Keynote Speech by Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng at “Seeking Peace and Promoting Development: An Online Dialogue of Global Think Tanks of 20 Countries”
Dear Scholars and Friends,
Good evening! It gives me great pleasure to join you in this online dialogue on peace and security issues. I would like to share with you my views on international security on the basis of my understanding of the Global Security Initiative proposed by President Xi Jinping recently at the Boao Forum for Asia.
When we did the stock-taking of the global situation at the end of 2019, some people said that it was the worst year in a decade but probably the best one of the coming decade. Unfortunately, that prediction has turned out to be true.
The world has been on a downward slope over the past few years. The COVID pandemic has been raging for three years now, claiming more than six million lives, including over one million in the US alone, and some 200,000 American kids were orphaned as a result of the pandemic. It’s beyond our wildest imagination that things like this could happen in a period of peace.
Recently the flames of war have been re-ignited in Europe and the Russia-Ukraine conflict is still escalating even as we speak. The repercussions for international security are massive. In the meantime, we are witnessing perverse attempts to wage a new Cold War, rampant hegemonism and power politics, a rising tide of division and confrontation, the fragmentation of the world into different blocs and camps, and a fierce information war and battle for public opinion.
To make matters worse, unilateral sanctions that violate international law are inflicting an enormous damage, not only on the intended targets but also on the ones unleashing them. According to statistics, the US and other Western countries have launched over 10,000 sanctions on China, Russia and other countries. One in every ten countries has been targeted by US sanctions. This has compounded the enormous strain on global food and energy supply, finance and supply chains. Crises are lurking in the international political, economic and security order, presenting unprecedented challenges to peace and development, the underlying theme of our times.
Facing these once-in-a-century changes and a world in turmoil, China is determined to act as a responsible major country. We have made great efforts to safeguard international peace and security and to explore the way forward for humanity. President Xi Jinping’s vision of building a community with a shared future for mankind has been warmly received and widely endorsed by the international community. Eight years ago at the CICA Shanghai Summit, President Xi Jinping called for common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security. This new vision on security has been proven by events to be both a correct and effective one.
Recently at the Boao Forum for Asia, President Xi Jinping proposed a Global Security Initiative (GSI). The idea is to take the new vision on security as the guiding principle, mutual respect as the fundamental requirement, indivisible security as the important principle, and building a security community as the long-term goal, in order to foster a new type of security that replaces confrontation, alliance and a zero-sum approach with dialogue, partnership and win-win results. This major Initiative carries forward the spirit of the UN Charter, offers a fundamental solution to eliminating “the peace deficit” and contributes Chinese perspectives to meeting international security challenges.
Actions are guided by vision. Following the vision of building a community with a shared future for mankind and acting on the new security vision and the GSI, China has played a positive role for world peace and security.
Just over the past two years, China has provided 2.2 billion doses of COVID vaccines to more than 120 countries and international organizations and launched the largest emergency humanitarian campaign, in an effort to fortify the “shield” for global public health security.
China has worked for the adoption of the first ever joint statement of the leaders of the five nuclear-weapon states, which affirmed that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. And China has joined the Arms Trade Treaty.
China has helped to establish a coordination and cooperation mechanism among the neighbors of Afghanistan. China has put forward a four-point proposal on the Palestinian question and a five-point initiative on peace and stability in the Middle East. China has contributed to the negotiations for resuming compliance with the JCPOA, and has pushed for a political settlement of the issues on the Korean Peninsula. All of these represent efforts with Chinese characteristics to explore solutions to various hot-spot issues.
China has made vigorous efforts to advance reform of the global governance system, reject fake multilateralism, fake rules, fake human rights and fake democracy, and defend the stability of the international order and international fairness and justice.
China has launched the Global Initiative on Data Security, set up the Kunming Biodiversity Fund, pledged not to build new coal-fired power projects abroad, and facilitated the adoption of the Glasgow Climate Pact. Through these efforts, China has been working with countries around the world on climate change, cybersecurity, terrorism and other nontraditional security challenges.
The above is by no means an exhaustive list of China’s contributions to global security, but more than enough to prove China’s role as a champion of world peace and a positive force for global security. It also shows that China’s development reinforces the global dynamic in favor of peace and stability.
Yet regrettably, some people have in recent years turned a blind eye to China’s positive role in and contribution to international security. They have made groundless allegations, distorted China’s position and tried to make China take the blame for their own actions. In the ongoing Ukraine crisis, for instance, all sorts of misinformation and disinformation have been thrown around to smear China.
