Skip to content

October 19, 1956

Transcript of Conversation between Zhou Enlai and Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy



Premier Zhou Enlai (hereafter shortened to Zhou):  After the Bandung Conference, there have been substantial changes in the world situation, and Sino-Pakistan relations have also made great progress.   What is your view of the relaxation of the tense international situation?


Premier Suhrawardy (hereafter shortened to Suhrawardy): In Asia, or all over the world?


Zhou: [Both] Asia and the world.


Suhrawardy:  There is absolutely no doubt that your presence at the Bandung Conference made an enormous contribution to the accomplishments of the meeting.  Before your Excellency participated in the Bandung Conference, many people were unclear as to China’s position and objective, not knowing whether China wanted to swallow up other countries, or whether it wanted to have friendly cooperation with other countries.  Without a doubt, after China’s renewal and unification, it has become powerful, and may become one of the world’s great powers.  Pakistan is a small country, and if China wanted to swallow up Pakistan, it could accomplish that.  In the past, the Tartar and Mongol invasions both came from this direction.  Your presence at the Bandung Conference was greatly welcomed.  Your cooperative attitude transformed the entire atmosphere of the meeting.  I say this not as flattery; I don’t like flatterers, and I have my own views.  Had I not seen the way that you handled problems at that meeting, I would not have dared to come to China. You made us realize that China sincerely and eagerly wanted to coexist in friendship with other countries and seek development together.  If it were possible, it would be best that there be no further fear and danger from this or that side.  If such fears can be avoided, then there could be a feeling of peace; otherwise, there would be the danger of aggression.  My definition of aggression is illegal, unreasonable seizure.  If there is frequent danger of aggression, then people will always feel afraid.


Zhou:  The accomplishments of the Bandung Conference were the results of the efforts of every country participating in the meeting; they were not achieved by any one country.  At that Conference, everyone showed solidarity and understanding, and demonstrated a desire to strive for common goals.  That is the Chinese people’s wish, that is the government’s policy, and that is the wish that I expressed, as the representative and spokesperson for the Chinese people and government, that single hope.  In general, the Bandung Conference also expressed the hopes of millions of people in Asia and Africa, and so its influence could broaden and develop further.  There is some reason that China’s liberation, victory and development might cause anxiety among some neighboring countries as well as the whole world.  We understand this.  China is a big country, with a large population, and if within a certain period of time it becomes industrialized and develops into a powerful country, it would be easy for people to recall examples of how in the past some countries, after becoming powerful, became expansionist.  And some people may recall the history of the orient, in which some nationalities have been expansionist – the feudal Chinese empire was expansionist.  Thinking of these could cause anxiety particularly among China’s neighbors.  Two years ago, when we met with the Prime Ministers of India and Burma, we were aware of this point.  Coming in contact with the leaders of even more countries at the Bandung Conference, I was conscious of this point.  This is one aspect.  However, there is another aspect, which is the more important aspect, which is that the era is different, and China’s situation is different.  We must explain to those foreign friends who have anxieties, first of all, that China itself is a century behind.  No matter for what reason, in the past China was invaded by Western colonialism, and was not able to develop.  Now we are victorious, and have thrown off colonialism, and need independent political and economic development.  We were able to achieve victory because we constructed a system that relied on the people, that is, the people’s democratic system.  We principally rely on ourselves, to achieve total independence politically and independent economic development; our goal is industrialization.  We have been harmed by colonialism, and we have also seen the defeat of colonialism, so how could we follow the old path of colonialism and invade others?  This is impermissible.  Our country’s political system and policy would not permit it.  We principally rely on our domestic market, which is sufficient for achieving development.  We believe that only through peaceful coexistence with the countries of the world can we achieve development; only by taking the standpoint of anti-colonialism, and not allowing ourselves to repeat the mistakes of colonialism, can we avoid failure.  This point has already been stipulated in our constitution as a fundamental policy.  Also, the times now are different.  All manifestations of colonialism (this is the term from the Bandung Conference’s resolution) will fail.  Just as your excellency said yesterday, western colonialism will inevitably bring about its own defeat.  If there were to be some new manifestation of colonialism, such as you described as illegal seizure, that also will inevitably fail.  Our times will not allow the development of colonialism; colonialism is destined to perish.


