This year celebrates the 57th anniversary of the first Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit, which took place in September, 1961 in Belgrade, the former Yugoslavia. While the world has changed profoundly over the past six decades, the NAM remains a very important international initiative, and its relevance and strategic importance are expected to continue for many years and decades to come.
The fundamental driving force giving rise to NAM was its founding fathers’ desire to keep independence and refuse to be dragged into the rivalry between the two superpowers at that time, the United States and the former Soviet Union.
A Soviet cargo ship with eight missile transporters and canvas-covered missiles lashed on deck during its return voyage from Cuba to the Soviet Union. Original Artwork: Photograph by US reconnaissance aircraft /VCG Photo
Since its inception in the bitterest period of the Cold War, NAM has been committed to ensuring national independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and security of its member countries and to promoting the fight against imperialism, colonialism, neo-colonialism, racism, foreign aggression, occupation, domination, interference or hegemony as well as against great power and bloc politics.
In its first several decades, NAM contributed to the national independence of many countries in Africa and other parts of the world and to the prevention of war in the world. When the Cold War came to the end at the beginning of the 1990s, there were concerns about the continued relevance of NAM.
However, NAM soon added South-South cooperation as its new missions, actively promoting growth and sustainable development among developing countries throughout the world.
In the almost three decades since the end of the Cold War, NAM has been readjusting to the new circumstances, opportunities and challenges in the world. Now with 120 member countries, 17 observer countries, and accounting for approximately 55 percent of mankind, NAM is a formidable political and economic force in the world and remains one of the most important platforms for developing countries in many parts of the world to express and coordinate their political positions.
The world today faces multiple challenges to peace and development. Armed conflicts continue to rage in many parts of the world, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen, forcing hundreds of people to flee in many directions.
By unilaterally pulling out of the Iran Nuclear Deal, the United States under President Donald Trump has significantly increased the risks of instability and armed conflict involving Iran and the Middle East and subjected the important international shipping routes involving the Gulf, the Hormuz Straits and the Red Sea to greater hazard.
The Korean Peninsula still suffers from the overhang of increased militarization and nuclearization, which continue to pose a major threat to peace and stability in the Northeast Asian Region and beyond.
The DPRK Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho attends the Ministerial Conference of the Non-Aligned Movement held in Baku, Azerbaijan on April 06, 2018 /VCG Photo
On the economic and trade front, the wanton and willful launch of trade wars by the United States under President Trump threatens to disrupt the current international economic and trading order and throw international economic and financial development in chaos.
The world today is at an important crossroad, and the choices between free trade vs. misguided protectionism, continued globalization vs. anti-globalization, development for the benefit of mankind as a whole vs. an extreme version of narrow-minded and misguided populism and nationalism carry profound consequences for mankind as a whole.
In this sense, NAM is important not only for what it has stood for and achieved over the past six decades, but also because of its continued relevance and importance in the world today and in the coming years and decades.
There is no doubt that for NAM to continue to work for world peace is important for NAM, its member countries and the world as a whole.
Therefore, the world expects that NAM will step up to the task of becoming a more important force for peace and against wars and armed conflicts of all kinds in any part of the world.
There is also no doubt that for NAM to continue to promote growth and development among developing countries and South-South development and globalization is important for NAM, its member countries and the world as a whole.
A cameraman films flags of the countries represented in 12th Non-Aligned Movement Summit held in South Africa for the first time in Durban on August 29 to 3 September, 1998 /VCG Photo
Therefore, the world expects that NAM will step up to the task of promoting development, free trade and globalization in a more dynamic and innovative way, not only maximizing the benefits for the people in the NAM member countries, but also making sure that mankind as a whole will enjoy more equitable and sustainable growth.
China has always been supportive of NAM and its important initiatives over the past six decades. Before the formal launch of NAM in 1961, China worked closely with NAM’s founding fathers and contributed to the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence and non-interference in each other’s internal affairs.
In the world today, many of the important initiatives China is promoting, including the community of shared future for mankind, the Belt and Road Initiative, continued globalization, respect and abiding by the rules and principles of the WTO, etc. can reinforce with the fundamental principles and initiatives of NAM.
China and NAM can work together to make sure that all countries in the world, big or small, developing or developed, can cooperate and benefit from free trade and globalization. No one should allow any country in the world to put itself on top of the rest of world and seek to maximize benefits to itself by harming other countries in the world.
In this sense, non-aligned, yes, of course, but NAM can play an important and indispensable role in all the major political, economic, trade, development and geopolitical issues facing mankind as a whole.
Victor Gao, vice president of Center for China and Globalization(CCG), the chairman of China Energy Security Institute.