PATRICK LAWRENCE: Zhou Enlai’s Posthumous Triumph

Nations now fashioning a post–Western world order appear to be abiding by the Five Principles espoused by China’s first and long-serving premier. 

King Fahd Road, Riyadh, 2020. (Timon91, Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

By Patrick Lawrence
Special to Consortium News

The big news over the Thanksgiving weekend — big such that you could hardly find it in the mainstream press — is that top officials from China will travel to Riyadh in early December to meet counterparts not only from the Saudi kingdom but also from other Arab nations. There appears a strong possibility that Xi Jinping will attend.

The Chinese president is already scheduled to summit in the kingdom next month with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and, almost certainly, MbS’ father, the aging but on-the-ball King Salman bin Abdulaziz. I do not know why Beijing and the Arabs are coy as to Xi’s presence at the larger summit, but one way or the other this will be his first visit to Saudi Arabia since 2016 and could hardly come at a more significant moment.

Making the December docket yet more interesting, TRTWorld, the Turkish broadcaster, reported the day after Thanksgiving that this is to be understood as the “inaugural Chinese–Arab summit.” This starts to sound like the start of something very big indeed.

Riyadh’s rather bitter drift away from its oil-for-security alliance with the U.S., worn thin after nine decades, is by now a matter of public record. The interesting thing here is that Xi’s talks with MbS and presumably his Pop are to focus on none other than trade, as in oil and security.

It has been hard to miss these past months the Saudi kingdom’s simultaneous new tilt toward partnerships with major non–Western nations, China and Russia chief among them. Along with Turkey, Egypt, Qatar and various other nations, it had observer status at the 22nd summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Samarkand in mid–September.

As also noted in this space, Saudi Arabia is one of numerous nations that are also interested in joining an expanded version of the BRICS, whose original members, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, give the organization its name. The non–West waxes — a key feature of our century, as I have long held — just as the West’s ties with these nations wane, gradually or otherwise.

Shanghai Cooperation Organization Secretariat in Beijing, 2022. (N509FZ, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons)

It is best to take the long view when trying to explain this fundamental shift. It is the flower of many decades of incremental material progress in the non–Western world. As the BRICS, the SCO’s members and other non–Western nations clambered up the development ladder from the 1950s and 1960s onward, Western markets were no longer the only markets if these nations had something to sell or as they searched for investment capital.

In this way the end of the West’s 500 years of global dominance has been rolling our way like a big, black bowling ball for a long time. To extend the simile, in our time we watch as it strikes its pins. The non–West now accounts for the majority of global gross domestic product — a reality that cannot be more than a couple of decades old but is among the key determinants of our era.  

Why wouldn’t the Saudis, the other Gulf states, and various other nations traditionally allied or partnered with the West begin to shift loyalties? Why wouldn’t the BRICS now be planning to develop an alternative to the dollar based on a basket of currencies that heretofore have had a very minor place in global trade — notably but not only in oil?

“The end of the West’s 500 years of global dominance has been rolling our way like a big, black bowling ball for a long time.”

It is a dollars-and-cents question, then. Markets, investment capital, high-technology and heavy-industry development, scientific, cultural and educational exchanges: Not only is the West no longer the only game in town; it is not the most dynamic game in town, either.

But when I think of these practical reasons for this shift in global vitality, I get to thinking about Zhou Enlai, China’s first and long-serving premier and vice-chairman of the Chinese Communist Party during Mao’s final years.

Zhou was, more to the immediate point, among the visionary figures of those postwar decades when scores of nations were achieving independence and working out what kind of world order they proposed to live in.

The Five Principles

Zhou Enlai, left, Mao Zedong, center-left, and and Bo Gu, first from right, in Yanan, 1935. (Public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

Readers of this column may recall the admiration I have severally expressed for Zhou’s Five Principles. All five had to do with how nations should conduct themselves in an emerging era of unprecedented multiplicity: They were mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, nonaggression, noninterference in the internal affairs of others, equality and mutual benefit in relations, and peaceful coexistence.

