August 21, 1982
China is aware of its responsibilities as a permanent member of the Security Council of the United Nations. Everyone can trust China in two respects. First, China adheres to principles. Second, China means what it says. We do not play political games, nor do we engage in the play of words. I personally love to play bridge, but China does not like to play political cards. This is not only the case today, but was also the case during the period since the founding of the People's Republic in 1949 when Chairman Mao Zedong and Premier Zhou Enlai were leading the country. This is why so many friends around the world trust us. We understand the circumstances in many countries, particularly Third World countries. China's foreign policy is consistent and can be summed up in three sentences. First, we oppose hegemonism. Second, we safeguard world peace. Third, we are eager to strengthen unity and cooperation, or what might be termed 'union and cooperation', with other Third World countries. The reason I lay special emphasis on the Third World is that opposition to hegemonism and safeguarding world peace are of special significance to the Third World. Who are the victims of hegemonism? Is it the United States or the Soviet Union? No, it is the United States and the Soviet Union that practise hegemonism, so they are not the victims. Neither are developed countries such as Japan, Canada, and countries in Europe and Oceania the victims. Eastern Europe suffers a little. If world peace is disrupted, who will be the first to become victims? Actually, there has been no peace since the end of World War II. Although no major wars have been fought, minor ones have continued. Where are the minor wars fought? In the Third World! It is the superpowers that practise hegemonism and sow discord. They are the ones with their hands in that arena! For many years, the superpowers have cashed in on conflicts between Third World countries in order to achieve their objectives. Although the Third World itself faces various problems, it is the Third World countries and their peoples that become the real victims. For this reason it must be the Third World that is the genuine and primary force for safeguarding world peace and opposing hegemonism, because this concern immediately affects Third World countries. This follows necessarily because of the position and immediate interests of the Third World itself.
We are by no means pessimists. We simply want to point out that the danger of war exists. We have said that while the factors bringing about war have increased, the factors for preventing war are also growing. With reference to the United Nations, we can see that after World War II, a positive factor in international politics has been the rise of the Third World. The Third World member countries in the United Nations have increased. The importance of this change must be recognized. Hegemony may continue to run rampant. However, the days are gone when hegemonists wilfully decided the destiny of people all over the world. Although the Third World is poor, its international political influence has increased considerably. This cannot be overlooked. Of course, coordination between Third World countries is far from ideal. The matter is very complicated; so much work remains to be done in this regard. As for China, our strength is limited, as is our role. Many people contend that China holds a special position in the Third World. We say that China is just another member of the Third World, and as such, should discharge its own responsibilities. Many friends claim that China is the leader of the Third World. However, we say that China cannot be the leader, because acting as the leader will breed adversity. Those who practise hegemonism are discredited, so serving as the leader of the Third World would earn us a bad reputation. These are not words of modesty. I say this out of genuine political consideration.
We have always believed that disarmament talks would be of no avail, but we are in favour of attempting negotiations. Some people have alleged that China is bellicose, but in fact China hopes for peace more than anything else. China hopes that there will be no war for the rest of the century. We need to develop the country and shake off backwardness. The primary task we have set as the initial goal for the realization of modernization is to create comparative prosperity by the end of this century. If we can accomplish this goal, we will be in a much better position. More importantly, we shall achieve a new starting point. Within the ensuing 30 to 50 years, we shall approach the level of developed countries. We do not mean to catch up with, still less do we say to surpass, but only to approach the level of developed countries. Therefore, we cherish the hope for a peaceful international environment. Should war break out, our plan would be thwarted, and in that case we could not but postpone the plan. During the period up to the end of the century and extending decades into the future, we hope that there will be peace. Our proposals for safeguarding world peace are by no means empty talk, but instead are based on our own needs. Of course, this also meets the needs of people all over the world, particularly the needs of people in the Third World. Therefore, opposing hegemonism and safeguarding world peace are our established policies and are the foundation of our foreign policy. Some people around the world wonder whether China's policy will change once the country's current leaders are gone. I have just answered the question. Our policy should not be altered; China must continue to pursue this policy if it hopes to develop, and no one should willfully change the policy. However, China alone cannot guarantee that it will be successful in carrying out this policy. Should some nation impose war on us, we are not afraid and our plans will simply be postponed for a number of years. But we shall resume economic construction after the war ends. At present, our domestic situation is fairly good. The Chinese people are wholeheartedly concentrating on economic development. Our foreign policy coincides with this magnificent goal. Although this objective may seem modest to some people, we hail it as a magnificent achievement.
(Excerpt from a talk with Javier Perez de Cuellar, Secretary-General of the United Nations.