Neutrality should be encouraged to foster global peace and stability

By Su Changhe Source:Global Times Published: 2015-10-27 0:23:01

The news that Mongolia is seeking permanent neutrality has garnered wide attention. If Mongolia can have this status formally acknowledged by global bodies, that will have a substantive effect on the construction of a new type of international relations.

In international politics, there are many ways for small countries to develop relations with large ones: Some attach themselves to big powers; some unify with other small powers; some choose neutrality and non-alignment and a very few try to set an example for  big countries by virtue of their strategic importance and wisdom.

In general, small powers, once they get embroiled into big-power rivalry, find it hard to escape from a tragic destiny in the end.

Therefore, quite a number of small countries that have an important strategic position in great-power rivalry attempt to explore a foreign policy of being permanently neutral.

After the WWII a slew of newly independent countries joined the UN. They then were confronted, with the Cold War unfolding, with the choices between the US and the Soviet Union. The two super powers tried all they could, such as offering aid and assistance, to lure those countries into their own camp.

Nonetheless, the Bandung Conference in 1955 issued a declaration that set out the famous Ten Principles of Bandung. The sixth of the Ten Principles recognizes the right of individual or collective self-defense provided that collective defense does not serve the private ends of any great power, which embodies the neutrality of the emerging countries. 

Under the influence of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence and Ten Principles of Bandung, the Non-aligned Movement emerged in the 1960s and reached its climax. New emerging countries determined that they would steer an independent diplomatic path rather than being drawn into the US-Soviet Union confrontation.

However, a few small- and medium-sized countries are still caught between major powers despite the end of the Cold War. The international community should guide them toward neutral diplomacy.

Neutrality is an important international principle that is disliked by hegemonic powers. If most of the small- and medium-sized countries stick to such principles, that will erode the foundation of the military alliance system led by hegemons.

Should nations that are locked in an alliance system develop a political awareness of neutrality, they will seek to get rid of the alliance system and disintegrate the system. That's why the Western countries pay little attention to the neutrality principle in international law textbooks.

International relations now are witnessing profound changes. One of the barriers that disturb the construction of a new type of international relations is the military alliance system and the alliance mind-set.

Once multi-polar politics is disturbed by alliance mind-set, it will inevitably slip into a state of confrontation, which will further endanger global peace and stability.

Encouraging more countries to choose neutral foreign policy is in line with the UN's duty. It also tallies with the concept of peace China advocates in international politics as an emerging power.

In order to make the principle of neutrality widely accepted, we should propel the establishment of neutral courts at both global and regional levels, enhance the protection of the rights of the neutral states and promote the launch of a neutral judicial system.

We also need to make neutrality a solution to achieve peace in chaotic and turbulent regions.

When neutrality becomes a widely-recognized element in international politics and diplomatic culture, neutrality as an important international principle and norm will greatly ramp up the construction of a new type of international relations.

The author is a professor at the School of International Relations and Public Affairs, Fudan University.

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