In China, Radhika Desai

Wang Yi delivers a keynote speech during the Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, February 18, 2023. /Xinhua

By Radhika Desai,

Published on CGTN, Feb 21, 2023:

Radhika Desai analyzes the speech given by Wang Yi, director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, at the Munich Security Conference in Munich on February 18, 2023, China’s first in-person presence at the gathering since 2020, and concludes that his words and vision deliver a much needed message of sanity, peace and development.

This is a longer version of the article originally published on the CGTN website.
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Speaking at the annual Munich Security Conference that has gathered NATO, EU and other important world powers every year since 1963, Wang Yi, director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, delivered a message of sanity, peace and development. This was China’s first in-person presence at the gathering since 2020 and, with the intervening pandemic and the conflict over Ukraine having so radically disrupted the world order, Mr. Wang’s speech outlined China’s distinctive approach to world affairs – Community for a Shared Future for humanity, in President Xi’s words – based on dialogue and consultation, cooperation and trust and focussed on peaceful development.

Development was the overriding imperative and it could be pursued expeditiously only through respect for sovereignty and non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries, the founding principles of the UN Charter and integral to China’s Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence. Wang called for the rejection of economic war and noted that China could never pursue ‘hegemonism’. Having achieved such spectacular success in pursuing peaceful development, China had every motivation to continue along this path.

On the all-important question of the conflict over Ukraine, Wang invited the world, specifically Europe, where the conference and the conflict were taking place, to ‘think calmly … about what efforts should be made to stop the warfare; what framework should there be to bring lasting peace to Europe; what role should Europe play to manifest its strategic autonomy’ while also warning that ‘Some forces might not want to see peace talks to materialize.’ He also announced that China would present its ‘position on the political settlement of the Ukraine crisis’ in a few days.

In a sane world, such a speech and vision, especially coming from the most important rising power in the world, would have been welcomed with open arms. However, given the Orwellian insanity of our times, where ‘War is Peace, Love is Hate, Ignorance is Knowledge’, Mr. Wang’s appeared at first glance a lone voice at the conference.

The major headlines were being made by those keeping the Ukraine conflict going, and even extending it beyond that hapless country. President Zelensky made his usual demand for more arms, warning that President Putin ‘will not stop with Ukraine’ and was now destabilising Moldova. US Vice President Harris accused Russia of war crimes and US Secretary of State Blinken made the entirely uncalled-for demand that China not send lethal aid to Russia. NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg not only insisted on the usual military support to Ukraine so it could ‘prevail as a sovereign, independent nation in Europe’. He also recalled the expansion of NATO’s scope to Asia on the spurious grounds that China’s ‘ambitions … challenge our interests, security and values’, declaring that ‘What is happening in Europe today could happen in Asia tomorrow.’

Wang’s words will prove to be in vain and China’s peace plan will fall on stony ground if these people have their way. However, there are clear signs they won’t. Some criticized Wang for trying to ‘drive a wedge’ between Europe and China and the anxiety underlying that criticism was real.

Chancellor Scholz, while repeating the usual platitudes about Ukraine belonging in a ‘free and united Europe’ was also reported to have given ‘Zelenskiy an indirect rebuff, saying that caution was better than hasty decisions’, that ‘unity was better than going it alone’ and that it was ‘vital to avoid an unintended escalation’.

French President Macron went even further. In a speech some dubbed ‘provocative’, he said that Europe had yet to deal properly with the end of the Cold War. It had to find a way of dealing with Russia that did not involve regime change and permitted Russia ‘to build something sustainable for itself’. Macron had to temper his message with the insistence that he was not justifying Russian ‘aggression’ and give a list of ways in which Russia had already been defeated. However, read beside his concern that Europeans had failed to carry much of the world with them in their stance in the conflict, this list was likely a plea to his allies to take satisfaction in this and conclude a negotiated peace with Russia.

The fact is that Europe is paying too high a price for a war that was and remains the US’s idea, so much so that many say that this war is actually a war against Europe, particularly its industrial base. It cannot afford to extend the war to China. Unsurprisingly, popular anger against the war is growing in Europe.

Given this, there is every possibility that Mr. Wang’s speech and China’s coming plan for a negotiated peace will fall on fertile European ground, whether the US accepts this development with grace or without, is the lookout of the Biden administration.

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