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The Bandung Spirit Lives On

May 07 , 2015
  • Wu Sike

    Member on Foreign Affairs Committee, CPPCC

The 1955 Bandung Conference, a defining moment in postcolonial history, has symbolized unity, friendship, cooperation and shared commitment to development and prosperity among the developing world for 60 years. Recently, leaders across Asia and Africa gathered in Bandung to relive the historic occasion and renew the Bandung Spirit. Their commemorative summit produced three outcome documents, including the Bandung Communiqué 2015, expressing the collective determination to carry the legacies of the Bandung Conference into the future.

The Bandung Conference marked the first time newly independent countries came together to claim their rightful place in the world of nations, turning a new page in the history of international relations. Built on the Charter of the United Nations and the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, the Bandung Spirit and the Ten Principles of Bandung adopted at the conference laid the foundation and reinforced the legal basis of a new form of international relations. The conference also served as a catalyst to the Non-aligned Movement, which later changed the international political landscape. Though six long decades have passed, the Bandung Spirit, the values it represents and its call for respect for justice and fulfillment of international obligations remain as relevant as ever.

As different as the world may be from 60 years ago, the Bandung Spirit still has an important role to play in bringing hope and prosperity to the world we live in. Exactly one year ago, on the margins of a donors’ conference for Palestine in Jakarta, the author visited the museum of the Bandung Conference, which only reinforced the belief that the Bandung Spirit still provides the key to many of the world’s problems. For instance, the world has had very little success in calming the situation in the Middle East, not because of a lack of trying but a lack of respect for basic principles that are at the center of the Bandung Spirit, such as sovereignty and independence and non-interference in each other’s domestic affairs. Only by seeking common ground while resolving differences and respecting each country’s unique social systems and development paths can peace, stability and development prevail in that region. In a sense, the turmoil in the Middle East is like a mirror that reflects how things could go terribly wrong if such principles are not observed.

In his remarks at the commemorative summit in Indonesia, President Xi Jinping highlighted the importance of promoting the Bandung Spirit, calling for a new type of international relations of win-win cooperation and renewed commitment to greater openness and closer Asia-Africa, South-South and North-South cooperation toward a community of shared destiny and a new path of peace and development for all, by all and of all. China’s “Belt and Road” initiative is inspired by the Bandung Spirit and designed to drive both China’s reform and opening-up process and the economic prosperity and regional cooperation of countries along the Silk Road, particularly in Asia and Africa. The initiative will also boost cultural exchanges, which will lead to greater mutual understanding.

The initiative has resonated favorably with many countries. Over half of the 57 founding members of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), a twin initiative of the “Belt and Road”, were present at the 1955 Bandung Conference. The AIIB is thus a tribute to the Bandung Conference as well. If our common response to global challenges such as terrorism, climate change, cyber security and public health could be underpinned by the Bandung Spirit, the whole world will stand to benefit. When that day comes, our home planet will find peace and harmony, which it has so long deserved.

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