The Five Principles: China’s Take on the New World Order
By Yu Fu

The Five Principles: China’s Take on the New World Order

Jul. 31, 2018  |     |  0 comments

With the establishments of the United Nations, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization, the post-World War II international order was built and guaranteed by the US and its allies for decades. With the rise of China, more and more politicians and reviewers believe China is building a new world order. Although the perception is right, the key question here is what kind of new world order China is going to build.


The call to build a new world order is not something new when it comes to China. The continued request for building a new world order is tightly in accordance with China’s development demand. After the “the reform and opening-up policy” which enabled China to be a part of the current economic system had been implemented, Deng Xiaoping explicitly pointed out that it was imperative to build both a new international economic order and a new international political order with the aim of carrying out the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence and putting an end to hegemony.


After a “century of humiliation” and thirty years of “tao guang yang hui” (to “hide one’s advantage and to improve one’s disadvantage), “the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” has become a slogan in the new era. To make the dream come true, China must create a favorable environment, namely, by making changes within the current world order or creating a new one. After the National People’s Congress and the Chinese Political Consultative Conference this year, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s power was further guaranteed and the functions of the party and the government have shifted from “separation” to “combination,” which enable the country to concentrate on the rejuvenation with all efforts. Together with the continued economic growth rate at about 6.8 percent, China is capable of starting her plan of building a new world order. What will this look like?


Based on all reasons below, it is highly possible that the “Five Principles” will be the main feature of China’s version of the new world order. One reason lies in the frequent emphases on this term as core heritages of the PRC’s diplomatic wisdom. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the PRC, “the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence” gives expression to the democratic spirit in contemporary international relations and the desire of the international community and particularly the large number of developing countries, thus these principles sat at the heart of the new world. In fact, the PRC’s insistence on the Five Principles are embodied in nearly every official speech and are stressed by every president.


In 2014, the PRC held a grand meeting to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the introduction of “Five Principles”. On this meeting, President Xi repeated China would firmly promote friendly cooperation with other countries on the basis of the “Five Principles” and even initiated two special awards to encourage the insistence of the “Five Principles” by individuals and groups. During his visit to Bangladesh and Myanmar in 2017, China’s foreign minister Wang Yi provided a “Chinese Plan” for the Rohingya crisis. We can see the influence of “Five Principles” from the foreign minister’s repeated emphasis on “equal and friendly consultation” here.


After Xi took office as the president, a more creative version of the new world order is included in his initiative of “a community with shared future for humanity” and has been embodied in the practice of the “Belt and Road Initiative.” The concept of “community,” which is featured in lasting peace, universal security, and common prosperity, is totally developed and supposed to be practiced based on the “Five Principles.”

To some degree, the “Five Principles” are the promises China made to its partners in diplomacy. These principles were firstly proposed by Premier Zhou Enlai at the 1955 Asian-African Conference.

To be honest, although China claims to have five thousand years of history, the PRC is quite young, which means the country does not have enough Chinese characteristic diplomatic language when she enters the world political and economic stage based mainly on Western rhetoric. Thus, once the slogan is raised and receives support by other actors on the stage, the PRC will accentuate the principles in nearly all diplomatic activities.


To maintain the legitimacy of diplomacy and to get continued support from other states, especially from its peers of Third World or developing countries, China will and has to promote the Five Principles as the core of the new world order. Relations with developing or Third World countries are significant in nearly all aspects. It is no exaggeration to say that the solidarity and cooperation with the great number of Third World Countries sit at the heart of China’s diplomacy all the time.


In the past, relationships with the Third World countries were highly valued by Mao under his Third World policy to unite people all over the world to change the balance of world political power and to improve China’s international prestige. To some degree, the strategy has worked well and China does get some feedback: The Third World Countries voted to enable China restore her legal seat in the UN and have provided consistent support to China’s main proposals including the Belt and Road Initiative.


Also, trade between China and Africa continues to develop and the China-African trade surplus reached USD 35 billion in 2016, according to data from China’s customs. In addition, developing countries are crucial partners on the way to building the new world order. A call for a “new international economic order” was made by China and her developing countries peers in 1970s.


The Forum on China-Africa Co-operation-Ministerial Conference has become a mechanism for China and African countries to promote mutual development and share their views on the new world order. At the First Ministerial Conference in Beijing in 2009, the ministers agreed that in view of the present unjust and inequitable world order, China and African countries should exert an influence on the establishment of a new world order which would reflect their needs and interests.


The “Five Principles” work as the bedrock of such close ties from past to present. For countries that used to suffer invasion and colonization, nothing is more important than the equality and fairness shown by a big power which has suffered the same fate as them historically. For example, Indonesia’s foreign minister Retno Marsudi has highlighted the importance of openness, cooperation and dialogue in diplomacy when Jim Mattis visited Indonesia.


To some degree, the “Five Principles” are the promises China made to its partners in diplomacy. These principles were firstly proposed by Premier Zhou Enlai at the 1955 Asian-African Conference when the most of the countries in the world had not recognized Communist China. This was the first time for the new China to formally share its views about foreign policy and thus these principles were significant for a young China to get accepted by others. China showed its sincerity and won favor from countries of Africa and Asia. To set up a good image as a “responsible regional power,” which has been stressed so many times by the PRC’s official media, China has to keep her words.


Although we know China’s initiative of building a new world order will be anchored in the “Five Principles,” how to realize this goal remains a question. Will China abandon the current international order totally and build a new one or will China make some adjustments within the existing framework? Answers remain to be seen.


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