Xi’s hazy call for ‘favourable image’ of China to replace ‘wolf warrior diplomacy’

Beijing [China], August 29 (ANI): The “wolf warrior diplomacy” of Chinese authorities has dented China’s global image and strained its ties with European and Asian nations alike, said the Policy Research Group (POREG).

Insulting or threatening individuals who seem to be infringing on China’s interests is a part of the strategy, which has apparently ill-famed the country, especially after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, President Xi Jinping was quick to realise the flip side of wolf-warrior diplomacy, which came to be synonymous with debt trap diplomacy under his Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

In May last year, at a Chinese Communist Party (CCP) conference, Xi told Chinese diplomats to project ‘a favourable image’ of the country and thus ‘continuously widen’ the network of allies.

‘It is vital to create friends, unify and win over the majority, and continually extend the circle of friends,’ Xi said and advised ‘Be open and bold, but also modest and humble’.

Given his hegemonic instincts, Xi was conscious of a historic reality that China was prone to isolation guided by its sense of civilizational superiority and thus called for a course correction in 2021 itself to roll back the negative perceptions of the Middle Kingdom.

But more than a year down the line, it is still a moot point as to how far the Chinese diplomats have adopted the new Xi maxim.

James Crickton, writing for POREG said, “Beijing-speak particularly in the wake of Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei, and the sabre-rattling by Chinese envoy to Colombo after ‘spy ship’ Yuan Wang 5 docked in Hambantota port show that the Bamboo capitalist is still loath to give up confrontational behaviour at least for near term dividends.”The selection of Qin Gang as China’s next ambassador to Washington offers a different signal though. More so since he is not known as a wolf warrior diplomat, notwithstanding a contrary media perception.

A former vice foreign minister who was in charge of Latin American and European relations, he is virtually a ‘raw’ hand on matters like the US, unlike his predecessor, Cui Tiankai, who, as a seasoned diplomat, is known to enjoy personal equations with the current and past Congressmen and members of the U.S. administration, POREG reported.

In that sense, Qin was an unexpected choice for a tough and demanding job but two factors appear to have influenced Xi’s decision to make this unexpected appointment.

First, Qin previously oversaw Xi’s diplomatic itinerary and travelled on several diplomatic missions with Xi and other senior Chinese leaders. He had the confidence of the Chinese leadership, especially Xi. Put simply Qin’s biggest plus is his direct access to President Xi. And this personal bond became his USP to lead China’s most important diplomatic mission.

Second, Qin had cut his teeth as a spokesperson and director of the Ministry of Information Department. Xi decided to cash in on his expertise for a ‘good image’ of China and inject new life into the stale diplomatic atmosphere between China and the United States.

He may turn out to be the right man for the right job, going by Newsweek’s Beijing Bureau chief’s certificate that he is ‘remarkably impartial, especially considering the frayed condition of Sino-US relations.’On his part, Qin has publicly distanced himself from the idea of wolf warrior diplomacy. ‘Every Chinese diplomat’s job description is peaceful diplomacy rather than wolf warrior diplomacy’, he said in an interview, adding that Chinese diplomats are not ‘wolf fighters.’Wu Hongbo, the Chinese government’s special envoy for European issues, travelled to Europe for three weeks in May in an effort to ease tensions between China and the EU that had been made worse by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

He departed from the firm position he had taken on several subjects during his last trip to Europe in November 2021. Wu acknowledged China’s ‘mistakes’, wolf warrior diplomacy being one of them.

The signal from Beijing is that the CCP jamboree, the 20th National Congress in the next few weeks will see a major diplomatic reshuffle. Many ambassadors will be replaced or axed. On the ‘hit’ list are two top diplomats, Yang Jiechei and Wang Yi, directors of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission General Office.

However, the writer observes that it is too early to crystal gaze the impact of the course correction on Xi’s desire to ‘build a loveable image of China’ to coincide with his unprecedented third term as the helmsman of the country.

Wolf Warriors may have outlived their shelf life for him but his new diplomat warriors have to reckon with the reality that the global village that had benefitted China over the past couple of decades has been hit by a wave of protectionism.

Also, China is no longer anywhere nearer to the pole star economically it wanted to be, battered by the Covid-19 pandemic and an unprecedented heatwave that has dried lakes and rivers and shut down power generating stations.

The short point is that China began phasing out its wolf warrior diplomacy last year. The latest indications point to its ‘demise’ altogether as global reality has begun to hurt Chinese interests particularly in Africa and East Asia besides Europe, POREG reported.

There is every possibility of the domestic scene becoming the focus of President Xi in the days ahead. And his regime may see manna in rhetoric that has the potential of pushing open the doors towards new tensions in the neighbourhood and beyond.

The unfolding scenario may tempt the Beijing eggheads to reinvent the wolf warrior diplomacy in a new avatar, Crickton said. (ANI)

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