China's Commitment to Peaceful Development*
March 28, 2014
Mutual understanding is the foundation of state-to-state relations. Deeper mutual understanding will cement and broaden the foundation of our exchanges and cooperation.
Thanks to over 30 years of rapid growth through reform and opening up, China's GDP now ranks second in the world. As China continues to grow, some people start to worry. Some take a dark view of China and assume that it will inevitably become a threat as it develops further. They even portray China as being the terrifying Mephisto who will someday suck the soul of the world. Such absurdity couldn't be more ridiculous, yet some people, regrettably, never tire of preaching it. This shows that prejudice is indeed hard to overcome.
A review of human history shows that what keeps people apart are not mountains, rivers or oceans, but lack of mutual understanding. As Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz once observed, only the sharing of our talents will light the lamp of wisdom.
Let me take this opportunity to share with you China's reform and development, focusing on its commitment to peaceful development. I hope this will help your understanding of our country.
Long ago, China made the solemn declaration to the world that it is committed to pursuing peaceful development. It has developed itself by upholding world peace and maintained world peace through development. Pursuing peaceful development is China's response to international concern about the direction it is taking. Moreover, it demonstrates the Chinese people's confidence in and commitment to achieving its development goals. Such confidence and commitment is rooted in the rich heritage of Chinese civilization, in our understanding of conditions for achieving its goals, and in our keen appreciation of the general trend of global development.
The Chinese nation is a peace-loving nation. And the most profound pursuit of a nation has its origin in the national character formed through generations. The Chinese nation, with 5,000 years of civilization, has always cherished peace. The pursuit of peace, amity and harmony is an integral part of the Chinese character which runs deep in the blood of the Chinese people. This can be evidenced by axioms from ancient China such as: "A warlike state, however big it may be, will eventually perish"1; "peace is of paramount importance"; "seek harmony without uniformity"2; "replace weapons of war with gifts of jade and silk"; "bring prosperity to the nation and security to the people"; "foster friendship with neighbors"; and "achieve universal peace." These axioms have been passed down from generation to generation. China was long one of the most powerful countries in the world. Yet it never engaged in colonialism or aggression. The pursuit of peaceful development represents the peace-loving cultural tradition of the Chinese nation over the past centuries, a tradition that we have inherited and carried forward.
China has set the following goals for its future development: By 2020, it will double its 2010 GDP and per capita income of urban and rural residents and realize a moderately prosperous society in all respects; and by the mid-21st century, it will have turned itself into a modern socialist country, prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced and harmonious. We refer to this goal as the Chinese Dream of the great renewal of the Chinese nation. We will accelerate China's overall prosperity and raise the happiness index for our 1.3 billion Chinese people as long as we are on the right path. Yet, it will not be easy to make this happen for every individual. Consider the difference between eight people sharing one meal and 80 or even 800 people sharing the same meal. No matter how big the meal is, the individual share differs dramatically for diners different in number. We are keenly aware that China will remain the world's largest developing country for a long time and that to improve life for its 1.3 billion people calls for strenuous efforts. Two things will enable China to focus on development: a harmonious and stable domestic environment and a peaceful and stable international environment.
History is the best teacher. It faithfully records the journey that every country has gone through and offers guidance for its future development. In the 100 years from the Opium War in 1840 to the founding of the People's Republic in 1949, China was ravaged by wars, turmoil and foreign aggression. To the average Chinese, it was a period of ordeal too bitter to recall. The war of aggression against China waged by Japanese militarism alone inflicted over 35 million Chinese military and civilian casualties. These atrocities remain fresh in our memory. We Chinese have long held the belief expressed in the maxim "Don't do unto others what you don't want others to do unto you."3 China needs peace as much as human beings need air and plants need sunshine. Only by pursuing peaceful development and working together with all other countries to uphold world peace can China realize its goal and make greater contributions to the world as a whole.
Dr Sun Yat-sen, the pioneer of China's democratic revolution, had this to say: "The trend of the world is surging forward. Those who follow the trend will prosper, whilst those who go against it will perish." History shows that a country, for its prosperity, must recognize and follow the underlying trend of the changing world. Otherwise, it will be abandoned by history. What is the trend of today's world? The answer is unequivocal. It is the trend of peace, development, cooperation and mutually beneficial progress. China does not subscribe to the outdated logic that a country will invariably seek hegemony when it grows strong. Are colonialism and hegemonism viable today? Absolutely not. They can inevitably lead to a dead end, and those who stick to this beaten track will only hit a stone wall. Peaceful development is the only alternative. That is why China is committed to peaceful development.
Facts speak louder than words. Over the past few decades China has consistently followed an independent foreign policy of peace and made it crystal clear that China's foreign policy is aimed at maintaining world peace and promoting common development. China has stated on numerous occasions that it opposes hegemonism and power politics in all forms, does not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries, and will never seek hegemony or expansion. This is our guiding principle for China's political system, and for each step we take. Moreover, China will firmly uphold its sovereignty, security and development interests. No country should expect China to swallow any bitter fruit that undermines its sovereignty, security or development interests.
In short, China's pursuit of peaceful development is not an act of expediency, still less diplomatic rhetoric. Rather, it is the conclusion drawn from an objective assessment of China's history, its present and future. It showcases confidence in thinking and readiness for practice. As peaceful development benefits both China and the world as a whole, we cannot think of any reason why we should not pursue this approach that has proven so effective.
* Part of the speech at the Körber Foundation, Berlin, Germany.
1 The Methods of Sima (Si Ma Fa), also known as The Marshal's Art of War, is an ancient Chinese book on the art of war and was used as a basic textbook for marshal art training during the Song Dynasty (960-1279).
2 The Analects of Confucius (Lun Yu).
3 The Analects of Confucius (Lun Yu).
(Not to be republished for any commercial or other purposes.)