Some people have twisted the words of the recent China-Russia joint statement and misinterpreted “friendship has no limits and cooperation has no forbidden areas” to mean that China had “prior knowledge” of Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine and even “endorsed” it. They have therefore concluded that China must be held accountable for the conflict. This is absurd. China is not involved in the conflict, still less the one who created it. So how could China be responsible? The relationship between China and Russia is based on the principles of non-alliance, non-confrontation and non-targeting of third parties, and it is not subject to the influence of any third party. After the Cold War, China and Russia, through equal-footed consultation and peaceful negotiation, solved once and for all the many complex issues between them left from history. The two countries have forged a high level of mutual political trust and close economic and trade ties. The description of “no limits” and “no forbidden areas” captures the current state and future prospects of China-Russia ties. The truth is, China desires friendly relations with all countries and we never set any limit on cooperation, nor do we see a need to do so. On the contrary, some country likes to designate “forbidden areas” on unfounded grounds or set preconditions for relations with China. It seeks to decouple from or cut off supplies to China, uses words like “competition” and “confrontation” to define relations with China, and restricts cooperation between the two sides. How could there be a good bilateral relationship with such constraints in place?
Some people accuse China of standing on the wrong side of history for not joining the US and other Western countries in condemning and sanctioning Russia, and they even threaten to impose secondary sanctions on China. Let me make it clear that China pursues an independent foreign policy of peace and determines its position based on the merits of the matter. China never follows in others’ footsteps or jumps on bandwagons or acts on hearsay. Since the Russia-Ukraine conflict broke out, China has been committed to the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and the principle of indivisible security. We have stood for fairness and justice, and made active efforts to encourage peace talks and provide humanitarian aid. China has no axe to grind or any geopolitical agenda on this issue. Some major country, in contrast, has contributed nothing to the peace talks but maneuvered to use the crisis to weaken Russia and fight Russia to the “last Ukrainian”. Apparently, what they care about is not peace talks or ceasefire, nor the life and safety of the Ukrainian people. They only want to use Ukraine as “cannon fodder” to wear Russia down and sacrifice Ukrainian lives to achieve their own hegemonic ambition and geostrategic goals.
Some people urge the US not to forget about China when contending with Russia, but to regard the Eurasian continent as a battlefield and to focus on two theaters — war in Europe and the Asia-Pacific — and win both. This is a very dangerous proposition. Rather than learning the painful lessons of conflict and suffering in Europe, they seek to create a “second theater” and bring the conflict to the Asia-Pacific. The US “Indo-Pacific strategy” indicates that the US seeks not so much to change China as to shape the strategic environment in which China operates. For quite some time, the US has kept flexing its muscle on China’s doorstep, creating exclusive groups against China and inflaming the Taiwan question to test China’s red line. If this is not an Asia-Pacific version of NATO’s eastward expansion, then what is? Such a strategy, if left unchecked, would bring horrible consequences and push the Asia-Pacific over the edge of an abyss. To these people, let me stress that China is committed to peaceful development and seeks harmony, solidarity and cooperation in the region. China has never been a provocateur or troublemaker. It makes no sense to take aim at China. And the attempt to “copy and paste” the Ukraine crisis in the Asia-Pacific is doomed to fail.
Peace and development are the perpetual pursuit of humankind and they need to be earned and protected. Our world today faces a swirling combination of change and instability. Crises and challenges emerge without cease, and factors undermining peace are building up. Some people are even talking about the possibility of a third world war.
At such a critical moment in the development of humankind, we must act with the destiny and future of humanity in mind, step up to our responsibility, and rise above prejudice and contention. Together with all peace-loving forces in the world, we must adopt the new vision on security, take active steps to operationalize the GSI, and meet the international security challenges for the sake of world peace and tranquility. At this moment, a few priorities come to mind:
First, it is important to stay committed to international law and universally recognized norms of international relations, and reject the attempt to replace international rules with “house rules”. Last month, three Chinese astronauts safely returned to Earth after completing their space mission. The Earth they saw from space looks just like a small globe. In this global village, we are all neighbors who share weal and woe. As we live side by side day and night, naturally we need to respect each other, treat one another as equals and abide by common rules. Major countries in particular must lead by the power of their example, not by the example of their power or claim “exceptionalism”. They should not practice double standards or see themselves as superior to others. They should not ask others to respect sovereignty while they themselves meddle in the internal affairs of others. They should not criticize others for violating international law while they themselves apply international rules selectively or create another set of the so-called “rules-based order” in an attempt to place their own “house rules” above international law. Such acts only give international law and rules a bad name and undermine them.
