China has made a tectonic shift to its decades old foreign policy. It has, under the caption of “Wolf Warrior diplomacy”, adopted a brand new modus oprandi to deal with the foreign world which is hawkish, aggressive, and exceedingly offensive. It is diametrically opposed to almost all diplomatic niceties once pursued and fostered by Chinese political forefathers in their dealings with external world.
There was a time in China when the foreign ministry was deemed so spineless, constantly flattering foreign countries, that an anonymous critic sent some calcium tablets for the diplomats. A memo was attached telling them to “strengthen their bones,” a Chinese diplomatic source reveals. Not today. China’s hard line and highhanded “wolf warrior diplomacy” has captured the attention of observers both at home and abroad.
Repercussions of adopting a hawkish foreign policy
Repercussions of this paradigm shift in Chinese way of conducting its foreign affairs may not be as fruitful as expected by Bejing. However, it might pave the way for its antagonists to exploit the situation and thereby coalesce and collude to counter Chinese attempts, prejudicial to their respective interests, by forming an impregnable synergy.
Read More: US-China ‘Cold War’: how bad can it get?
“Wolf Warrior” is actually the title of a hugely-successful blockbuster series of patriotic action films in China, featuring Rambo-like protagonists who fight enemies at home and abroad to defend Chinese interests. The first film was released in 2015 and made more than $ 76 million (545 million yuan) at the box office.
It quickly spawned a sequel that became China’s highest money minting movie at the time when it was released in 2017. “Wolf Warrior 2″‘ was based around a squad of People’s Liberation Army soldiers sent into an African country to rescue Chinese civilians. The film’s tagline was, “Even though a thousand miles away, whoever offends China will be punished. At the end of the film, the red cover of a Chinese passport is displayed, accompanied by the message: Citizens of the PRC: When you encounter danger in a foreign land, do not give up! Please remember, at your back stands a strong motherland.
As mentioned earlier, wolf warrior statecraft is an absolute antithesis of the type of diplomacy that China had been practicing for decades: that of keeping a low profile and working behind the scenes. This principle was enshrined in the 1980s by then-leader Deng Xiaoping, who said: “Hide your strength, bide your time, never take the lead.”
Nowadays, Bejing stands as the center of foreign criticism exclusively of xenophobic remarks due to corona virus pandemic, as countries—particularly the US- increasingly view it as soley responsible for the spread of deadly pathogen. Moreover, China’s mass oppression of Uighurs, and suspicion of Huawei’s 5G infrastructure have also been prime sources of tension.
Adversaries get a chance to undermine China
In this milieu of scathing stricture, the wolf warrior’s counterblasts are helping China a lot to assert its narrative abroad as well as rebut efforts made by its adversaries to weaken her stance on international forums. Recent events vividly suggest that Whenever any statement aimed at tarnishing the image of China comes, the wolf warriors quickly resort to their social media handles( twitter, whatsapp, instagram) and leave no stone unturned to hit it back by floating the counter arguments.
Two prominent proponents of wolf warrior diplomacy are Hua Chunying and Zhao Lijian, top spokesmen at China’s Foreign Ministry. In recent months, they have launched unfounded conspiracy theories and sneered at countries over their reactions to crises like the coronavirus pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement.
In March, as tensions between the US and China continued to mount over the origins of COVID-19, Zhao tweeted a conspiracy theory. He said: “it might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan.” (Twitter later put a fact check tag on that tweet). And as Black Lives Matter protests swept the US, Hua also ramped up her attack on American leadership.
In late May, Hua responded to the US State Department’s support for Hong Kong protesters by tweeting: “I can’t breathe” — an attempt to divert US criticism of China to crises on American soil.
And in June, shortly after President Donald Trump signed a bill to sanction China over its oppression of Uighur Muslims, Hua tweeted: “The US should enact an African American Human Rights Policy Act instead.”
