In the information war on Coronavirus disease, the Communist government of China, led by ‘paramount leader’ Xi Jinping, chose the ‘wolf warrior’ approach.
Wolf Warrior approach, named after a popular nationalist movie released a few years ago, takes an assertive approach instead of a benign one. But in the last few days, an increasing number of experts and former Chinese foreign ministry officials have questioned this approach after China suffered a setback in many countries.
Shi Zhan, an associate professor and director of the World Politics Centre at China Foreign Affairs University, said that aggressive posturing by Chinese diplomats would cost the country diplomatically, and most importantly, economically. This kind of dissent and questioning is peculiar in China, given the fact the Communist government does not take dissent easily, especially over policies of Xi Jinping.
After making disastrous mistakes over Coronavirus, China started with mask diplomacy- helping hit countries with medical equipment and professionals in order to shut their mouth and assert soft power- but many politicians in Western countries questioned this.
The aggressive posturing by Chinese foreign ministry officials, which is being done on the direction of Communist government, has landed the country in controversy in many countries. A few days ago, the French government summoned the Chinese ambassador after an article posted by the Chinese embassy which questioned the professional ethics of French medical workers went viral.
Poor African countries, especially those in sub-Saharan part of the continent, used to be the lapdog of China for decades, given the billions of dollars investment and aid by the Communist government. But after racist attacks on Africans in many Chinese provinces, the African countries have registered strong protest and the common people in those counties have even given tit-for-tat treatment to Chinese people living in their countries.
In Sri Lanka, the twitter account of the Chinese embassy was suspended after it made a snide remark against a Twitter user. China complained about ‘freedom of speech’ and people were ready with replies about how the country does not follow the same principles when dealing with its press.
The aggressive posturing by China has landed the country in a problem with countries, including some of its allies like Iran and African countries. And that is why the experts and foreign ministry officials have started questioning these claims.
After the countries around the world complained about faulty Chinese equipments, foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said, “If someone claims that China’s exports are toxic, then stop wearing China-made masks and protective gowns”. His statement has received widespread media attention and criticized by many politicians and influential columnists.
“To an overseas audience, Zhao sounded like he was using [the supply of] masks as a threat and it immediately becomes a security issue when the masks are seen as being weaponised,” said She Zhan, the professor mentioned earlier. “These kinds of unchecked assertions hyping up mistrust and confrontation will do a lot more harm to China’s manufacturing sector than the virus,” he added.
Cheng Tao, China’s former envoy to Mali and Morocco, said the criticism by foreign countries, especially of the friendly ones, must serve as a wake-up call to the Communist government. “To understand and prepare for stinging views specifically against China, we must have a rational, accurate assessment of ourselves and our position in the world. It is of the utmost importance for us to know about our own limits,” he said.
Former ambassador to Egypt and Saudi Arabia Wu Sike, said China’s strong response to criticism in by politicians of friendly countries like Iran are not serving its purpose and Beijing must be on high alert. “We must remain sober-minded that there are different voices and perceptions even in friendly nations,” said Wu Sike. “We cannot allow the relatively good relations with those countries to be affected simply because of those critical views. They are the real foundation of China’s diplomacy,” he added.
China is not a country where the government’s agenda is criticized unless there are serious issues. The criticism from experts and former foreign ministry officials must serve as a wake-up call to Chinese diplomats and Communist government that its ‘wolf warrior’ approach is not working, at least in the information war around the Coronavirus pandemic.