Second, it is important to stay committed to the principle of indivisible security, and reject the attempt to pursue one’s own security at the expense of others. Quite a few Western strategists sounded the alarm on Ukraine a long time ago. They argued that pushing a nuclear power into a corner is like taking a stick and poking a bear in the eye, and that bear is probably not going to simply put up with it. Obviously, no country should build its security at the cost of others or choose a path that only serves itself but makes things difficult for others. We humanity have long been a community of indivisible security. As such, we must uphold the vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security, reject zero-sum games, competition and confrontation, take seriously the security of others, and safeguard the common security of all. Only by doing so can one achieve his own security.
Third, it is important to stay committed to global solidarity and cooperation, and reject the attempt to revive bloc politics and ideological confrontation. We Chinese believe that “a family prospers only when it enjoys harmony”. Strength comes from unity. The world today is experiencing great change and turmoil and confronting many risks and challenges. What is needed the most is for countries around the world to pull together with common purpose and efforts. The challenges cannot be tackled by any country or exclusive group going it alone. Any wishful attempt to preserve hegemony, gang up, form exclusive circles, pin undesirable labels on others, spread the ridiculous “democracy versus autocracy” narrative, or stoke major-country rivalry and divide the world on ideological grounds would land humanity in bigger trouble, rather than helping to address the common challenges facing humanity. There have been no shortage of such lessons in recent years. Under the current circumstances, the international community should choose dialogue over confrontation, solidarity over division, and justice over hegemony. We should join hands to uphold international peace and security together.
Fourth, it is important to stay committed to opposing unilateral sanctions, and reject the attempt to turn a regional crisis into a global one. History has shown time and again that unilateral sanctions have never been an effective solution to any problem. They are just a tool of hegemony and power politics, always adding fuel to the fire and magnifying and complicating the existing problems. In recent months, the US and other Western countries have imposed sweeping sanctions on Russia, crippling an already languishing world economy and unleashing unbearable pain on developing countries. It is the people of the world that are being hurt by the sanctions. The IMF and some other international institutions estimate that this year, global economic growth will slow to 3.6 percent and global trade growth will be slashed nearly by half; three-fifths of the low-income countries will be thrown into a debt crisis and 1.7 billion people worldwide will be impoverished. The majority of countries are not supportive of the sanctions on Russia. Using the world economy, the development of countries and the wellbeing of their peoples as a weapon or a tool and creating and even aggravating multiple crises in order to tackle an existing crisis will shake the foundation of the international economic system and cause turmoil around the world.
Fifth, it is important to stay committed to security and stability in the Asia-Pacific, and reject the attempt to allow turmoil or war to arise in this region. The Asia-Pacific is a promising land of peace, stability, cooperation and development. This desirable situation has not fallen into our lap automatically or come as charity from anybody. Rather, it is the result of the joint efforts of countries in the region. The Ukraine crisis reminds us that we must cherish and preserve peace and hold our destiny in our own hands. Recently, some people have called for building “a global NATO”, and NATO is interfering frequently in Asia-Pacific affairs. This is cause for concern to the regional countries. We cannot allow bloc-based confrontation to repeat itself in the Asia-Pacific; we cannot allow certain countries to succeed in their self-serving attempt to drag the Asia-Pacific into conflict; we cannot allow small and medium-sized countries in our region to become the tool or victim of hegemony. Countries both in and outside the region should add splendor rather than trouble to the Asia-Pacific, work to operationalize the new vision on security and the GSI, and find a path to Asia-Pacific security featuring joint contribution, shared benefit and win-win outcome.
Thank you. Now I will take your questions.
Q1: The Ukraine crisis has presented new challenges to global security governance. How should we respond to traditional and non-traditional security threats and build a new security governance system that is fairer and more equitable? What role can the Global Security Initiative proposed by China play in addressing current international conflicts and disputes?
Le: The crisis in Ukraine has brought to light the big problems in global security governance. The fact that Europe, who takes pride in their governance, has come to face such a serious security crisis points to the failing security policy, outdated way of thinking and ossified mindset of some countries. They might be holding in their hands smart phones of the globalized age, but their minds are still operating with last century’s system of Cold War mentality. It’s no surprise that Europe’s security system is experiencing a “downtime”.
In my opinion, the way to prevent security “downtime” is to update the operating system, replacing the Cold War mentality with the Global Security Initiative put forth by President Xi Jinping. To be specific, we need to commit to three points:
Fostering a shared perception, recognizing that all countries are in a community with a shared future where they rise and fall together.
