the new international circumstances demands that the UN's authority be strengthened rather than weakened. The UN should act in accordance with the Five Principles and its own Charter, and play its constructive role more vigorously in resolving international disputes, preserving peace, and providing humanitarian assistance. The UN agencies should also undergo necessary and reasonable reforms. At the same time, it is important to let the WTO, the World Bank and other multilateral world bodies as well as regional cooperation mechanisms to play an active role in order to upgrade the performance of international and regional cooperation.

Friends and Comrades,

Thanks to the hard work in the past half a century and more, especially the reform and opening up that have been going on for over 20 years, China has found itself entering a new development stage of building a moderately prosperous society in an all-round way. Our success story can be summarized into one point: we must follow a path of socialism with Chinese characteristics, developing China while maintaining world peace and promoting world peace through China's own development. As a large developing country with 1.3 billion people, China will, as always, steadfastly commit itself to the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence.

China will always put development on the top of its government's agenda. A successful running of China is in itself a major contribution to peace and development of humanity. China will continue to pursue an independent foreign policy of peace, and dedicate itself to developing friendly relations and cooperation with all countries. China will firmly safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity, tolerating no one to interfere in its internal affairs. At the same time, it will respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of others. China will open still wider to the outside world on the basis of equality and mutual benefit, while engaging in economic and technical cooperation with other countries with greater scope and depth. China will continue to improve and develop its relations with the developed countries, expand the areas of common interests and properly handle the differences with them. China will build good-neighborly relationships and partnerships and work still harder in implementing the policy of creating an amicable, secure and prosperous neighborhood. China will continue to strengthen the solidarity and cooperation with the vast number of developing countries, and actively explore ways for effective South-South cooperation under the new circumstances. China will vigorously participate in multilateral diplomacy and play a constructive part at the UN and other international and regional organizations. China will never threaten any one. It will never pursue expansion or seek hegemony.

Friends and Comrades,

Today, President Hu Jintao and Indian President Abdul Kalam exchanged messages of congratulations. The heads of government of the two countries did the same. In their messages, the two sides reaffirmed commitment to the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence and expressed resolve to expand and deepen the long-term constructive and cooperative partnership. Both China and India are celebrated ancient civilizations and large developing countries. It serves the fundamental interests of the two peoples and contributes to peace, stability and development in Asia and the world over for the two countries to live together in harmony, remain friends forever, seek common ground while shelving differences, and strive for mutual benefit and a win-win result. I am confident that with the concerted efforts of the two sides, the annals of China-India friendship and cooperation will be added with brilliant new chapters.

Friends and Comrades,

Aspiring for peace, development and cooperation has become the popular will of the 21st century and the irresistible tide of the times. Let us hold our hands together, holding high the great banner of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, and make fresh contributions to the lofty cause of world peace and development.

Thank you.

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