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The Bandung Conference 1955

Mar 20, 2017 © Ulrich Theobald

China's important role in the Korean War raised its confidence substantially. In the 1950s China took over the function of a mediator between Western powers and what was then known as Third-World countries (a term coined in 1952). Prime Minister Zhou Enlai 周恩来 (1898-1976), who was concurrently Foreign Minister, toured through the world and brought the Communist regime visibly to the international stage.

During the Conference of Geneva, held between April 26 and July 20, 1954, the Korean question was deliberated as well as the problem of Indochina. In the Vietnam question, China showed great moderation, and thus gained the admiration of many states, in contrast to the U.S. which appeared as a "warmonger". During the Conference, Zhou Enlai, the Indian Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1864), and U Nu (1907-1995), Prime Minister of Burma (since 1989 Myanmar), declared the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence (Heping gongchu wu xiang yuanze 和平共处五项原则). >China succeeded in having the communist regime in Hanoi acknowledged, and thus had a buffer zone to the non-communist south, and an ally more.

A year later, the Bandung Conference from April 18-24, 1955, in Indonesia, united 29 Asian and African countries, most of them risen from former colonies. The idea to this conference originated in the Colombo Pact from May 2, 1954, when Burma, Ceylon (since 1972 Sri Lanka), India, Indonesia and Pakistan, planned a kind of economic union, and was developed during a first meeting at Bogor, Indonesia, in December that year. The aims of the Bandung Conference were goodwill and search for common interests, the study of social, economic, and cultural problems, the examination of the questions of national sovereignty, racism, and colonialism, and the consideration of Asia’s and Africa's role in the modern world. Zhou Enlai, who participated for China, avoided all ideological reference, and stressed the principle of political neutrality. He not even mentioned the existence of the Western-dominated Southeast Asian Treaty Organization (SEATO, 1954-1977), in which some participants of the Bandung Conference were members.

Participants of the Conference were Afghanistan, Burma, Cambodia, Ceylon, the People's Republic of China, Cyprus, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gold Coast (British dominion, since 1957 Ghana), India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Japan, Jordan, Laos, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Sudan, Thailand, Turkey, South Vietnam, North Vietnam, and Yemen. Observer status was given to the Front of National Liberation of Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, South Africa/African National Congress (Nanfei lianbang feizhou renmin dahui 南非联邦非洲人国民大会), and the South African Indian Congress (Nanfei Yindu dahui 南非印度人大会).

The most critical issue of the Conference was the Tibet question. India and China agreed that Tibet have a position of regional autonomy, and the treaty of economic cooperation did away with the remnants of British colonialism in that question. In general, India and China symbolized the new confidence of third-world countries in the post-colonial era, and saw themselves as leaders of these nations. With Indonesia, problems remained about the status of the large number of Overseas Chinese living on the archipelago. A treaty from April 22, 1955 (only ratified in 1960, and never enforced), provided that all Chinese residents had to choose between Indonesian and Chinese nationality. As regards to Burma, the problem lay in the existence of Nationalist KMT troops under Li Mi 李弥 (1902-1973, went to Taiwan in 1953) that had evaded the conquest of Yunnan in 1949 and continuously staged raids on Chinese territory.

With Egypt, China concluded trade agreements and supported this country during the 1956 Suez Crisis, when the Canal was nationalized.

Further reading:
Amitav Acharya (2014). "Who Are the Norm Makers? The Asian-African Conference in Bandung and the Evolution of Norms", Global Governance: A Review of Multilateralism and International Organizations, 20/3: 405-417.
Ampiah, Kweku (2007). The Political and Moral Imperatives of the Bandung Conference of 1955: The Reactions of the US, UK and Japan (Leiden: Brill).
Calkins, Laura M. (2013). China and the First Vietnam War, 1947-54 (New York/Oxon: Routledge).
Fifield, Russell H. (1958). "The Five Principles of Peaceful Co-Existence", American Journal of International Law, 52/3: 504-510.
Jones, Matthew (2005). "A 'Segregated' Asia?: Race, the Bandung Conference, and Pan-Asianist Fears in American Thought and Policy, 1954–1955", Diplomatic History, 29/5: 841–868.
Lee, Christopher J. (2009). "At the Rendezvous of Decolonization: The Final Communiqué of the Asian-African Conference, Bandung, Indonesia, 18–24 April 1955", Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies, 11/1: 81-93.
Muekalia, Domingos Jardo (2004). "Africa and China's Strategic Partnership: Feature", African Security Review, 13/1: 5-11.
Shimazu Naoko (2014). "Diplomacy as Theatre: Staging the Bandung Conference of 1955", Modern Asian Studies, 48/1: 225-252.
Yu, George T. (1988). "Africa in Chinese Foreign Policy", Asian Survey, 28/8: 849-862.

Bandung Conference, 1955 (digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org)