Zhou fashioned these principles as Beijing and New Delhi worked out the Sino–Indian Agreement of 1954. Then they assumed a life of their own. Nehru took to citing them. They were incorporated into the People’s Republic’s constitution. When Sukarno hosted the seminal meeting of the Non–Aligned Movement at Bandung in 1955, the NAM declared its Ten Principles, elaborations of Zhou’s Five.

I have always thought of Zhou’s principles as great ideals. I still consider them in this way. A scholar named Dawn Murphy compares them with the tenets of the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia, wherein the European powers settled on a code of conduct among themselves that amounted to an early formula for achieving peaceful coexistence and avoiding war.

But as I watch the steady, encouraging coalescence of emerging non–Western nations, it seems to me Zhou’s Five Principles have a lot to do, in an altogether practical way, with their evolving relationships. Oddly enough, this is Zhou’s posthumous moment of triumph.  

China’s President Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin during welcoming reception for the Russian president in Beijing, June 2018. (, CC BY 4.0, Wikimedia Commons)

Think about any set of relations among non–Western powers and consider the fundamental nature of their ties. The Russians or the Chinese or the South Africans would not dream of telling the Saudis or Egyptians or Indians how to conduct their internal affairs, or of intruding on their sovereignty. The same holds true, of course, if you reverse the exercise. 

I suppose I ought to state a couple of obvious points here. One, there are some unwholesome names among the non–Western nations I have mentioned, just as there were among the NAM’s members. This must be acknowledged. Abdel Fattah al–Sisi’s Egypt? Another tragic dictatorship in Egypt’s long line of them. The Turkey of Recep Tayyip Erdogan? The man is a tinpot tyrant.

Two, despite one’s objections to such nations, and I am sure figures such as Zhou and Nehru had theirs in their day, the principle of noninterference must prevail for the sake of a working, ultimately humane world order. There are exceptions to this having to do with extreme cases, of course, but this does not mean the kind of flagrant abuse the U.S. makes with its unlawful, disorderly, typically violent “humanitarian interventions.”

Going back to the 2001 attacks in New York and Washington — and one could go back much further — do you think the non–Western world did not take note of America’s lawlessness when it invaded Afghanistan, and then Iraq, and then Libya, and then Syria? I do not even have to ask in the case of Washington’s proxy war in Ukraine. The great majority of nations objects, and no longer so silently as in the previous cases I mention.

Without saying so explicitly, and I do not know why they do not, those nations now fashioning a post–Western world order come to abide by Zhou’s principles even as they are fed up with America’s incessant violations of them. Again, we are talking about ideals and profound practicalities all at once.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Wuhan, China. 2018. (MEAphotogallery, Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

On Nov. 14, the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft sponsored a forum under the title, “Is America Ready for a Multipolar World?” I did not think this an interesting question because the answer is so obviously no. But the occasion elicited some worthy remarks nonetheless, notably from Gérard Araud, formerly France’s permanent representative to the United Nations and more recently its   ambassador to Washington. (He is now a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, but nobody is perfect.)

Here are a few snippets from his comments:

“I’ve always been extremely skeptical about this idea of a ‘rules-based order.’ This order is our order…. Actually, this order is reflecting the balance of power in 1945….

When the Americans basically want to do whatever they want, including when it’s against international law, as they define it, they do it.

And that’s the vision that the rest of the world has of this order. Their vision of the world, is certainly not a ‘rules-based order.’ It’s a Western order. And they accuse us of double standards, hypocrisy, and so on and so on.”

It is noteworthy that a prominent diplomat from one of the West’s great powers is now saying such things. Araud is articulating precisely what the non–West has been saying for a very long time. His appearance at Quincy is merely evidence that the message is now crossing the great divide between the West and non–West.

This is not to say I am confident the message is heard in the Atlantic world’s capitals. I do not think it is. But they will surely start hearing it in Washington, London, Paris, Brussels and Berlin as the BRICS, the SCO and many nations not members of either make it plain by what they do and what they stand for. They will stand for a world order made of practicalities and ideals such as Zhou’s —practical ideals, if there is such a thing.

