On 7 March, Chinese state-run media reported new Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang stating that China would follow the principles of “peaceful coexistence” (Russian: Mirnoye sosushchestvovaniye) in relations with the United States. The ghost of Nikita Khrushchev must be whispering in Qin’s ear (and also his master, Xi Jinping’s ear) because that was a Soviet psychological operation intended to anesthetize the United States and the West for decades during the Cold War.
Let us examine the issue.
On Feb. 14, 1956, Soviet leader Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev presented a “Report of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union” to the Twentieth Party Congress. While most of the international and Soviet-controlled media at the time were shocked by his public excoriation of Joseph Stalin for past crimes and abuses, an equally important message was conveyed concerning Soviet foreign policy and international relations.
In Section 6, “The International Position of the Soviet Union,” Khrushchev solidified that a major ideological underpinning to Soviet foreign policy going forward would be Vladimir Ulyanov’s (Lenin) concept of “peaceful coexistence.” From the speech: “The Leninist principle of peaceful coexistence of states with different social systems has always been and remains the general line of our country’s foreign policy.”
As all communists do, Khrushchev then proceeded to deny the reality by claiming that the Soviet Union wasn’t “exporting communism” to other countries: “It goes without saying that among us Communists there are no supporters of capitalism. But this does not mean that we have interfered or plan to interfere in the internal affairs of countries where capitalism exists.” The East Europeans and various African and Asian countries at the time knew otherwise from direct experience. In short, Khrushchev’s trumpeting of the Marxist euphemism of “peaceful coexistence” was part of a psychological operation intended to mask the Soviets’ true intentions—the exportation of communism worldwide.
Communist ideology is tricky and full of contradictions. This is useful for them, as it facilitates arbitrary policy reversals based on circumstance. The Marxists can always cite a quote from Marx, Lenin, or later communist leaders to justify their crackpot policies and later reversals. In this case, peaceful coexistence was a contradiction of another principle called “antagonistic contradiction” which held that, because of “irreconcilable differences,” communist and capitalist societies could never exist side-by-side in peace, and that the proper policy for all communist countries was to be hostile and belligerent toward capitalists everywhere.
Interestingly, Chinese Communist Party leader Mao Zedong favored the antagonistic contradiction principle over peaceful coexistence, as noted here. Only near the end of his life did he authorize a softening of his inherent belligerence toward the capitalist West by allowing China to be “opened” by the United States in 1972. The great flip-flop became a staple of Chinese communist policy actions that continues to this very day. The reversal of the decades-long one-child policy and the cancellation of Xi’s signature Zero COVID policy are good examples of the nonscientific arbitrariness of Chinese communist decision-making.
“Peaceful coexistence” dominated the Soviets’ public pronouncements about international relations from 1956 until the very end of the Soviet Union in 1989. Fortunately, President Ronald Reagan and many other Americans were not fooled by the Soviets’ long-running psyop that masked Soviet-backed proxy wars around the world.
Fast-forward to 2023
Since Mao’s death, subsequent Chinese communist leaders have been pursuing largely peaceful relations with the United States as a strategic plan to persuade western capitalists to help modernize China. The smiling communist Chinese mask turned toward the world has been cracking a great deal during the Xi era, as Chinese belligerence and intimidation are increasingly evinced in the South China Sea and the Sino-Indian border area, as well as in the continuing persecution of Chinese minorities such as Tibetans, Uyghurs, Christians, and Falun Gong.
There are conflicting signals emanating from Beijing. As mentioned above, the state-run Chinese media spun Chinese Foreign Minister Qin’s remarks at a press conference in the language of peaceful coexistence: “China will continue to follow the principles of mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation to pursue a sound and stable relationship with the United States.” Qin further called on the United States to “abandon the zero-sum Cold War mentality.” Hmmm. The United States is to abandon the zero-sum Cold War mentality while communists resurrect the Cold War euphemism “peaceful coexistence.” The United States is being encouraged to swallow the psyop that masks real communist actions once again.
The state-run Chinese media rendering of Qin’s press availability is dramatically different than that reported by Western media. For example, Breitbart had a decidedly different take on Qin’s comments, reporting that Qin was “remarkably belligerent, threatening the United States with ‘catastrophic’ consequences for ‘reckless’ policies such as shooting down Chinese spy balloons and supporting Taiwan.” Furthermore, “he relentlessly blasted the Biden administration for allegedly causing all of the world’s problems and threatened reprisals for any further actions that ran against China’s imperial interests.” This is definitely not the rhetoric associated with “peaceful coexistence.”
What is the real Chinese position vis-à-vis U.S. relations? The Chinese state-run media’s soothing interpretation or Qin’s direct remarks?
The real truth of Qin’s remarks dovetails with a 6 March speech given by the “new great helmsman” at the National Party Congress in Beijing, as reported by The Wall Street Journal. In a public rebuke of U.S. policy, Xi blamed “what he termed a Washington-led campaign to suppress China for recent challenges facing his country.” According to Xi, “Western countries—led by the U.S.—have implemented all-round containment, encirclement and suppression against us, bringing unprecedentedly severe challenges to our country’s development.”
These are not the words of peaceful coexistence; these are the words of belligerence and confrontation that harken back to the old Marxist principle of “antagonistic contradiction.”
With the continuing expansion and modernization of the People’s Liberation Army—ships, submarines, aircraft, tactical and strategic missiles, space capabilities, and more—as well as the increasing use of these forces to intimidate neighbors and the recent remarks of Qin and his master Xi, place your bets on “antagonistic contradiction” as the real ideological underpinning for current Chinese communist international relations.
Expect more communist Chinese belligerence, intimidation, and confrontation in the future. It’s what communists do.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.