Malicious style of diplomacy unraveling
However, Chinese Wolf warrior diplomacy is not restricted only to America; other countries are also not immune to this malicious style of diplomacy. One such example was seen in April, as France’s coronavirus cases were skyrocketing, China’s embassy in Paris published an article alleging that nursing staff at French retirement homes had “abandoned their posts overnight, deserted collectively, leaving their pensioners to die of hunger and illness”. The claim was inflammatory and groundless. China latter, issued a rebuttal saying that it was based on a misunderstanding and deleted the post from the embassy’s site.
Additionally, An earlier wolf warrior move was witnessed in January 2019, when China’s ambassador to Canada accused the country of “White supremacy “ over its detention of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, who was arrested over claims that she violated US sanctions on Iran.
Inter alia, this wolf Warrior diplomacy is, without iota of any doubt, is getting approval and patronage in Bejing.
Zhao’s history of attacking the US on social media — which once prompted former National Security Advisor Susan Rice to call him a “racist disgrace” — earned him a rapid promotion from China’s deputy chief of mission in Pakistan to deputy director-general of the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s information arm in Beijing late last year.
Chinese President Xi Jinping even hand-wrote a memo to diplomats last year telling them to show more “fighting spirit,” Reuters reported, citing sources familiar with the matter.
Moreover, Chinese foreign Ministry told Reuters in March. “We will not attack unless we are attacked, but if we are attacked, we will certainly counterattack.”
China expanding its capabilities
Wolf warrior diplomacy is also aimed at scoring political points and stoke patriotism among its own citizens — both those living at home and abroad. While commenting on Chinese wolf warrior diplomacy Allen Carlson, director of Cornell University’s China and Asia Pacific Studies program said: “China has more power on the world stage than at any point before in its modern history. Xi is now experimenting with how to make use of such expanded capabilities.”At the same time … he has also created expectations within China that the country is already well along the path to national rejuvenation.”
Moreover, Carlson said: the Communist Party is “appealing to nationalists within China, whose views of the world have been framed by decades of state emphasis on patriotism and nationalism, and, who have come to expect, even demand, that their country do more to stand up to perceived insults.”
Here, the question arises whether the Chinese new diplomatic approach for reaching out to the world is paying her dividends or not; apparently, the concomitant events suggest vice-versa. This new ambassadorial strategy adopted by China is uniting China’s allies against it, rather than scaring them off.
In this regard, a recent report noted that the “Five Eyes” intelligence alliance – Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the US – are drawing even closer together in their own effort to block China. That report follows another, published in 2018 that noted that Germany, Japan and France were also being inducted into a loose coalition against China.
It also appears that other coalitions, albeit comprising most of the same countries, are working in other ways to balance China. In the wake of China’s ban on Australian barley, for example, Australia entered into an agreement with India to sell its barley there. Another outcome of the negotiations held between Prime Ministers Modi and Morrison was that both countries would provide greater access to each other’s military bases. That would eventually allow for greater interoperability between them and military exercises in the Indian and Pacific oceans.
Since India and Australia individually have joint exercises with the US, it is a logical step for them to have joint exercises as well. That would appear to indicate, again, a greater integration of the Quad coalition members – Australia, India, Japan and the US.
US punishing China
The US is, simultaneously, ratcheting up the pressure against China, flying sorties over Taiwan, forcing a Taiwanese integrated circuit fabrication plant to terminate sales of computer chips to Huawei , etc. In addition, Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO Secretary-General, meanwhile has warned against China’s increasing footprint in and the threat that it poses to Europe.
In US itself, apart from the various tariffs that he imposed on goods manufactured in China, President Trump is now targeting the export of expertise to China. He has restricted the entry of Chinese graduate students in the sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics, if they are believed to have any ties to the Chinese Communist Party, into the US. He has, furthermore, intensified investigations into American scientists and academics that are believed to assist Chinese research efforts.
To cap it all, China’s aggressive diplomatic posture has, so far been a disaster for the country’s international image. It should, therefore, revisit her foreign policy and espouse smart power tactics of diplomacy to win over friends and to keep away the foes…
Abdul Rasool Syed is an Advocate-cum-columnist based in Quetta, Balochistan. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.