Over the past few years, the Chinese communist regime’s foreign policy has become more confrontational, both in its speeches and in its actions. The increasingly aggressive style of its leaders and diplomats has been described as “Wolf Warrior” diplomacy.
The term “Wolf Warrior” derives from an ultra-nationalist action film produced in China in 2015 that depicts a mythical special forces of the People’s Liberation Army, called Wolf Warriors, pursuing a drug lord who is defended by foreign mercenaries led by an American.
With this confrontational strategy, the Chinese regime intends to give the world the image that its country has definitely penetrated the Western capitalist world and is already too strong to admit criticism, much less attempts of manipulation.
The shift towards a more confrontational diplomacy began to be felt with the global financial crisis of 2008, and was enhanced with the coming to power of Xi Jinping as the new leader of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in 2012. The process seemed to be accentuated during the pandemic caused by the Wuhan coronavirus, especially with the response of Chinese officials following accusations from the West about the regime’s responsibility for the health catastrophe.
It is also true that, since the CCP took power in China in 1949, there have been several periods of alternating diplomatic efforts to charm the world and periods of assertiveness in which Chinese officials surprised with violent verbal attacks.
But the main difference today is that the violent and threatening rhetoric proposed by the CCP today is backed by its enormous economic apparatus that has generated the dependence of most countries in the world, making it difficult for governments (especially the less powerful ones) to even attempt to condemn the actions of the CCP and the violent speeches of its representatives.
The same did not happen with some world powers, with whom this diplomatic policy has generated strong confrontations that have not always ended in a good port. So much so, that it seems that now the CCP leaders intend to moderate, although not abandon, the assertive tone of their officials.
Communism is, in essence, violent
Communism, both in its ideology and in practice, is ingrained with the violent concept of the “wolf warrior”. There is no communism without violence. This is not a subjective criticism, it is a reality admitted by its own founding fathers such as Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, who called on the people to carry out a “violent revolution”, to take state power by force and from there eliminate tradition, the belief in God and then impose the laws of socialism.
Communist parties all over the world openly admit and proclaim that violence is their main tool to conquer and rule. The ultimate proof of this claim is that from the emergence of the Soviet Union to the present day, communist dictatorships have resulted in the deaths of at least 100 million people.
Lenin himself wrote in The State and Revolution: “Marx and Engels’ theory of the inevitability of a violent revolution refers to the bourgeois state. The latter cannot be overcome by the proletarian state (the dictatorship of the proletariat) through the process of ‘vanishing,’ but as a general rule only through a violent revolution.”
During all the processes in which communism came to power, from the Paris Commune, through the Russian revolution, the rise of the CCP in China to the Castro revolution in Cuba and so many others, always and without exception the means used were extremely violent.
Through the use of violence, communism has managed to impose a discourse loaded with hatred and rancor that has spread throughout the world. The so-called communist spectrum promotes class struggle as the fundamental dogma of its theory, while attributing the root of all problems to traditional social structures.
In this way it managed to impose the idea that the rich are to blame for the existence of the poor and thus promote hatred towards the wealthier sectors and the desire to generate violent revolution to achieve a supposedly more “just and egalitarian” world.
Considering the roots of communism and the history since its birth, it is understandable that the CCP presents periods in which it develops rigid and confrontational diplomatic postures, after all violence and conflict is in its own DNA.
How the diplomacy of the “warrior wolf” manifests itself
Since the beginning of the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic, the eyes of the international community were focused on China after the strong accusations that the virus had escaped from a laboratory, added to the fact that the communist regime hid the existence of the virus while it was spreading around the world and the authorities of the regime ordered to persecute and imprison those health professionals and journalists who tried to denounce what was happening.
In the face of the criticism that the Chinese regime received at that first moment, its officials responded by showing their teeth and trying to intimidate the world with their political, military and economic power, deepening the trend of the “wolf warrior”.
As a group of China analysts at the consulting firm SinoInsider put it in a Nov. 30 newsletter, “When the CCP believes itself to be in a weak or less advantageous position, it goes into ‘survival’ mode by avoiding or mitigating controversy, but moves into ‘domination’ mode when it finds itself in a position of strength and perceives weakness in its adversaries.”
Thus it is that during the pandemic, in a context of global paralysis where even the world’s major powers saw their economies weakened and their productive systems paralyzed, the tactic of the wolf warrior has been firmly adopted by the Chinese regime’s diplomacy both at home and abroad.
