The Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee’s Proposal for Formulating the 12th Five-Year Plan for China’s Economic and Social Development, adopted last year at the Fifth Plenary Session of the 17th CPC Central Committee, is the blueprint for China’s development over the next five years. It reiterates that China stands firmly for peace, development, co-operation and the win-win strategy of opening-up; pursues an independent foreign policy of peace; safeguards its own sovereignty, security and development interests; and is ready to work with other countries to build a harmonious world of lasting peace and common prosperity. Therefore, it is of great relevance and far-reaching significance to China’s diplomacy.
To stick to the path of peaceful development is a carefully considered choice based on our analysis of the great changes that have taken place in the world, in China and in China’s relations with the rest of the world. Economic globalisation and the development of information technology are gaining momentum. The world has become an interdependent community of interests in which no country, no matter how powerful, can stand alone and survive. Countries should consider themselves passengers in the same boat and cross the river peacefully together, instead of fighting and trying to push one another off the boat.
In China, more than 30 years of reform and opening-up have brought about profound changes: from ‘taking class struggle as the key principle’ to focusing on economic development and building socialist modernisation; from planned economy to socialist market economy; from a closed, overly self-reliant society to opening up for international co-operation; from an ideological emphasis in external relations to advocating the harmonious co-existence of various social systems and development models. We must continue to act in light of the current national conditions and features of development of our country, deepen the reform and opening-up processes and accelerate the transformation of our economic growth pattern.
China cannot develop in isolation, and nor can the world achieve prosperity and stability without China. If we fail to manage our external relations well; then we might miss development opportunities offered by the overall peace in the world, relative stability in relations between major countries and fast progress in science and technology during the first 20 years of this century.
The path of peaceful development has, in my view, five significant features. First, development should be peaceful: China will not engage in invasion, plundering, war or expansion as Western powers once did – our strength will be harnessed to serve world peace and integrate development with peace. Second, there is the independent nature of our development. Third, development should be scientific: we have intensified efforts to promote sound and fast economic development with a view to securing a harmonious domestic environment. Fourth, development should be co-operative, since it best serves China’s and other countries’ interests to work together and share responsibilities. Finally, development should be common, since China’s national interests are consistent with the interests of mankind. If a country wants to develop itself, it must let others develop too; if a country wants to have security, then it must make others feel safe too; if a country wants a better life, then it must let others have it too.
Thus China’s strategic intention can be summarised in just two words: peaceful development – that is, harmony and development at home and peace and co-operation abroad. It is a policy that will not change for a hundred, or even a thousand, years. This way, the Chinese people – one-fifth of the world’s population – will rid themselves of poverty and lead better lives. This way, China will become a most responsible and law-abiding member of the international community. This way, we will develop socialist democracy in light of China’s national conditions. The Chinese people have suffered long enough from poverty, and our only strategic intention is to live a better life, where every day is better than the previous one. We wish the same for all the people of the world.
However big it grows, China’s GDP must be shared among its 1.3 billion people. The country’s per capita GDP is only $4,300, ranking it about 104th in the world, and 150 million Chinese are still living below the UN-specified poverty line of one US dollar a day. Ten million Chinese still have no access to electricity. China has a huge population and a weak economic foundation; urban-rural gaps, imbalances in industry structure and low productivity are issues yet to be fundamentally addressed. China is still a ‘developing country’ in every sense of the term, and the economic and social problems we face are the biggest and most difficult in the world. We have no reason whatsoever to be conceited or arrogant: our road to real development will be long and hard.
At this point, I must emphasise that even as China becomes stronger it will remain, now and forever, the most sincere and trustworthy friend and partner of the developing countries, with whom we share similar historical experiences, development tasks and strategic interests. Although there is room for improvement in China’s relations with other developing countries, our co-operation with them is open, honest and based on equality and mutual benefit. The hat of ‘neocolonialism’ does not fit China; indeed, to oppose hegemony has been written into our Constitution.
The more developed China is, the more it needs to strengthen its co-operation with the rest of the world, and the more it needs a peaceful and stable international environment. Some say China wants to replace the US and dominate the world – that its announcement of a peaceful development path is a smokescreen for its real intentions once it gets strong enough. This is groundless suspicion. Politically, what we practice is socialism with Chinese characteristics, based on our national conditions; economically, we focus all our efforts on development. We do not export our social system or development model and we respect the choice of the people of other countries. We value, respect and protect human rights. We may encounter many difficulties on our way forward, but we will never waver in reform and opening-up. We will always keep an open mind and learn from others. In our relations with other countries, we will seek equality, harmonious co-existence, mutual benefit and common development. The international community, then, should welcome China’s peaceful development rather than fear it, and support rather than constrain its effort.
As the Chinese saying goes, ‘Scooping rice from the same pot, the ladles may inevitably knock against each other’. Living in a global village, frictions and clashes are inevitable. In such instances, we apply our Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence: we reject interference in others’ internal affairs and the threat or use of force; we do not enter into alliance with any country; we follow the win-win strategy of opening-up and never adopt a ‘beggar-thy-neighbour’ policy; and finally, we settle disputes and conflicts through dialogue and negotiation, seeking common ground while shelving differences.