Upholding a shared principle, by which the security of all countries is indivisible.
And following a shared path, a path of mutual respect and peaceful coexistence.
We need to bear in mind the importance of common security, shoulder moral responsibilities and act on the spirit of equality and mutual respect. As members of the same global village, we should avoid arm wrestling or fighting with each other, and work hand in hand to tide over the trying times. If everyone goes for “an eye for an eye” approach, the world will be a dark place.
Q2: The international community is following closely what the conflict between Russia and Ukraine means for Taiwan. The concern is that what is happening to Ukraine today might happen to Taiwan in the future. US officials have recently said that China should “take the right lesson” from this conflict that “taking Taiwan by force” is not acceptable, otherwise all the sanctions against Russia and measures to isolate it would be examples for the PRC. What is your take on this?
Le: Two points to clarify. First, Taiwan and Ukraine are not comparable at all. The one-China principle is a consensus of the international community. Taiwan is an inseparable part of China’s territory and the Taiwan question is China’s internal affairs. Some people have been stressing the respect for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. But the same people have openly trampled on the red line of the one-China principle when it comes to the Taiwan question. This is outright double standards. For them, international rules are just “playthings” that they can bend and twist willfully like “transformers”.
Second, it is the United States, not China, who should learn the lessons. China is not a party to the Ukraine issue, still less the one who caused it. Everybody knows that the United States shoulders major responsibility for Europe’s security. Now that the security of Europe has imploded, of course it has some serious reflection to make and lessons to learn. As to what lessons, I think there are at least three: Cold War mentality should be abandoned, unilateral sanctions should be avoided, and proxy wars should be prevented.
With regard to all the talk of sanctions and isolation on China, I can say for sure that China will not be intimidated. Over the past 70-plus years since the founding of the new China, we have gone through our fair share of ordeals. In the last couple of years, the United States has been coming after China nonstop, from tariff hikes, decoupling and supply chain disruptions, to detaining Chinese citizens and shutting down our consulate, doing everything possible to derail China-US cooperation. But China has not been crushed. On the contrary, it has come out stronger and is doing better with each passing day. So what is there to be afraid of?
A word of caution for the Taiwan authorities: reunification is the right way forward, and seeking foreign support to pursue independence will lead nowhere. The reunification of China must be achieved and will definitely be achieved—this historical process is unstoppable.
Q3: Some say the Russian “invasion” of Ukraine shows that democracies are being threatened by autocracy, and also validates NATO’s eastward expansion. What is your view?
Le: This is a typical act to confuse cause and effect, and take the root cause as the prescription. NATO’s continued eastward expansion has upset security in Europe and created a big mess. It also declares that the US and NATO’s approach to security has gone broke. Given this, to resolve the crisis by further expansion would be like correcting one mistake with another. It will only lead to greater disaster.
As for the “democracy v.s. autocracy” narrative, it just sounds all too familiar. It is old script used by a certain big power to smear other countries and suppress those who disagree. They first label a country “autocracy”, followed by mud-slinging, sanctions and containment, and ultimately the brute military means. This has become their playbook, and the only purpose is to take down anyone who is not “one of them” and to preserve their hegemony. In recent years, we have seen this trick playing out repeatedly around the globe, leaving the world in instability and chaos. But this trick can no longer fool anyone, and now is time to stop!
Q4: When visiting Ukraine, the US Secretary of Defense said publicly that “we want to see Russia weakened” with the conflict. There is a view that the United States not only wants to weaken Russia, but also control Europe and let Europe bear the losses while the United States profits from the war. What is your take on this?
Le: There is a famous line in House of Cards: “Politics requires sacrifice. The sacrifice of others, of course.”
The conflict is taking place on European soil, so it is Europe that is hurt the first and the most. Some netizens are describing Europe’s current predicament by saying that “food is getting tight, energy running short, refugees increasing, unemployment rising, growth facing headwinds, and no one knows when the war will end.” Meanwhile, the United States is playing offshore balancing on the other side of the ocean, hiding comfortably from a safe distance, raking in billions with rocketing arms trade and oil and gas sales, and seeing financial capital flooding back to America. As for refugees, it is said to have taken in just about a dozen.
Such a sharp contrast could well explain why some are eager to fan the flames and disrupt Russia-Ukraine peace talks. Basically, they want to profit from the war, and control Europe, “weaken” Russia and sustain their hegemonic power at the expense of Ukraine. So they are killing many birds with one stone, and that explains why they keep doing it.