In a speech to top officials of his communist party, Chinese President Xi Jinping called for “a credible, sweet and respectful” image of his country to spread in the world. Xi seems to be realizing that the aggressive “wolf warrior” diplomacy of recent years has failed and that China is provoking more and more negative reactions in the world.
“China must positively spread its story in the world,” it now sounds. “It is necessary to make more friends internationally, to unite and constantly expand the circle of friendly countries to influence public opinion,” the Xinhua news agency quoted the Chinese leader as saying.
President Xi rarely admits mistakes, and he doesn’t admit it in so many words, but today’s statements represent a 180-degree turn with the foreign policy he has pursued since taking office in 2012.
Especially since Xi took office, Chinese diplomats, media and “ordinary citizens” have pursued a very aggressive communication strategy that at times also very much resembles intimidation. That goes from sarcastic statements or outright insults against foreign leaders or countries or anyone who is even a little critical of China, of Hong Kong, not to mention the Uyghurs or Tibet.
This so-called “wolf warrior” strategy is named after a rather propagandistic adventure film where Chinese heroes take on evil American mercenaries.
Initially, that approach seemed to work, and some journalists, social media users or countries seemed to be wary of complex statements about the Chinese regime. Still, since the corona crisis, there are indications that the world is getting tired of that. The positive image of China as a country that successfully reduces poverty and is experiencing an economic upswing seems to be undermined by the “wolf warrior” and, of course, by the spread of the coronavirus from China.
US President Donald Trump liked to lash out at Beijing, but his successor Joe Biden does so no less and more in consultation with the allies. It seems that the United States is starting to take advantage of many countries’ displeasure about the Chinese way of doing things, whether in Europe, Africa, Asia or Latin America. Recently, former Australian Socialist Prime Minister Kevin Rudd called for a global alliance against China.
Whether the communist regime in Beijing really wants to change course and whether that is credible remains to be seen. Many image damage has already been done, and the feeling that the wolf will now be walking around in sheepskin will not disappear soon.