Of course, we can say this, but our foreign friends may well wonder whether this is really so.  Consequently, it’s necessary to have contact.  We welcome contact with the leaders of neighboring countries and the countries of the world, and also contact with the people of every country. Through contacts we will be able to see the actual situation.  All the foreign friends who come to our country see how the Chinese people are carrying out peaceful construction and want to get along in a friendly manner with various countries.  At the Bandung Conference we invited the delegations of all the participating countries to visit China, in spite of the fact that some countries did not yet have diplomatic relations with China.  Those we invited included Prince Wan Waithayakon of Thailand, General Romulo of the Philippines, and the Turkish Foreign Minister. We invited them to visit China, particularly to visit places in which they were interested, or even had suspicions about.  For example, our Thai friends could visit the Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture in Yunnan.  The Philippine friends could visit coastal areas in Fujian, Guangdong and elsewhere.  In the future, after transportation routes to Tibet are open, our friends from Pakistan, India, Nepal and Afghanistan can visit Tibet, or can visit Xinjiang.  After visiting whatever places they want, they will be able to see the Chinese people engaged in peaceful construction, how the Chinese people want friendship with the people of all the countries of the world; and they will also be able to see that all the nationalities within China are equal, and that the Chinese people enjoy democracy and freedom.  A country engaged in peaceful construction, desiring friendship with the people of every country in the world, where all the nationalities are equal, and the people enjoy democracy cannot possibly give rise to an ideology of colonialism and aggression, because it is restricted by its system and policies.  Our friends still might think, it’s this way now, you are not yet powerful, but can you ensure that your system will be the same once you are powerful?  The Chinese people understand, not only must there be the current system, but this system must be continually improved, in order to prevent that sort of danger. We not only have our domestic system, but also advocate constructing an international system in which every country peacefully coexists and mutually supervises, in which all international disputes are resolved through peaceful negotiation and not through military force. Internationally, we advocate a policy of peace and friendship, in which each country mutually binds itself to the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence or the Ten Principles of the Bandung Conference Resolution.  This is a sort of international guarantee that all countries, whether big or small, will be able to peacefully coexist, helping each other develop without attaching any conditions whatsoever.  We want to bury that colonialist principle which enriches itself while impoverishing others. This policy does not exclude any country whatsoever, including the U.S. and other western countries, everybody treating each other as equals.


There are two types of restraints in international [relations]; legal restraints are one type.  Besides the United Nations’ Charter, countries may sign mutual non-aggression treaties with each other, or they may expand this into a collective peace pact, for instance the countries of the Asia-Pacific region could sign a collective peace pact.  The objective of this kind of pact is not to establish a military collective, but rather for collective peace, not excluding others, and not opposing any [particular] country.  Each country may use the form of a treaty to guarantee long term peaceful coexistence among themselves, whether based on the Five Principles [of Peaceful Coexistence] or the Ten Principles [of the Bandung Conference Resolution] to set this guarantee.  Furthermore, there are also moral restraints; each country, through contacts with each other, can issue statements, sign agreements, make speeches, emphasizing their opposition to aggression and their opposition to colonialism.  Doing these things not only can form international moral restraints, they can also serve as educational content for the domestic population.  We don’t just want to guarantee that no war or aggression occurs in this generation, we also want to influence the next generation, so that later successive generations follow the principles we currently espouse.  This way, people can peacefully coexist, and develop together.  Our generation is one that has experienced important changes, and if we do our work properly, it can be of great use to later generations.  We often say to our foreign friends, China’s leaders have already publicly stated that they will not allow our descendants to take the road of colonialism. After China has become powerful, we will still want to peacefully coexist with each and every country, helping each other. If our descendants make mistakes in this area, our foreign friends may accuse them of doing what their ancestors did not want to do.


Suhrawardy:  That will be too late.


Zhou:  You don’t understand the basis of our thinking [literally: our essence].  We must use all sorts of methods, legal and moral methods, to guarantee [this outcome].


Suhrawardy:  I don’t see it that way.


Zhou:  On this point there exists between us an ideological difference.


Suhrawardy:  No, we both want peace.


Zhou:  So why do you doubt that our descendants will be able to guarantee it?


Suhrawardy:  According to my way of thinking, it’s because of human nature.  This is philosophy.


Zhou:  In international relations, there are legal constraints, and there are also moral constraints.  People cannot live alone, and countries cannot be without friends. The issue of mutual respect is already included in the Five Principles and the Ten Principles, so I have not raised this issue again, but since you have raised it, let me explain.  The first of the Five Principles is mutual respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty: regardless of the size or strength of the country, they all must respect each other.  This is completely correct and completely necessary.  Mutual respect first of all requires that one not infringe other’s sovereignty, no occupation of other’s territory, no interference in other’s internal affairs, and not committing aggression against others.  We must treat each other equally, in all areas including political, economic and cultural, and shouldn’t seek special privileges.  When carrying out trade and economic cooperation there must be mutual benefit; the profit shouldn’t all be on one side. Mutual respect cannot be interpreted as allowing one side to do whatever it wants and expecting others to respect that, because that would be a hindrance to the other side.

Premier Zhou and Prime Minister of Pakistan, Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, debrief about the Bandung Conference. They discuss their views regarding international tensions in Asia and the rest of world. Suhrawardy praises Zhou on his attitude during the conference which gave Pakistan more clarity about China's position on international issues. Suhrawardy also says that he felt Zhou's sincerity and enthusiasm in getting along with other countries. Zhou says that he understands why other countries fear China and explains that China's goal at the moment is industrialization, not colonial expansion. Zhou tells Suhrawardy that the current generation of Chinese political leaders will make sure that future generations will not commit war and aggression. Suhrawardy disagrees with Zhou that current generation can control future political leaders decisions. Zhou calls for countries that are skeptical of China to engage with China to see for themselves China's intentions.

Document Information


Zhou Enlai Waijiao wenxuan [Selected Diplomatic Papers of Zhou Enlai] (Beijing: Zhongyang wenxian, 1990), pp. 175-181. Translated by Simon Schuchat.


The History and Public Policy Program welcomes reuse of Digital Archive materials for research and educational purposes. Some documents may be subject to copyright, which is retained by the rights holders in accordance with US and international copyright laws. When possible, rights holders have been contacted for permission to reproduce their materials.

To enquire about this document's rights status or request permission for commercial use, please contact the History and Public Policy Program at [email protected].

Original Uploaded Date



Record ID