We should keep these matters in mind when Xi Jinping travels to Saudi Arabia next month. Any gathering of world leaders that puts people such as MbS in the room will challenge those who favor a world order that rests, if implicitly, on Zhou Enlai’s Five Principles. 

Let us not be daunted. Let us not imagine Zhou assumed the non–West was led by a band of angels. Let us recall that in full what Zhou stood for was titled Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence. They are as valid today, indeed as urgent, as they were when he drafted them not quite 70 years ago.    

Patrick Lawrence, a correspondent abroad for many years, chiefly for the International Herald Tribune, is a columnist, essayist, author and lecturer. His most recent book is Time No Longer: Americans After the American Century. His Twitter account, @thefloutist, has been permanently censored. His web site is Patrick Lawrence. Support his work via his Patreon site.  His web site is Patrick Lawrence. Support his work via his Patreon site

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

17 comments for “PATRICK LAWRENCE: Zhou Enlai’s Posthumous Triumph

  1. robert e williamson jr
    November 30, 2022 at 19:05

    The assumption by US DC leadership that the lunatic ravings coming from US intelligence where bona fide foreign policy doctrine has always been the source of critical error in US – foreign nation relationships.

    I’ve written this many times, the CIA got hijacked very early on and every institution in DC grew terrified of the agency for good reason. Check the record. A cowardly abdication of their responsibilities to the people for whom the serve. Disgraceful!

    No one person or group is 100% correct of the time. The record of US intelligence reflects serious failures and congress should have known better but surrendered their oversight power of US intelligence activities, something Zhou Enlai evidently was on to from the onset of the pre-post WWII era.

    I now understand why China was always viewed as some outcast, mysterious nation. My view growing up reflected my education or the lack there of on these matters.

    My learning of these five principals by way of You Mr. Lawrence is in many ways a vindication of my personal beliefs having to do getting along with other humans. Respect is the first thing our fledgling CIA deleted from their dictionary. What could go wrong? Look around, take a long good look at what this insane mentality has wrought. I read your stuff and learn from the experience.

    All of congress, the SCOTUS (especially so here) the POTUS and his cabinet all need to read your very concise to the point article here. The brutal truth about the last 70 years of our government.

    Nuclear weapons need not to have directed the world on a course to vaporization. Zhou seems to have been the voice of a divine call for for peace on earth, I am not a religious man but I do know a great idea when I hear one.

    Jeff Harrison makes a great point in his comment here, Nov 29 2022 @00:44.

    Now we all face the reality created by mad men with ultimate wealth and power, individuals who claim to believe China is a nation to be feared. That my friends is some serious projection on their part. These monsters who should be forced to gaze into the mirror of reality.

    Thank you Patrick, and thanks to CN

  2. LeoSun
    November 30, 2022 at 17:28

    “Post Tenebras Lux” aka ‘Light After Darkness,“ for example, “Zhou Enlai’s Posthumous Triumph” (Patrick Lawrence).

    “Darkness against light is an unfair fight. Darkness flees away in the presence of light – even on the darkest night, a tiny torch or even a candle can make everything visible.”

    “We should build a symphony of human civilization.” Vladimir Putin, October, 2022.

    “Rich people are just as patriotic as poor people.” “We, can disagree in the margins but the truth of the matter is it’s all within our wheelhouse and nobody has to be punished. NO ONE’s standard of living will change, NOTHING would fundamentally change, if, (S)elected” JOEY “Rottingnet” BIDEN, June, 2019.

    “A COURSE CHANGE is a painful but natural and inevitable process. The future world order is taking shape before our eyes. And in this world order, we must listen to everyone, consider all points of view, all nations, all societies, all cultures, all systems of worldviews, ideas and of religious beliefs, without imposing a single truth on anyone, and only on that basis, understanding our responsibility to fate – the fate of peoples, of the planet – to build a symphony of human civilization.” VLADIMIR PUTIN @ the Valdai Club Forum, OCTOBER 30, 2022

    AND, PATRICK LAWRENCE, rocks “The Mortar” of BRICS

    * mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty,
    * mutual non-aggression,
    * mutual non-interference in each other’s internal affairs,
    * equality and co-operation for mutual benefit, and.
    * peaceful co-existence.

