US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — Chinese diplomats have long had a reputation for being well-trained, colorless and cautious professionals who work hard to fulfill their mission without attracting too much negative attention. However, the new corps of younger diplomats decided to break with the established diplomatic norms for the sake of actively promoting ideas about Soviet-19, which are favorable to China. This is called the “wolf wolf” diplomacy – and it hits them with a boomerang.
On the eve of the covid-19 crisis, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi gave new instructions to the country’s diplomatic corps: to use more assertive approaches in order to protect China’s interests and reputation abroad. The pandemic, which could have been much smaller if not for the mistakes of the local authorities in Wuhan in its early stages, provided them with an ideal opportunity to put this directive into practice.
That’s what the Chinese diplomats did. For example, in mid-March, the newly appointed deputy spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Zhao Lijian, began to promote a conspiracy theory that claims that the new coronavirus was brought to Wuhan, the first epicenter of the pandemic, by the US military.
And in early April, the Chinese ambassador to France published a series of anonymous articles on the website of his embassy, which falsely claimed that in this country the elderly victims of the virus were left to die alone. Also in April, when Australia joined the US calls for an international investigation into the origin of the pandemic, the Chinese envoy in Canberra immediately threatened with boycotts and sanctions.
However, unlike the fictitious agents of the special forces from the popular Chinese film warrior, after whom they were named, the Chinese diplomatic “war wolves” receive no reward for their reckless confrontational style. Their actions did not improve China’s international image and did not reassure those who blame their country for the pandemic. On the contrary, they undermined the authority of China and led to the alienation of those countries that he would like to win over to his side.
Why did you need to change approaches? One of the reasons is the current Chinese combination of historical uncertainty (its roots lie in the so-called “century of humiliation”) and heady arrogance caused by the country’s huge economic and geopolitical influence. The Chinese leadership is so eager to gain the respect that, in its opinion, the country it runs deserves that it has become extremely sensitive to criticism and immediately begins to threaten economic coercion when some countries dare to challenge it.
Another reason is the current regime’s emphasis on political loyalty. Given the extreme centralization of government under the authority of Chairman Xi Jinping, Chinese diplomats began to be judged not depending on the quality of their professional duties, but on how loyally and loudly they supported the party line. An example of this was last year’s appointment: Qi Yu, a propaganda apparatchik with no foreign policy experience or education, became the party secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, although traditionally this important post was occupied by an experienced diplomat.
When the aggressive push of propaganda by the Chinese Communist Party becomes a matter of professional survival, diplomats will be forced to do it, even if they understand that it is counterproductive (and probably many understand it). And, of course, they will not try to convince their political masters to change course. Diplomats risk paying dearly for deliberate dissidents, but they are clearly not in danger of any consequences (from criticism in the official media to demotion or dismissal) for destructive loyalty. When aggressive propaganda of the views approved by the CCP leads to negative results, the party, as they say, has a problem with tactics and not with the “political line”. If loyal diplomats are punished for “tactical mistakes,” then they will be less willing to do dirty work for the CCP in the future.
All this logic eliminates any incentives for more moderate approaches of diplomats and at the same time offers them convenient excuses for failures. Thus, it reinforces bad politics. The situation is compounded by the fact that in China there is no free press and political opposition that would emphasize the failures of this method of fighting wolves. Unlike Western diplomats, Chinese diplomats do not have to fear public ridicule or criticism. What matters to them is what their bosses say, and bosses want war wolves.
This is mistake. At a time when China’s reputation has deteriorated and the country’s relations with the United States are in a free fall, Chinese diplomats should focus on demonstrating the differences between Chinese foreign policy and US President Donald Trump’s.
It is Trump who recklessly spreads conspiracy theories and aggressively responds with threats and sanctions to any signs of disrespect. It is Trump who stupidly alienates friends and partners, and does not cultivate mutually beneficial relationships. And it was Trump’s warlike insistence on the idea of the superiority of his country that weakened her international reputation and harmed her interests.
The Chinese leadership should understand this better.
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