The lack of restraint on Beijing’s part reflects a new confidence in the CCP leadership that is clearly seen in examples such as when on March 18, 2021, Yang Jiechi, a member of the CCP Politburo and head of the Foreign Affairs Office, “denounced” the United States on its own territory, more precisely in Alaska, elevating the wolf-warrior tactic to a high diplomatic level.
During talks between U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Yang Jiechi on March 18, Blinken mentioned that he would be interested in discussing his “deep concerns with actions by China, including Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Taiwan, cyber-attacks on the United States, [and] economic coercion toward our allies.”
But Yang Jiechi’s blunt response to Blinken’s comments surprised everyone.
“I don’t think the vast majority of countries in the world recognize that the universal values advocated by the United States or that the opinion of the United States can represent international public opinion, and those countries would not recognize that rules made by a small number of people would serve as the basis for the international order,” Yang said.
Yang Jiechi’s words seem to warn U.S. authorities unequivocally that the CCP will no longer comply with U.S. international standards, but will implement its own rules.
CCP leader Xi Jinping issued a defiant warning in the best “warrior wolf” style in late June 2021, when the party was celebrating 100 years of existence:
“The Chinese people will absolutely not allow any foreign force to bully, oppress or enslave us, and anyone who tries to do so will face broken heads and bloodshed in front of the Great Iron Wall of the 1.4 billion Chinese people.”
A few months later, on October 6, 2021, a group of French senators landed in Taiwan for negotiations with Taiwan’s Republic of China (ROC) President Tsai Ing-wen, ignoring CCP warnings.
Former French defense minister Alain Richard, who led the entourage, referred to Taiwan as a “country” before meeting with its president, raising the rage of the CCP in mainland China.
The CCP was quick to disapprove of plans for French diplomats to visit Chinese territory, with the Chinese ambassador to France warning that the delegation’s visit to Taiwan would “clearly violate the one-China principle and send the wrong signal to pro-independence forces in Taiwan.”
The embassy also asked the French senators to “think twice” and “reconsider” the decision to visit the island, stating that such a move would harm the mainland government’s “fundamental interests” with Taiwan.
According to critics of communism, these periods of unrest such as the aforementioned demonstrations tend to coincide with domestic political crackdowns by CCP leaders.
Under Xi Jinping, the Party has punished nearly 1.5 million officials in a sweeping anti-corruption campaign. They also saw the government set up “re-education” camps in Xinjiang and had to defend these policies to the world. So it could be that this is happening right now: a combination of a new wave of confidence in party leaders, mixed with a deep insecurity on the part of some quarters about their officials.
In this complex context, using wolf-warrior diplomacy also serves the Chinese political caste as a test of faith towards the Communist Party and its top leaders.
Moreover, with the development of the Internet and especially the implementation of social networks such as Twitter as a political communication tool, Chinese diplomats serving in less developed countries and far from the Communist leadership now have the opportunity to show their “credentials of loyalty” to their bosses in China.
The policy of confrontation led to the trade war with the U.S.
The United States and China are the two largest economies in the world, although it should be noted that China’s growth is largely due to the fact that the United States succeeded in getting China to join the World Trade Organization in 2001, opening its doors to the world and allowing its historic and sustained growth until today.
Trade relations between the two powers grew at the pace of the Chinese economy, albeit unevenly for the United States. Hundreds of huge companies stopped producing in America to settle in China, tempted by the low labor costs, largely due to the exploitation of the communist regime against its own citizens.
The U.S. trade deficit reached $375.6 billion in 2017 and then-President Donald Trump set out to do something about it, as he had promised in his campaign in the face of the worrisome situation of job and local business losses.
But the response of Chinese officials from the very beginning, far from intending to collaborate to reach some kind of agreement that would benefit both parties, was simply to criticize the United States increasing the diplomatic tension between the two nations.
After a series of historic negotiations between the leaders of both countries, in January 2020 they managed to sign a partial agreement aimed at alleviating the trade war scenario that had already disrupted markets around the world.
In what became known as the phase one trade deal, the Chinese regime pledged to boost U.S. imports by $200 billion above 2017 levels and strengthen intellectual property rules by increasing controls on the large number of counterfeit products from U.S. firms.
Meanwhile, the U.S. agreed to halve some of the new tariffs it imposed on Chinese goods in the face of a worrisome widening trade deficit with China.
The agreement calmed the markets and for a while it seemed that a point of equilibrium had been reached that would allow for further negotiations to reach a situation of stability and mutual convenience.
