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Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence:The heart of China’s foreign policy

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By Talibeh Hydara

In March 2023, I attended a press conference in Beijing after news broke that Saudi Arabia and Iran have agreed to resume diplomatic ties, a peace agreement brokered by China to the shock of the world.

The two Middle East countries had been at loggerheads for nearly a decade with all peace talks initiated by Western countries hitting a wall.

This time, however, both countries agreed to give peace a chance simply because the country brokering the peace negotiations does not take sides and respects the sovereignty of all countries.

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It is one of the biggest success stories of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, which is seven decades old this year.

On 31 December 1953, Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai put forward the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence when he met an Indian government delegation.

The 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.

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These simple principles have defined China’s diplomatic relations for the past seven decades.

They constitute important principles in regulating state-to-state relations transcending social systems and ideologies. Subsequent Chinese leaders have used the Five Principles to promote peace and stability across the world.

The Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence was initiated by China but, for decades now, it has become the global approach to diplomacy and foreign relations, cementing China’s status as a pioneer of promoting peace and social development.

Speaking at the 70th anniversary of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence on 28 June 2024, Chinese President Xi Jinping said the initiative was an inevitable historic milestone which has set a benchmark for international relations and international rule of law.

“The Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence were born in Asia, but quickly ascended to the world stage. In 1955, more than 20 Asian and African countries attended the Bandung Conference. They proposed ten principles for handling state-to-state relations on the basis of the Five Principles, and advocated the Bandung spirit of solidarity, friendship and cooperation. The Non-Aligned Movement that rose in the 1960s adopted the Five Principles as its guiding principles. The Declaration on Principles of International Law adopted at the 25th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in 1970 and the Declaration on the Establishment of the New International Economic Order adopted at the Sixth Special UNGA Session in 1974 both endorsed the Five Principles. With their inclusion in important international documents, the Five Principles have been widely recognized and observed by the international community.

Over the past 70 years, the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence have transcended time and space and overcome estrangement, showing robust resilience and everlasting relevance. They have become open, inclusive, and universally applicable basic norms for international relations and fundamental principles of international law. They have made indelible historic contributions to the cause of human progress,” President Xi noted.

The records are there for everyone to see. China’s role in the settlement of global and regional disputes has been admirable. Besides its role in maintaining global pace, China has also contributed over 30 percent of global growth for years and remains the main trading partner of more than 140 countries and regions.

All these show remarkable leadership and China is committed to upholding world peace.

China’s diplomacy is a mirror of its vision in building a community with a shared future for mankind.

At the luncheon marking the 70th anniversary of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence in Beijing on June 28, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, said: “Proceeding from this new historical milestone, China will continue to work with all sides to carry forward the essence of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, shoulder the responsibility of building a community with a shared future for mankind, and make unremitting efforts toward a brighter future of humanity.”

Five Principles is a clarion call for unity and respect for nations in jointly ensuring peace reins in the world.

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