“Hide your strengths, wait for your time.” The statement by Deng Xiaoping, the Chinese leader who opened China in the 1980s to the outside world and paved the way for decades of rapid economic growth, was a long indication of Chinese diplomacy.
China is now the second largest economy in the world and enjoys growing confidence. In China, the picture is that the West is declining, and the East is rising.
With this confidence in their appearance, the language towards the Western world retreated further and further away from Deng Xiaoping’s mantra.
Instead, the wolf warriors advanced forward. This is what they are called, the diplomats and spokesmen of the Communist Party who, in increasingly harsh terms, are responding to the critics. The word is taken from a movie in which a Chinese soldier in Rambo style fights all his enemies, even foreign mercenaries. The movie attracted a large audience and stirred nationalist sentiments, just like Wolves’ Wars.
Chinese diplomats do not hesitate to threaten their critics, describing them in derogatory terms. In social media, emails and statements in embassies around the world, they are following their leader Xi Jinping’s call to sharpen their knives in order to “defend the dignity of China”.
There are many examples. For example, Li Yang, the Chinese Consul General in Rio de Janeiro, described on Twitter Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as “a dog walking on the leash of the United States.” The statement came after Canada joined the European Union, the United States and Britain, and imposed sanctions on China over human rights violations against Muslims in Xinjiang.
In France, Chinese Ambassador Lu Shay described French researcher Antoine Bundaz as a “little villain” and “crazy hyena” on his Twitter account. This is after Bundaz quipped in his post “A Big Kiss for You and Your Bands” to Ambassador Le Shay, who tried to pressure the French parliamentarians not to meet with Taiwan politicians during a visit to the island.
Also on it China’s ambassador to Sweden, Gui Dongyu, is a clear example of aggressive strategy. He regularly appears in Swedish media, writing emails threatening journalists who have written critical articles about China and threatening several times to punish Sweden, such as when Huawei was excluded from expanding its 5G network. The most recent example of this is the email threat to journalist Joji Olson after he wrote about the persecution of Muslims in Xinjiang. In the email, Olson was urged to halt his reviews of China – or to “face the consequences” of his actions.
Another example is the harsh tone between chief diplomat Yang Jiechi and US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken when they met in Alaska earlier this year. Yang Jiechi gave a long lecture to Blinken, which was that no country should be allowed again to speak to China based on the position of power. After the meeting, Yang Jiechi was welcomed home. The title of an article in the state-run Global Times newspaper was: “Chinese wolves’ war diplomacy at the meeting in Alaska Impresses the World.” In the article, the reader learns how an arrogant world in the West is no longer equipped to deal with the world’s second largest economy in a descending position.
But if harsh language is used by Chinese nationalists who see it as a sign of self-confidence, it is often mocked in the West. Often the phrasings appear sharp and sometimes the message is not fully understood.
I failed to do so For example, the Chinese Embassy in Ireland fully reached out when it tried to avenge criticism of the wolf war rhetoric by reciting an ancient Greek anecdote from Aesop’s tale of a lamb and a wolf. “Some accuse China of what is called wolf war diplomacy. In his famous tale, Aesop describes how a wolf accuses a lamb of committing crimes. A wolf is a wolf, not a lamb … by the way, China is not a lamb,” the embassy wrote in a tweet that was ridiculed and finally removed.
Aggressive style can also have negative consequences for China. For example, China came to the surface after the European Union imposed sanctions on China for the first time since 1989 over the treatment of Muslims in Xinjiang. China responded quickly by imposing sanctions on ten European researchers and European parliamentarians.
As a result, the investment agreement that the European Union and China entered into in a port last year after seven years of negotiations is now in disarray. The agreement must be ratified by the European Parliament. More and more parliamentarians are now refusing to support the agreement unless sanctions are lifted.
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