After the founding of New China, Beijing once had friends all over the world. But after opening the door to the West, China had to compromise on some international issues and this affected its friendship with some of its friends. It is difficult to please developed countries and developing countries at the same time.
Although harboring the ideal of internationalism can help make friends, it is difficult to sustain the relationships. After all, friendships need the material means to sustain them. China is focusing on economic construction and on the diplomatic front its top priority is to make as many friends as possible.
We should not worry too much about whether there is genuine friendship between countries. As Lord Palmerston said, nations have no permanent allies or permanent enemies, only permanent interests. This is probably still an accurate portrayal of state-to-state relations. But when times are hard, it is really something when a friend takes risks and stands up for you. Self-reliance does not mean China has no need for friends.
As the saying goes, three friends help create a hero. China cannot play a greater role in international affairs, without the understanding and support of more friends.
The Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence are the foundations for China's friendships. Friends need to be treated with equality, and mutual benefit and reciprocity can sustain a lasting friendship. China will not harm the interests of others while making friends. Nor does it need to gang up on a third party or form any military alliances that pose a threat to peace.
However, friends should remain faithful to friends and take up the cudgels against an injustice if necessary. China should be careful when choosing its friends. When friends face a common threat, they should support each other and respond to the threat together. This is different from an aggressive military bloc seeking hegemony.
Over the past 30 years, some Chinese "liberals" have taken joining the rich man's club of the developed nations as the supreme glory. Unfortunately, China has not yet been accepted. They said this was because China has not achieved Western-style political democratization. But Russia has fulfilled democratization as a pro-Western stance, and it too has been shut out.
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