Enduring values
By Djoomart Otorbaev  ·  2024-05-28  ·   Source: NO.22 MAY 30, 2024
Djoomart Otorbaev
On May 16, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin attended the opening ceremony of the China-Russia Years of Culture and a special concert celebrating the 75th anniversary of China-Russia diplomatic ties in Beijing. On the same day, during Putin's two-day state visit to China, the leaders held meetings to reflect on the 75 years of diplomatic relations and to exchange views on major international and regional issues. Since 2013, the two leaders have met over 40 times, with bilateral ties reaching historic heights.

A key to this achievement is that both countries have built their relationship on the basis of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, proposed and adhered to by China in its dealings with all nations.

The Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, a significant milestone in international relations, were formally established on June 28-29, 1954, through a joint proclamation by China, India and Myanmar. However, their roots can be traced back to Zhou Enlai, the first Premier of the People's Republic of China, who articulated them on December 31, 1953. They were not just a set of guidelines but a profound philosophy that has governed China's international relations with other nations for centuries. These principles, which 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, continue to serve as a beacon for many developing countries, enabling them to protect their national independence and sovereignty.

It is truly remarkable how the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, born 70 years ago and steeped in history, continue to wield significant influence in contemporary foreign policy and global diplomacy. This endurance is a testament to their timeless relevance, traced back to the Chinese nation and its foreign policy, accumulated over thousands of years.

The Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, far from being relics of the past, continue to be highly relevant in the present era. President Xi's vision of fostering a community with a shared future for humanity echoes these principles, advocating for an open, inclusive and harmonious community of nations. As a committed member of the Global South, China promotes these principles in collaboration with other developing countries, showcasing their practical application in today's world. This modern application of the principles underscores their continued relevance and increasing influence on the world stage.

The five principles, as the fundamental and central norms governing international relations, have not only been incorporated into various provisions and principles of international law, but they also underscore their global influence and importance. These principles are not isolated concepts but an integrated, interrelated and indivisible framework that encapsulates the essence of present-day international relations. They can be applied to the relations between all countries, regardless of their social system, stage of development or size. This universal applicability highlights these principles' inclusivity and broad scope, further enhancing their relevance and influence.

Today, numerous international organizations have embedded the five principles in their charters and other founding documents, which has received widespread support from the global community. For example, the well-known Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) adopted the five principles as its guiding code. It was created in 1961 to represent the interests of the Global South and has since become an influential and authoritative organization. During its early years, the movement played a crucial role in decolonization, forming newly independent states and promoting democratization of international relations. Currently, the organization comprises 120 countries, representing around 60 percent of the total membership of the United Nations. These days, the NAM is an influential political group that actively defends its group interests and regularly participates in countering the unilateral pressure of wealthy countries on the world stage.

It is crucial to understand that the five principles were primarily established to safeguard the rights and interests of countries of the Global South. These nations required legal and intellectual protection from the often unjust actions of more affluent countries. The five principles emphasize that all countries are equal and that no nation has the right to take aggressive unilateral action globally or monopolize the interpretation and unilateral application of international rules and norms. The developing countries have used these principles to defend their sovereignty and independence and address critical global issues, thereby increasing their international status and authority. Applying these principles has helped countries in the Global South to develop cooperation, build trust among themselves and improve relations with wealthy nations.

The Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence have been instrumental in establishing a more just and equitable global political and economic system. These principles reject the law of the jungle, where the strong dominate over the weak. They also supported the anti-imperialist and anti-colonial movements that put an end to colonialism's shameful legacy. During the Cold War, aggressive policies such as the "bloc policy" or "sphere of influence" did not resolve conflicts; instead, they increased tension and hostility worldwide, exacerbated by the massive arms race and dangerous East-West confrontation.

A new interpretation of the five principles is expressed in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), considered one of China's most critical elements of economic policy. Introduced eleven years ago, the initiative is based on all of the five principles. More than 150 countries and international organizations have joined the BRI, making it the largest platform for international cooperation. Participating countries are home to nearly 75 percent of the world's population and account for more than half of the global GDP.

The BRI is expected to contribute to the growth of partner countries. According to the World Bank, the BRI has the potential to increase trade flows by 4.1 percent and reduce the cost of global trade by 1.1 to 2.2 percent. The initiative is also projected to increase the GDP of developing nations in East Asia and the Pacific by 2.6-3.9 percent. By improving infrastructure, the BRI will help remove obstacles to global trade, leading to widespread benefits. It is estimated that by 2040, the BRI could increase global GDP by $7.1 trillion per year.

Conflict, inequality and injustice continue to be significant issues worldwide. Many people, especially women and children, are suffering due to ongoing wars, while hunger and poverty remain significant problems for millions of people. Maintaining global peace and promoting joint development is still challenging for humanity. Even though it has been 70 years since the proclamation of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, their spirit is as relevant today as it was back then. Rather than fading away, their importance has only increased over time.

The author is former prime minister of the Kyrgyz Republic, a distinguished professor of the Belt and Road School under Beijing Normal University and the author of Central Asia's Economic Rebirth in the Shadow of the New Great Game

Copyedited by G.P. Wilson

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