    “As the EAGLE got more and more threatening, the BEAR and the DRAGON got closer and closer in their strategic partnership. NOW both BEAR and DRAGON have too many strategic links across the planet to be intimidated by the EAGLE’S massive Empire of Bases or those periodic coalitions of the (somewhat reluctant) willing.” PEPE ESCOBAR hxxps://

    ”All the time, what the DRAGON saw – and continues to see – is a battered EAGLE trying to muscle its way out of an irreversible” EXTREME “decline by trying to intimidate, isolate and sabotage” imo, the DRAGON, the BEAR, Planet EARTH, (Plant, Animal, Human LIFE).

    The EAGLE’S War On Terra!!! The EAGLE wants all the oil, natural gas, foreign resources it can plunder. The BEAR and the DRAGON say – “NOT This Time, My Bald, Feathery, Friend!!!” ..i.e., “F/off, Joey”

    Concluding, “El Capitalismo es el Viruz;” and, GO “Multi-Polarity vs. UniPolarity” to create “Paz en la Tierra.” TY, Patrick Lawrence, CN, et al., KEEP IT LIT!”

  3. Tom dionne-Carroll
    November 30, 2022 at 08:42

    What a wonderful experience it is to wake up & read a column by Patrick Lawrence—The world is made whole agiain-news as it should be informative, critical and important
    I was aware of Chou only thru the comment made about him by Henry Kissinger -that he has a mind like a bear trap-and as the mgr of the Chinese revolution- Gen Giap is another visionary of the new era
    This is the Third World War no doubt about that as countries race to ramp up arms production and cut off social safety nets
    It looks like the US will hold on to Latin America and Europe as long as they can and some very nasty wars are coming before they loose Latin America and finally begin change at home Bring America home
    Patrick’s point that the coming s’unît in Saudi Arabia marks the death knell for US supremacy is spot on
    The difference btw the West is the humanness and intelligence of Putin & XI as well as their new Iranian partner-war is the last choice
    Whereas the US chose repression and war more than 30 years ago with its massacre in CentoAmerica and arms buildup
    Such a waste

  4. lester
    November 29, 2022 at 16:56

    Excellent article, Mr. Lawrence! Great explanation of the Five Princple. Certainly far better than more on Biden’s attempt’s to keep Chinese people backwards or his latest attempt to start a war with the Chinese government!

  5. jef Jelten
    November 29, 2022 at 10:06

    I think it is important to point out just how aggressively and violently the west has destroyed the non-wests ability to develope. Through banking, finance, trade agreements, military and covert operations, and especially sanctions the west has kept global consumption for the worlds finite natural resources down to a minimum. Also known as “demand Destruction” emphasis on destruction. This more than just about any other dynamic explains how America is exceptional.

    The rise of the non-western countries is just beginning to ramp up. Imagine say 5 billion people rising up out of poverty and demanding even the most basic elements of a western lifestyle. The amount of finite natural resources needed for that are 10 times what the west has already consumed. That has zero chance of happening and the biosphere will be thoroughly destroyed in the effort.
    It breaks my heart to finally see oppressed populations of the world have a renewed hope for a better future only to have the rug pulled out from under them…again.

  6. peter mcloughlin
    November 29, 2022 at 08:05

    It is the clash of interests that undermine such principles of international diplomacy, worthy as they are. Unless these differences can be accommodated WW III is inevitable.
    A free ebook: The Pattern Of History and Fate of Humanity

  7. Jeff Harrison
    November 29, 2022 at 00:44

    Zhou’s principles don’t require that all countries follow them, only that those that don’t, fail in peaceful coexistence. Furthermore, the league of nations failed simply because nothing constrained the great powers. In our world the UN has failed for exactly the same reason.

  8. WillD
    November 28, 2022 at 22:35

    I suspect that there are far more senior political and governmental people in the West that understand perfectly well that what is happening now is what they’ve seen coming for a long time – BUT that their warnings and advice is being deliberately ignored by their political leaders and their closest advisers who want to keep their gravy train running for as long as possible.

