Published: 2:00am, 18 Jun, 2020
Under his watch, China established its first overseas military base in Djibouti. Militarisation of the South China Sea likewise continued. Xi’s rhetoric towards Taiwan has been harsher than those used by his predecessors, especially after Tsai Ing-wen came to power. And twice in the past three years Chinese and Indian troops have engaged in stand-offs over disputed territory.
Now well into Xi’s second term, what has this aggressive new foreign policy gained for China? If its goal was to push the United States out of Asia, it has failed. The US is doubling down on its own infrastructure investment initiative in the region, and is continuing to demonstrate its military’s capability of operating in the South China Sea.
Beyond the US, this aggressive foreign policy has likewise done China no benefit in the long term. Instead of driving away the US from its allies in the region, Beijing’s assertiveness is driving them together.The Quad strategic relationship between the US, Australia, Japan and India has been revived. The Philippines is no longer severing its military cooperation pact with the US, citing the militarisation of the South China Sea as a rationale.
In the wake of the virus, China also offended a region that Beijing under Xi has patiently courted – Africa. Ugly displays of racism towards Africans in China went viral online and prompted multiple African governments to summon their Chinese ambassadors.
It is not just that individual politicians, governments and regions are making judgments about Xi’s China and its trustworthiness. They are also banding together to confront the policy conundrums that come with these judgments.
Earlier this month, politicians from 12 countries – Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Japan, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, the US and Britain – plus the European Parliament joined together to establish the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China. The organisation aims to help coordinate an international response to the challenges posed by China.
These nations did not band together against China before Xi came to power. If his foreign policy had aimed to bring China into a position to help rewrite the international order in a manner favourable to China’s own interests, it is failing. If it was aimed at gaining new friends, it is failing. If it was aiming to court US allies away from Washington, it is failing.China’s wolf warriors may dismiss all these developments and its Twitter trolls may try to sow propaganda overseas, but these actions only further indicate to the world that China cannot be trusted.
The more Xi doubles down on his foreign policy strategy, the more it is failing him. China needs real foreign policy expertise. It is unclear who, if anyone, is advising Xi on his strategy, but there is a dire need for new eyes, and a new approach, if China is serious about preventing a new cold war.
China’s abrasive, entitled ‘Wolf Warriors’ are doing a better job than any American diplomat of arousing anti-Chinese feelings around the world.
This new generation of diplomats want China to shine, but as they try to please their boss, they would do well not to add to the country’s external uncertainties.
Published: 5:00am, 4 Jun, 2020
Experienced diplomats know that diplomacy is about advancing or defending a country’s national interests – preferably by being tactful, sensitive or agreeable, but if necessary, by whatever appropriate means. In this respect, there is nothing particularly unusual about China’s ‘Wolf Warrior’ diplomats – named for their emulation of a Rambo-like Chinese movie character.
Still, some anonymous wit has wisely described a diplomat as someone who never unintentionally insults another person. Diplomats must be tough, even rude if need be. Assuming that these lupin envoys are not all drunk or babbling in their sleep but acting intentionally, what they are up to? What Chinese national interest do they think they are pursuing and how effectively? Are they defending China or harming China?
The sense of entitlement embedded in the strongly nationalist narrative of humiliation, redemption and rejuvenation under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) – and specifically that of President Xi Jinping – by which the CCP justifies its right to rule, invests an abrasive tone of superiority to their efforts. China’s ‘Wolf Warriors’ are doing a better job than any American diplomat of arousing anti-Chinese feelings around the world.
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