But as the months went by, the wolf-warrior policy, which was reinforced with the arrival of the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic, led the regime to constantly fail to comply with its commitments assumed in phase one of the agreement, throwing away the efforts invested so far.
The idea of the agreement planned and negotiated by the Trump administration was to end the trade war and develop a new relationship under the principles of “fair and reciprocal trade”.
But while the U.S. halved tariffs on $120 billion worth of Chinese imports to 7.5% and cancelled additional levies, a year after signing phase one of the agreement, the Chinese regime failed to meet its purchase commitments and the U.S. trade deficit with the Asian power increased.
As reported by the South China Morning Post (SCMP), Chinese purchases of products included in the agreement reached only 58 percent of their targets. In particular, Chinese imports of energy products were extremely low, reaching only 35 percent of the agreed target.
Continuing with its confrontational diplomatic policies, far from showing interest in continuing with the negotiations and the agreements, in the face of US criticism for non-compliance, it only managed to answer absurd questions such as that US exporters did not comply with pandemic safety standards, which supposedly led to the cancellation of many transactions.
Chinese authorities went so far as to claim that COVID could be transmitted through food and that for this reason they did not want to import food products, which increased the anger of U.S. officials who were forced to deny the unprovable arguments.
In summary, despite the Trump administration’s efforts to put an end to the trade war, through the implementation of a fair economic system in which both parties obtain benefits, the Chinese regime continued to breach its commitments and its officials continued with the confrontational line, which made it impossible to sign the second phase of the agreement, perpetuating the trade war.
With the arrival of Joe Biden to the presidency, the U.S. hard line against the regime’s outrages continued although not as explicitly as during the previous era. Meanwhile, the Chinese regime’s aggressive diplomatic policy continued too.
Perhaps the best example was provided by Qin Gang, the Chinese regime’s new ambassador to the United States, who delivered a series of very harsh words against Washington in his introductory speech at the end of 2021, sharply criticizing the government’s actions and demanding that U.S. leaders not cross Beijing’s red lines. Warning that there will be “disastrous consequences” should they attempt to crack down on communist China, he threatened.
Is the CCP changing its strategy?
The aggressive wolf-warrior policy has allowed the Chinese regime to assert itself over the past few years vis-à-vis a large number of dependent and developing countries, as is the case with most Latin American democracies where the regime is expanding its geopolitical base.
However, it does not seem to be performing as well with its main trading partners, such as the United States and the member countries of the European community where the regime’s image has fallen sharply during the pandemic.
Recent signals may be indicating that Beijing intends to moderate, but not abandon, the assertive tone of its diplomats. All indications are that within the CCP there is a new rift dividing those who intend to maintain a violent discourse and those who argue for the need to moderate words and actions to improve the declining image of the communist regime.
On December 20, 2021, former Chinese ambassador to the United States, Cui Tiankai, made a sudden appearance in Beijing delivering a forceful speech, which gave much to talk about the warmongering stance of regime officials.
In front of the assembled dignitaries, including Wang Yi, China’s foreign minister and state councilor, Cui criticized the current state of China’s diplomacy and warned of the serious consequences this could bring in the international arena.
Other high-profile figures within China’s diplomatic and political circles, including veteran diplomat Fu Ying and leading international relations scholar Yan Xuetong, have also criticized China’s combative diplomacy of recent years.
But certainly among the clearest signs that Beijing may be rethinking the forms of its international diplomacy are comments by leader Xi Jinping at a group study session of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee in 2021.
At the session, Xi expressed the urgency for China to improve its international communication, with the goal of “widening the circle of friends who understand China.” To this end, he asked officials to create an image of China as “trustworthy, lovable and respectable” abroad.
According to some specialists, after Xi’s speech there was a series of notable changes in China’s diplomatic staff and the messages abroad would be, in general, limiting the excesses of confrontation.
While we have not seen a total departure from the violent discourse used by certain diplomats and officials of the Chinese regime, such as Ambassador Qin Gang’s speech last year, the evidence presented points to a deviation from the more outrageous behavior of the wolf-warriors, mutating to softer and less confrontational discourse.
Some had already been pointing out that wolf-warrior diplomacy has not served Beijing’s strategic interests and for this reason a change of course is being considered, that is one possibility. Another, no less feasible, is that the Chinese regime has entered a new phase in which cordiality may predominate in its international diplomacy, due to a new process of political weakening as a result of its possible economic decline and the fall of its international image.