Some people argue that since the Chinese government has never renounced the use of force for the settlement of ‘the Taiwan question’ and China’s military spending is growing continuously, it is contradicting its stated path of peaceful development. But in my view, no development path should be chosen at the expense of China’s core national interests: the continued stability of its government and political system, namely socialism with Chinese characteristics; sovereignty, territorial integrity and national unity; and sustainable economic and social development. These interests brook no violation.
On the Taiwan question, we pursue the basic principles of peaceful unification and ‘one country, two systems’. We will never allow Taiwan to split from China, and nor will we ever commit ourselves to the renunciation of force. This is not targeted at our Taiwanese compatriots, but at a handful of separatists. In recent years, the peaceful development of cross-Straits relations has made significant progress, as evidenced by this year’s signing of the Economic Co-operation Framework Agreement. Yet there are those who, out of a Cold War mentality and geo-political needs, continue to sell weapons to Taiwan in disregard of China’s firm opposition. Such failure to keep one’s word should be corrected at once, as it is not conducive to the peaceful development of cross-Straits relations and runs counter to the trend of peace, co-operation and development in the Asia-Pacific region.
China pursues a defense policy that is truly defensive, being aimed at upholding sovereignty and territorial integrity. Compared with many other countries, China’s military spending is minimal, especially in per capita terms, and moreover its strategic intent is more transparent than many other countries, including some major powers. For example, we have openly committed to no first use of nuclear weapons and no threat or use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states – it would no doubt be a great contribution to world peace, stability and development if other nuclear powers followed suit.
China is first of all responsible to its 1.3 billion people, but it is also responsible to people across the world. China has taken, and will continue to take, an active part in the joint response to global issues such as energy, food, climate change, terrorism, natural disasters, infectious diseases and the financial crisis, as well as the settlement of regional ‘hotspot’ issues such as those concerning Korea, Iran, Palestine-Israel and Sudan. Furthermore, China’s economy has in recent years contributed over 10 per cent to world economic growth and over 12 per cent to international trade growth, creating millions of job opportunities overseas. We are ready to work with other countries to push forward the UN Millennium Development Goals in the interests of world prosperity and progress.
How, then, is the path of peaceful development related to socialism with Chinese characteristics? In fact, they are sides of the same coin. As Deng Xiaoping once said, ‘in pursuing socialism, we should constantly raise productivity and advocate peace.’ China will remain in the primary stage of socialism for a long time yet – the mismatch between our increasing material and cultural needs and backward production methods is still a major problem. Therefore, we must constantly put development at the top of the agenda in the Party’s effort to rule and revitalise the country and create a stable international environment of lasting peace. It is an important result we have achieved in suiting Marxism to Chinese realities; it is also a fundamental guarantee for China to realise scientific development in a globalised age.
China upholds the unity of the goals of peaceful development and a harmonious world, advocating both patriotism and internationalism. By taking the path of peaceful development, the Chinese people can lead a better life and make the world a better place. And if the world we live in becomes more harmonious, then China’s path of development will become smoother and more stable – in other words, the two objectives are mutually-reinforcing and cannot be separated artificially.
Over the past 30 years, we have broken the precedents of emerging powers who engaged in aggression, plunder and rivalry for hegemony by opening a whole new path: the path of peaceful development through hard work, wisdom and win-win co-operation. During the most recent, 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-10), China’s aggregate national strength and international standing grew remarkably, proving once again that this path will lead to a bright future.
During this period, under the wise leadership of the Party Central Committee and the State Council, we have conducted diplomatic work in all fields and endeavored to create a peaceful international environment and favorable external conditions for China’s modernisation drive. We have steadily promoted China’s relations with major countries, neighbouring countries, developing countries and others in a comprehensive manner. We have actively conducted multilateral diplomacy and summit diplomacy and taken an active part in tackling the international financial crisis and advocating financial system reforms. We have played a unique constructive role in dealing with climate change. We have energetically carried out economic and trade co-operation with other countries and rendered good service to the domestic efforts to maintain stability and transform China’s development pattern.
We have also made good use of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, the 60th anniversary of the founding of New China, Expo 2010 Shanghai China, the Guangzhou 2010 Asian Games and other major events to encourage direct cultural exchange and build up China’s image as a culturally advanced, democratic, open, progressive and responsible major country, thus deepening our state’s ‘soft power’. Meanwhile, we have firmly safeguarded our country’s sovereignty and security, countered separatist and sabotage activities and actively engaged in international co-operation on non-traditional security. We have worked energetically to diffuse frictions, differences, misgivings and misunderstandings through various forms of strategic dialogue and policy consultation. And finally, we have put people first, safeguarding the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese businesses and citizens abroad and participating in international rescue and peacekeeping activities.
It has been proven by practice that as we pursue reform and opening-up, build friendly partnerships with other countries and move the international order in a fair and rational direction, we will open a path of peaceful development. This path leads to a bright future.