Is China moving away from wolf warrior diplomacy?

“Wolf Warrior,” a film that premiered in 2015, already has a sequel in the works. The film, which stars a serving member of the People’s Liberation Army, takes a staunchly nationalist view of China’s defeat of its foes. The film’s portrayal of a national security crisis hit a nerve with viewers, and many people say that it helped to make ordinary Chinese people feel more patriotic.

Wolf Warrior Diplomacy

Since the end of World War II, when the Chinese Communist Party came to power, China has had relatively peaceful ties with its neighbors. Chinese diplomats aim to remain unnoticed and use diplomacy to settle conflicts; therefore, they seldom react promptly to incidents. China’s policy of non-adviserism is one of them. This policy has helped China do business without getting involved in politics and has helped other countries have a good opinion of China.

Originating in China’s traditionalist political outlook, China’s foreign policy has become more bellicose in recent years. Chinese ambassadors abroad are ready to weigh in on the difficulties confronting other nations and have been known to make provocative statements. Similarly to how the PLA commander in “Wolf Warrior” wishes to fight alone to defend China’s interests, Chinese diplomats across the world are often forced to work alone in order to advance China’s national interests. The Wolf Warrior Diplomat is an online troll that has caused a stir in the media with their inflammatory statements and public shaming.

The country’s foreign policy has changed, and now China is the focus of much more debate than before. China has a history of supporting authoritarian governments and enacting policies that place economic concerns above those of citizens. Because of this, China has been portrayed negatively in Western media for quite some time, and Chinese people have had to deal with racism and xenophobia. The absence of open hostility between China and Western interests has not, however, slowed China’s climb to power. Wolf Warrior diplomacy has, however, made ties between China and other countries weaker and gotten Western media outlets to pay too much attention to China.

Wolf warrior diplomats thrived in the middle of the Chinese nationalist fervor, and they were soon elevated to positions of power inside China’s foreign ministry. The Pinnacle of China’s “Wolf Warrior” Diplomacy Amidst the Corona Pandemic the Chinese government began propagating conspiracy theories after US President Donald Trump blamed China for the development of the coronavirus outbreak and referred to the coronavirus as the Wuhan virus. A spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the time, Zhao Lijian, claimed that the United States had introduced the virus it had manufactured in its labs to China through military personnel receiving training in China in an effort to halt China’s economic development. Similar to the diplomatic battles between China and European nations, China is now engaged in a similar conflict with Canada.

China’s border conflict with India has grabbed attention, and both countries are moving quickly to construct facilities in the contested territory. There were losses on both sides after a battle in the Galwan Valley between the People’s Liberation Army and the Indian Army. Militants on both sides were wounded as China sought to take the Twang area of the Himalayas in December 2022.

Why wolf warrior diplomacy?

Over a lengthy period of time, China has not engaged in international commerce, thereby excluding foreign companies from entering the Chinese market. In this period, China saw the worst famine in its history as the communist economy collapsed. Political power shifted after Mao Zedong’s death, and with it came a shift in ideology. The size of China’s economy has risen by factors of two or three since the country’s introduction to the market economy in the 1980s. For several reasons, China opted for “wolf warrior” diplomacy.

It’s important to note the recent surge of extreme nationalism in China, which President Xi Jinping has helped to stoke in an effort to bolster his own authority. Communist Party members are hooked on Xi Jinping’s “Great China Dream,” which calls for a more assertive role for diplomats in order to elevate China to the status it deserves. The discourse of Chinese theorists led to the emergence of Chinese nationalism, which arose with the country’s unique government and culture. The leadership in China used “wolf warrior” diplomacy because of a strong sense of nationalism.

China’s GDP has multiplied by a factor of three during the previous several decades, and the country has made other significant economic strides as well. China’s economy has grown to second place in the world, after Japan’s, and it is expected to overtake the United States’ by the middle of this century because of the country’s cheap labor and investment opportunities.

