History has just started on the third decade of the 21st century. There is a mixture of anticipation and confusion about the future.
We live in an era full of opportunities and challenges. The dawn of the fourth industrial revolution illuminates the way forward for human progress, with the collective rise of emerging countries improving the lives of billions of people. At the same time, however, the international order and system on which all countries depend for their survival and development have been undermined. Unilateralism, hegemonism and power politics still haunt us. Some countries still take military risks in international relations, and the Sword of Damocles of war still hangs high. Open or closed? Cooperation or confrontation? Multilateralism or unilateralism? Justice or “law of the jungle”? Once again, mankind stands at a crossroads, facing the historical choice of where to go.
The Chinese people have given their answer to the questions facing the world and the perplexity of the times: We will always stick to the path of peaceful development, build a community of a shared future for mankind, and achieve win-win sharing.
China’s choice for peaceful development is based on our cultural genes. The Chinese nation is a peace-loving nation. For more than 5,000 years, the pursuit of peace and harmony has been deeply rooted in the spiritual world of the Chinese nation. The extensive and profound schools of thought that ancient Chinese philosophers established covered many important ideas, such as the emphasis on kindness towards fellow human beings and the belief that people should be in harmony with each other, and seeking harmony without uniformity. These values and teachings still carry a profound impact on the Chinese people’s way of thinking and system of values. For several thousand years before the industrial revolution, China had been among the top in national strength. However, China has never had a record of colonisation and expansion.
China’s choice for peaceful development is based on our experiences of vicissitudes. After the onset of modern times, China found itself left behind in terms of development. As a result of incessant foreign invasions thereafter, Chinese people had to lead a life of extreme destitution. The ancient eastern country was subdued to a semi-colonial and semi-feudal society. After a hundred years of persistent and unyielding struggle, the Chinese people, sacrificing tens of millions of lives, ultimately took their destiny back into their own hands. Nevertheless, the memory of foreign invasion and bullying has never been erased from the minds of the Chinese people. Confucius once said, do not impose on others what you do not desire upon yourself. We would never impose the pain we have suffered on other countries.
China’s choice for peaceful development is based on our internal needs. Development is the top priority, and this principle applies to all countries. Over the past 70 years, China has made historic achievements in development, and its economic aggregate has become the second largest in the world. But at the same time, China is still the largest developing country in the world. China’s population is 1.4 billion and its per capita GDP is still ranked around 70th in the world. More than 15 million people need to get employment in China every year. There is no doubt that it will take a long and arduous effort to make such a large population prosperous. China must concentrate on development, which requires us to have a peaceful external environment.
China’s choice for peaceful development is based on our commitment to world peace and development. China’s development benefits from a peaceful international environment. China is also willing to promote world peace through its own development. China is one of the founding members of the UN, and the second-largest contributor to the UN and UN peacekeeping operations. Over the past 70 years, China has provided over 400 billion RMB in foreign aid. Since the international financial crisis, China’s contribution to world economic growth has averaged over 30 per cent annually. At present, the Chinese government is taking firm, effective and scientific measures to prevent and control the pneumonia caused by the coronavirus. Acting with a high sense of responsibility for global health security, China has maintained close cooperation with the World Health Organisation and other international partners and will continue to share information on the virus and epidemic in a timely manner.
China provides an opportunity for world development. However, there are always some people with biases who look at China with a Cold War mentality. They choose to believe that when China becomes strong, then we will seek to expand and dominate. These people’s perception of China is seriously skewed.
In the 21st century, when human beings share a common destiny and civilisation is highly developed, these people look at international relations through the prism of the law of the jungle. These kinds of stereotypical ideas, at the end of the day, stem from an obsession with maintaining a hegemonic position and the Cold War mentality, and go against the trend of history.
China will become strong and this is something that is bound to happen. But it is not necessary that a stronger country is bound to follow the beaten path of seeking hegemony, posing a so-called threat to other countries. Albert Einstein once said that we can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them. In this era, the revitalisation of a country can be achieved through international communication and cooperation on an equal, orderly, mutually beneficial basis. As history and reality have repeatedly proven, as long as countries treat each other as equals and with mutual understanding and accommodation, there is no problem that cannot be solved through negotiation. Power politics goes against the will of the people and the use of force in international relations is simply not feasible. China is confident and capable of blazing a new trail of win-win cooperation and peaceful development.
China will not develop itself at the expense of the interests of other countries, but we will never give up our legitimate rights and interests. We have always resolutely safeguarded our sovereignty, security and development interests. We firmly oppose other countries using Taiwan, Hong Kong, Tibet and Xinjiang as pretexts to interfere in China’s internal affairs. Under no circumstances will we swallow the bitter fruit of damaging our own rights and interests. Over the past decades, China has developed itself by fostering a peaceful international environment, while promoting and maintaining world peace through its own development. In the future, China will stay committed to the path of peaceful development. It also sincerely hopes that all countries in the world will follow the path of peaceful development, and jointly safeguard peace, stability and prosperity of the earth, which is the only home of mankind.
China has written into its constitution the principle of adhering to the path of peaceful development and the win-win strategy of openingup. No matter which stage of development we reach, we will never seek hegemony, expansion or spheres of influence. This is not China’s expediency, but our strategic choice and solemn commitment.
This article first appeared in the print edition on January 29, 2020 under the title ‘Peaceful development is China’s strategic choice.’ The writer is the Chinese Ambassador to India