Dr Ishfaq Jamal
Jack Ma, an English teacher who became a top businessman, owner of the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, is also known throughout the world for his communication skills and fluency in both English and Mandarin languages. His compassionately spoken words attract a large audience, thus making his message more palatable and widespread.
Of late, some Chinese are speaking to the world – through social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook – in an increasingly aggressive and articulate tone. There are Chinese diplomats who instead of banal, long and tedious sentences have shifted from a low key to a strident and assertive tone.
Chinese diplomats are actively involved in Twitter spats with Americans and other westerners on a range of issues. They are proactively responding to any sort of criticism of Chinese policies. This new Chinese posture is being described as “wolf warrior diplomacy”, the name derived from an action packed patriotic movie series known as “Wolf Warriors” featuring Akshay Kumar-type Rambos who defend Chinese national interests in foreign lands. Like the success of the movie series, the Chinese expect wolf warrior diplomacy to succeed on the world stage.
Zhao Lijan, deputy director of Chinese ministry of foreign affairs’ information department, is well known for frequently using Twitter to criticise the United States. He is considered as the progenitor of wolf warrior diplomacy. It was in 2019 when he actively attacked the US government on Twitter for its policies in the Middle East. He then responded to global criticism of Chinese persecution of Uighyur Muslims with a takedown of American racism. This raised Zhao’s profile in China. He was raised to the highest echelons and is now among the top spokespersons of the foreign ministry.
Chinese diplomats have been quick to copy his style of rhetoric and counterattack. Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi has said that “China will now push back against any deliberate insults”. It is ample hint that wolf warrior diplomacy is being done under the aegis of the country’s top diplomat.
Many reasons may be behind this new trend, the main being soaring nationalism, especially post 2010 because of the strength of the Chinese GDP. A belief most common in China is that the western media has been biased and unnecessarily critical of China, so the Chinese now want to narrate their own story in their own way. Also, the growing pressure on China over its botched handling of Covid-19 has led to this aggressive diplomacy.
Hu Chunyung, director general of the foreign ministry’s department of information, and Liu Xiaoming, Chinese ambassador to the UK, are at the forefront of this new type of diplomacy. It has been seen that most Chinese envoys as well as its state media are on an offensive posture. Recently the Chinese government’s official mouthpiece, Global Times, upped the ante against India over the disputed LAC. It has been continuously expressing aggressive rhetoric against India. From various articles to videos shared about military activities, logistics, and exercises near LAC, the Chinese media has tried to portray an aggressive and powerful picture of China. Also, on the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square event, China’s boisterous tone against USA was more palpable. In a series of articles, Global Times attacked the US on its handling of protests over killing of George Floyd.
Not all Chinese diplomats stick to this policy. Many in China are apprehensive of this new wolf warrior diplomacy. They are of the opinion that already many foreign governments have been offended by this aggressive posture and it will severely weaken China’s soft power. Whether this aggressive form of diplomacy will be sustainable in future or is it just a temporary show by China amid prevailing conundrum in the world is yet to be seen. But it has created ripples across the world and governments across will be looking at it seriously.