Should China Abandon its Non-Interference Policy?

Should China Abandon its Non-Interference Policy?

BEIJING -- China's long-standing policy of non-interference in the sovereign affairs of other nations is a cornerstone of its Peaceful Rise foreign policy doctrine. But as recent events have brought sharply into focus, the current approach fails to protect China’s expanding overseas interests and has caused a trust deficit with regard to China’s intentions at an intergovernmental level. This raises the question of how long the non-interference policy can be sustained, and whether Chinese interests would be better served by abandoning it for a less rigid position.

The Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, which have guided Chinese foreign policy since 1954, consist of mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual non-aggression, non-interference in each other's internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence. They were reaffirmed by the current administration in 2004 as part of the Peaceful Rise doctrine in order to dampen inevitable security concerns arising from China's huge gains in comprehensive national strength since 1979.

In many ways admirable in sentiment, this apolitical foreign policy approach has allowed Chinese entities to establish relationships with local elites and gain political and economic traction in territories deemed too risky by Western businesses. Nowhere is this highlighted more glaringly than in Iraq and Afghanistan, where China has accrued considerable assets following costly Western interventions. But as China's geopolitical stature and its foreign policy priorities evolve, the policy has come under increasing strain.

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