As a Chinese saying goes, “Scooping rice from the same pot, the ladles may inevitably knock against each other”. As we live in a global village, frictions and clashes of various kinds are inevitable. It is nothing alarming.What matters is the principles that one follows in trying to tackle the problems: a tit-for-tat tactic or making a fuss of a minor problem, or rather, a totally different approach?
We have our basic principles in our external relations, which have proven effective over the past decades. First, we follow the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence. To be specific, we reject interference in others’ internal affairs and the use or threat of use of force and we do not enter into alliance with any country. Second, we follow the win-win strategy of opening up and never adopt the beggar-thy-neighbor policy. We value, develop and protect common interests and strive to make the pie of common interests bigger and better. Third, we stand for settlement of disputes and conflicts through dialogue and negotiation and by seeking common ground while shelving differences. That is what we have been doing over the past years. We have set up strategic dialogue and consultation mechanisms with the United States, Europe, Japan and some emerging countries and have been engaged in in-depth exchange of views with them on important overarching and long-term issues concerning the world situation and bilateral relations. Those discussions have helped to enhance mutual understanding and trust, seek strategic consensus, expand common interests and reduce troubles and setbacks. For knotty problems, we have proposed that they be put aside until conditions are ripe for solution. Some issues can even be left to future generations.
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 contradictory to China’s statement about its path of peaceful development. In my view, no development path should be chosen at the expense of major national interests, core interests in particular. What are China’s core interests? My personal understanding is: first, China’s form of government and political system and stability, namely the leadership of the Communist Party of China, the socialist system and socialism with Chinese characteristics. Second, China’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and national unity. Third, the basic guarantee for sustainable economic and social development of China. These interests brook no violation.
The Taiwan question constitutes China’s core interest concerning its unification and territorial integrity, dear to the heart of the 1.3 billion Chinese citizens and the whole Chinese nation. On this question, we pursue the basic principle of “peaceful unification and one country, two systems”. We will never allow Taiwan to split from China, nor will we ever commit ourselves to the renunciation of force. This is not targeted at our Taiwan compatriots but a handful of Taiwan separatists. In recent years, the peaceful development of cross-Straits relations has made positive and significant progress as evidenced by the signing of Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement between the two sides, which opens up greater prospects for the peaceful development of cross-Straits relations. However, there are those who, out of Cold War mentality and geo-political needs, have continued 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, cooperation and development in the Asia-Pacific region.
China pursues a defense policy that is defensive in nature. Its military building is aimed at upholding sovereignty and territorial integrity, safeguarding its more than 22,000 km long land boundary and 18,000 km long sea boundary and ensuring development in a peaceful environment. It is neither driven by arms race nor the desire to seek hegemony or expansion. Some people in the world have the unnecessary worry that China will turn its growing economic power into military might. Compared with quite a number of countries such as the United States and Japan, China’s military spending is minimal both in aggregate and per capita terms and cannot pose a threat to other countries. As for transparency, there is no country that is absolutely transparent in the military field. China’s military transparency has been rising over the past decades. Its strategic intent, in particular, is more transparent than many other countries, especially some major powers. For example, we have openly declared to the world that we will never seek hegemony and openly committed to no first use of nuclear weapons and no use or threat of use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states. If other countries follow suit, it will no doubt be a great contribution to world peace, stability and development.
Dai Bingguo is the State Councilor of People’s Republic of China. This is an excerpt of the article originally published on the website of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of PRC.