Geoffrey C. GUNN

Zhou Enlai, who met in 1953 and 1954 with Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru of India to discuss China’s invasion of Tibet, an act that accentuated the age-old tensions between the two countries. NATIONAL ARCHIVES.

Originating in talks between China and India regarding Tibet in 1953 and 1954, the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence include mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual nonaggression, noninterference in each other’s internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence. More than fifty years later the principles still apply to maintaining relations in Asia and around the world.

Scholars of Chinese foreign policy define “peaceful coexistence” as the slogan that guided Chinese foreign policy between 1953 and 1957, the years that followed a “communist internationalism” phase (1949–1952) and preceded a “militant anti-imperialism” phase (1958–1965), and which then climaxed with the Great Proletariat Cultural Revolution (1966–1976), broadly coincident with the Maoist period in China’s foreign policy.

Even so, the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence are still upheld in modern China and have been embraced by countries around the world. The principles include (1) mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, (2) mutual nonaggression, (3) noninterference in each other’s internal affairs, (4) equality and mutual benefit, and (5) peaceful coexistence.

Zhou-Nehru Discussions on Tibet, 1953–1954

Scholars date the Five Principles, also known in India as the “Panchsheel,” back to December 1953–April 1954 when complex negotiations took place in Beijing between China and India regarding China’s invasion of Tibet in 1950, an act that exacerbated age-old territorial issues between the two Asian giants. India had been one of the first countries to recognize the People’s Republic of China (PRC), and now Beijing sought India’s recognition of China’s suzerainty (dominion) over Tibet. The Five Principles were formally written into the preface of the Agreement between the PRC and the Republic of India on Trade and Intercourse between the Tibet Region of China and India. Whether the formula was first proposed by Premier Zhou Enlai of China or by his Indian counterpart, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, remains obscure, but it is certain that both agreed. It is certain, however, that the Five Principles would influence opinion on the situation on Indochina that was developing April 1954.

Zhou-Nehru Discussions on Indochina, June 1954

As the Geneva Conference on Indochina commenced in April 1954, Zhou went to pains to portray China as a nonaggressive country. Nehru was no less concerned over peace in Indochina, and the coincidence of views between India and China over Vietnam led Zhou to visit India after the conference where, in a joint communiqué issued 28 June 1954, Zhou and Nehru elaborated on and advocated adherence to the Five Principles. The two sides urged neutral status for South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. On this occasion they jointly supported noninterference. Zhou then visited Myanmar (Burma), where he and Prime Minister U Nu reiterated the Five Principles. India and China apparently were broadly reacting to the U.S. policy of containment leading to the creation in September 1954 of the anti-Communist United States/United Kingdom–backed Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO), an organization that included such pro-Western nations as Pakistan, Thailand, and the Philippines.

At a rally held on 26 June 2004 to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the Five Principles, Premier Wen Jiabao of the PRC made a speech that paid tribute to Zhou and Nehru as the elder statesmen whose advocacy of the Five Principles of Coexistence made a contribution to diplomatic relations among nations of the world.

Further Reading

Chen, K. C. (1969). Vietnam and China, 1938-1954. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Panchsheel. Retrieved December 11, 2008, from

Van Ness, R. (1970). Revolution and Chinese foreign policy: Peking’s support for wars of national liberation. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Wen Jiabao. (2004). Carrying forward the five principles of peaceful coexistence in the promotion of peace and development [speech made on 28 June 2004]. Retrieved December 11, 2008, from

The wind sweeping through the tower heralds a rising storm in the mountain.


Shān yǔ yù lái fēng mǎn lóu

Source: Gunn, Geoffrey C. (2009). Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence. In Linsun Cheng, et al. (Eds.), Berkshire Encyclopedia of China, pp. 834–836. Great Barrington, MA: Berkshire Publishing.

Photograph of President Truman and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, with Nehru’s sister, Madame Pandit, waving from their limousine as they leave Washington National Airport, during Nehru’s visit to the United States in 1949. Nehru would meet with Zhou Enlai to discuss Tibet and Indochina 1953 and 1954. NATIONAL ARCHIVES.

Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence (Hépíng Gòngchǔ Wǔ Xiàng Yuánzé 和平共处五项原则)|Hépíng Gòngchǔ Wǔ Xiàng Yuánzé 和平共处五项原则 (Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence)

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