After a year of ruthlessly attacking their Western rivals, the “wolf warriors” of the new Chinese diplomacy are experimenting with their own medicine. After the recommendation to tone down, they are now the target of nationalist fury from their own ranks.
In recent years, China has brought to light a new generation of diplomats who have been dubbed “wolf warriors” for their belligerent, even offensive tone, against those who criticized them for violating human rights or hiding information about the covid-19 pandemic.
In a change of direction, President Xi Jinping last month urged senior political officials to modify that strategy and cultivate a “trustworthy, admirable and respectable international image” to boost China’s soft power.
The Communist Party leadership realized that “the recent diplomatic strategy has not been well received abroad, including among potential allies,” but that shift requires a delicate balance, said Florian Schneider, director of the Leiden Asia Center in the Netherlands.
“Chinese leaders have thrown themselves into a trap. On the one hand, they promised the world a temperate and benevolent China. On the other, they promised the domestic public a strong and decisive China,” he added.
– “Traitors” –
In June, influential “patriotic” opinion leaders on Weibo attacked Chinese intellectuals who participated in an academic exchange program administered by the Japanese government, accusing them of being “traitors” for accepting Japanese money and writing positively about the country.
Beijing defended the program as a way to “build trust and a deeper friendship” with Tokyo.
The campaign coincided with a visit by US senators to the island of Taiwan to donate coronavirus vaccines, which the Foreign Ministry issued only mild criticism.
“Why don’t we shoot them down? They violated our airspace!” reacted a Weibo user. “So weak and incompetent,” lamented another.
Beijing encouraged domestic nationalism when it was convenient, but even now some of its staunchest supporters admit that calmer rhetoric would better fit the role of great power the country claims.
The change in tone, however, is not reflected in the actions, as shown by the passing of a law to punish companies that comply with foreign sanctions, their incursions into Taiwan’s air defense zone, or the police coup against the opposition newspaper Hong Kong Apple Daily, forced to close.
For Adam Ni, an analyst at the Chinese Policy Center in Canberra (Australia), the communist regime’s goals are contradictory.
“It wants a better international image, but internal political factors, as well as the need to claim its interests, make it continue to implement actions in the opposite direction.”
Source: with Agencies