china, diplomacy, and wolf warriors -- 6/28/22
Today's selection -- from China Unbound by Joanna Chiu. China has become increasingly aggressive in its diplomatic conduct:
"China's boundaries have expanded and contracted for millennia, as shown by the earliest written records from the Shang dynasty, which, in the second millennium BCE, ruled a region around the Yellow River, an area that is only a small portion of China's extent today. Over thousands of years, successive emperors and warlords expanded their kingdom's borders through successful military campaigns and defended them from invaders, quite often being forced to retreat and give up swaths of land.
"This was par for the course for major empires throughout history. But the loss of Hong Kong in 1842 to the British during a period of Western imperialism against the Qing dynasty, the last to rule in China, was a humiliation that cut deeply. Its repercussions continue to this day, with the uprisings in Hong Kong stoking modern Chinese leaders' anger over a time when their ancestors were too weak to defend themselves against technologically advanced allied Western forces.
|Wolf Warrior 2008 Chinese 3D war action film directed by Wu Jing|
"Beijing's concern over the restoration of its perceived traditional territories didn't start with President Xi. In 1950, one of the first acts of the Red Army after its civil war victory was to invade and annex Tibet, which for centuries had alternated between independence and rule by the Mongolians and Chinese dynasties. Today, Chinese leaders generally take a broad and sweeping view of the country's traditional territories to include areas that were at any time part of imperial Chinese territory, even if those lands were claimed for centuries by other nations and peoples. And a recent shift in China's global relations strategy that observers dubbed 'wolf warrior diplomacy,' after a Rambo-style Chinese nationalistic action film, has meant that Beijing is now asserting its claims without worrying about what the international community might think.
"In the aftermath of the Tiananmen massacre and the run-up to the 2008 Summer Olympics, Chinese diplomats had been cautious in their interactions with other countries, especially the United States. 'The idea was to win trust and persuade the world that China's rise wasn't a threat,' says Peter Martin, a former Beijing-based foreign correspondent and author of China's Civilian Army: The Making of Wolf Warrior Diplomacy.
"That former approach to diplomacy initially proved highly effective, Martin told me, but it frustrated a lot of Chinese citizens who felt that their diplomats were too deferential to their foreign counterparts. As China grew more powerful, many thought their country should assert its interests more forcefully, Martin found in his research, which drew on the memoirs of more than one hundred retired diplomats.
"'Starting in 2008 [the year China hosted the Summer Olympics], and with increasing intensity after Xi Jinping came to power in 2012, the behaviour of Chinese diplomats became outright aggressive. The long-standing touchiness and insecurity of Chinese leaders was paired with a new sense of strength and entitlement,' Martin said. 'The outcome was wolf warrior diplomacy.'
"Liu Xiaoming, who served as China's ambassador co the U.K. for eleven years, is among a group of diplomats who have taken aggressive stances on social media platforms to champion Beijing's interests. 'As I see it, there are so-called "wolf warriors" because there are "wolfs" in the world and you need warriors to fight them,' Liu tweeted in February 2021. His hundreds of posts, including one that claims 'people in Xinjiang live a happy life in a stable environment,' are amplified by an army of fake Twitter accounts that have retweeted Chinese diplomats and state media tens of thousands of times, according to a 2021 investigation by the Associated Press and the Oxford Internet Institute. Many of these accounts impersonate U.K. citizens."