  9. Michael Perry
    November 28, 2022 at 17:12

    Have you ever wondered on just how things “..never seem to change..” since, the cia of 1945???

    It is not just local, but very such global; as well. … Maybe, we should go to school in China’
    where they have lifted 600 to 700 million out of poverty…

    The recruiting of candidates has to begin with education and their respective placements…

    Here – let’s start with “Taiwan”…:

    “…Chiang Kai-shek’s great-grandson wins key Taiwan election…”
    “..The great-grandson of Taiwan’s former authoritarian leader Chiang Kai-shek has
    …emerged as a rising star in the country’s nationalist Kuomintang (KMT) party,
    …winning election as mayor of Taipei. ..”

    “..Chiang Wan-an, who at 43 became the youngest mayor in the capital city’s history,
    …declared victory on Saturday night after his two rivals in a three-way race conceded defeat.
    …The US-educated corporate lawyer, who returned to Taiwan in 2013 to pursue politics,
    …won 42.3% of the votes. His nearest opponent, Chen Shih-chung of Taiwan’s ruling
    …Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), took 31.9%. ..”

    “..The mayorship of Taipei has been a springboard to Taiwan’s presidency in recent decades.
    …In fact, each of the past four Taiwanese presidents, including current leader Tsai Ing-wen,
    …was mayor of the country’s capital city before taking the national reins. ..”

    • lester
      November 30, 2022 at 16:24

      Authoritarian is too weak a word for Chiang Kai-shek. Try “Fascist” (in the Mussolini sense) or Gangster (in the Al Capone sense.) Still the Kuo Min Tang, in spite of it’s history, does seem a better choice. Let’s hope they can prevent Joe Biden from starting a war that kills everyone on the island.

  10. mgr
    November 28, 2022 at 16:08

    Thank you once again for presenting the development of the growing new world order. It hardly needs to be pointed out that it is the current “rules based international order” favored by the US that has led the world into its current state of everywhere, constant conflict, ever accelerating wealth concentration into fewer and fewer hands, and impending environmental destruction and collapse.

    Cooperation based on mutual respect and non-interference is the wisdom for a sustainable and even prosperous future for all of humanity. The logical, rational thing is for everyone to join in and for everyone to win together.

    In contrast, the foundation of American, which is now the neocon, ideology is zero/sum; in order to win, you have to lose. What nonsense. Even worse, even should everyone submit, the victory of this “exceptional West” world-view is invariably death for us all. As the US is demonstrating, this world-view is like a virus that destroys its host. The US over the last 30+ years has only become more rabid and destructive, not less (power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely).

    And especially as we barrel ahead toward the limits of finite resources even beyond the more direct effects of global warming and climate change, it becomes obvious that the Western world-view is not sustainable at all. In other words, regardless of what others do, the Western plan is inherently a dead-end path for humanity. Abandoning that path is simply a matter of our survival.

    • mgr
      November 28, 2022 at 16:12

      Sorry, just to be clear:

      zero-sum: “In order for me to win, you have to lose.”

  11. Paula
    November 28, 2022 at 15:57

    Thank you for schooling me on these principles. American public education is severely lacking when you don’t hail from a privileged background. I will be looking them up to read for myself and to know more about Zhou Enlai.

  12. rosemerry
    November 28, 2022 at 15:13

    As always, thanks for the sense and wisdom in all the articles by Patrick Lawrence.

    • November 28, 2022 at 18:52

      Thank you. You’re a faithful reader, I can see.
      & Paula. Zhou was among the great people of the post-1945 era–of the 20th century, indeed. You will find a number of good books abt him, and there is a web site called something like the Zhou Enlai Institute. Read on. Explore on.
      And have fine hols, both of you.

      • Gary
        November 29, 2022 at 15:34


      • Susan Siens
        November 30, 2022 at 14:55

        My mother, an insurance secretary (female for insurance adjuster) in the 1930s, was very well-informed about what was going on in China and how the U.S. provided the raw materials for Japanese aggression. That said, she was a great admirer of Zhou and taught me a little bit about him and what he stood for. One does not need a privileged education to be aware of what is going on in the world; in fact, privileged educations usually seem to leave people clueless.

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