Zhao Yifeng, China, octubre 2009
Interview with Zhao Yifeng
Words collected by Henri Bauer and Nathalie Delcamp (Irenees).
China’s cultural and philosophical wealth is well known: is there a specific Chinese approach of peace? If so, how could China make a useful contribution to the different visions of peace existing in the world?
Based on its tradition, China respects peace. The main reason is that the traditional China had been an agricultural-based civilization. Long-term stability and peace were crucial conditions to such a civilization, since its infrastructure was difficult to be established and maintained and it might to reach a self-sustainable situation more often than not. The regular problem to the core area of China was that it was surrounded by nomadic tribes, which required less stability and meanwhile need to exchange with agricultural societies. Facing the regular challenges from outside, China built up a relatively stronger government with a usually powerful military force. Within such a basic background, the traditional china usually realized and maintained peace by the following ways. 1, building up defensive walls, such as the symbolic Great Wall; 2, arranging political marriage with major nomadic tribes; 3, building up tributary system to deal with neighbour powers; 4, attracting cultural outsiders to appreciate Chinese culture; 5, military action. From tradition to modern, there have been many changes, in terms of system and mentality, but still, China would take all action to maintain peace as usual. The main newer experience is that, China suffered foreign invasions in modern times, which have made the Chinese extremely sensitive about foreign invasion and interfere. In addition, nations who had invaded China in modern times were all forerunners of Capitalist nations, such as Britain and Japan. Therefore, China by its own experience has been aware of the invading nature of extreme or single-minded Capitalist economy. China basically dose not believe that any one nation would provide permanent peace to everybody in the world, therefore it has been keeping its own ways to realize peace. During the latest past, China has been enjoying economic booming and carrying out a profound social reform. Peace is even more important to China. In dealing with international affairs, China promotes the following five principles: a, Mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty; b, Mutual non-aggression; c, Mutual non-interference in each other’s internal affairs; d, Equality and mutual benefit; e Peaceful co-existence. Since the late 1970s, China has been playing a role in United Nation, which is a major positive organization for the peaceful co-existence worldwide.
Recently, China becomes more definite in promoting so called harmonious society. In doing so, the traditional philosophy of peace has been attracting more attention than the previous years. Confucius and many other ancient thinkers had produced systematic theories and thoughts which maintained that people’s livelihood, rather than development or competition is the ultimate goal of society. Such a tradition, although sounds conservative in the present times, may provide an alternative perspective about human society, values, governance, and peace.
What are the major conflictualities and threats against peace in today’s world?
We have been enjoying basic peace today, but the peace has never been complete and it is vulnerable to many exiting threats and potential problems.
a, the imbalance of development among nations and the competition for natural resources; b, ideological, cultural, and religious differentiations; c, international hegemony; c, the lack and weakness of international and institutional peace keeping structure; d, the potential problems of local or regional crisis being quickly enlarged to affect the whole world, which are brought about by globalization, such as international financial crisis, infectious disease, and economic crisis caused by unexpected calamity; e, the ever-lasting local or regional wars to become world wars; f, the diffusion of nuclear weapons and other mass destructive weapons; g, some serious social and political inequality might lead to rebellions, then international interfere, then international contradiction.
How do you picture China’s role in the world’s Peace construction?
In the present times, China is an import player in world peace keeping. China is currently economically booming, socially stable. A peaceful international framework is expected by China as a developing country. It has been making efforts to maintain peace in mainly Asian area through political ways. By supporting the united nation as the major international organization dealing with peace-related affairs, China’s voice has been heard, which is helping the re-construction of the multilateral order of the world, which by itself is not perfect but better than the structure of one super power making decision. China makes great effort in dealing with the current international financial crisis. Since economic stability is a necessary condition for peace, such an effort can be seen as a contribution to peace. China is a country which publicly announced that it would never use nuclear weapons first to any others, while many nuclear powers reluctant to make the same promise. Should all nuclear powers had made the same promise and be responsible, the possibility of nuclear war would have been reduced.
What does « peace » mean to you?
Peace is a state of ultimate harmony in human social experience. Within a single society or community, peace means a harmonious co-existence with others which is guaranteed by basic prosperous of human material needs and just of public relation. In terms of international affairs, peace means harmonious relationship and condition among states, regions, and interest groups. Peace is a crucial factor of ultimate concerns of human society which should be placed on top of group interest. Nevertheless, without social justice, human dignity, and general warrantee of human livelihood, peace would always under threat. On the surface, temporary peace might be brought about by hegemony, which is lack of justice; it might be reached by power balance, which would be broken early or later. Peace is not merely deals among nation states, it is concerns every individual in the world.