Although the country has made great strides economically, it has seen hostile competition in a number of sectors as a result of its rising economic status. Western media have often portrayed China’s economic growth negatively, and Chinese immigrants have suffered a variety of types of prejudice as a result. Both the Chinese and American governments have expelled journalists and restricted media activities in each other’s countries. In response to Western states’ discriminatory practices in politics and society, China is more eager to use its soft power. Part of the reason China used “wolf warrior” diplomacy was because it wanted to help set up a new international order.

The realist theoretical approach sees commerce as a zero-sum game, where the benefit to one party is the disadvantage to the other. If China dominates the first-world market and then the third-world market, Western manufacturers will become irrelevant. Once again, amid the anarchy of international politics, the state must take the initiative to protect its own interests. China’s “Wolf Warrior Diplomacy” is one of these efforts. Its goal is to protect the country’s national interests and strengthen its defenses.

Third, a Chinese president may only serve a maximum of two 5-year terms. President Xi Jinping has established these limits for himself. While this is happening, Xi Jinping’s leadership has been called into doubt due to widespread criticism of his “zero-covid” policy in dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak. Nationalist rhetoric and a show of power were two methods Xi Jinping used to silence his critics. It’s no secret that Xi Jinping has been using arrests and persecution to silence internal opposition in China, but he’s also used the nationalism card to distract public attention. It’s for this reason that the wolf warrior has learned to use diplomacy.

To round up the list, the Indo-Pacific is now one of the most active regions in the world. China is aiming to establish its presence in the Indo-Pacific area by building artificial islands, whereas the United States has made the Indo-Pacific strategy a priority in its foreign policy because of the enormous potential of the region’s market. Due to rising competition for power in the Indo-Pacific, China has taken a “wolf-warrior” diplomatic stance.

China’s shift away from “Wolf Warrior” diplomacy begs the question: why?

China has been sending signals for some time that it is abandoning its “Wolf Warrior” diplomacy. Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Qin Gang was first appointed as China’s Ambassador to the United States. Chui Tianqi, Qin Gang’s predecessor, was very well-versed in US foreign policy and had many personal connections to influential figures in that sphere. Through Wolf Warrior Diplomacy, Cui Tianqi was able to get the young and inexperienced Qin Gang a job. After taking on the role of ambassador, Qin Gang made it clear that he was not a believer in wolf-warrior diplomacy, instead emphasizing the need for peaceful diplomacy.

The G20 conference in Bali last November marked the next major step in China’s retreat from “wolf warrior” diplomacy. Both President Xi Jinping of China and Vice President Joe Biden of the United States agreed to cooperate with one another in a number of different areas during their recent bilateral meeting. Both sides agreed to work together on problems like climate change, macroeconomic security, health, and food safety.

The invasion of Ukraine by Russia was a major factor in the growing alliance between the two countries. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has altered global energy patterns, threatening food supplies throughout the world. While the West is adopting a cautious posture towards Russia’s friends, Europe has taken a unified stance against Russia’s conflict. Many people think that countries have to choose sides in this conflict and that Russia or Ukraine are the only options.

It was a no-win situation for many nations, including China and India. China wants to keep its alliance with Russia but is wary of doing so if it means losing access to the European and American markets or the chance to further extend its sphere of influence in the developing world. China and the US may establish a deeper relationship in the coming days. meaning China’s national interests cannot be safeguarded by “wolf warrior diplomacy” anymore.

Meanwhile, Qin Gang, formerly China’s ambassador to the United States, succeeded Wang Yi as foreign minister at the end of last year. In addition to his diplomatic skills, Wang Yi was also noted for his support of the Wolf Warrior school of thought. Zhao Lijian, a classic diplomat from “Wolf Warrior Diplomacy,” was fired from his job as a spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry just a few weeks before the foreign minister was changed.

Since leaving his position as China’s ambassador to Pakistan, Zhao Lijian has been very visible on social media, where he has made a number of contentious and inflammatory statements. Nonetheless, he was quickly elevated and came to represent the very model of the Wolf Warrior diplomat, serving in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He was just promoted to serve as the Deputy Director of Border Affairs for the Foreign Ministry. In China, foreign ministry spokespeople often rise fast through the ranks and are given significant roles. Qin Gang, China’s current foreign minister, held this role in the past. Zhao Lijian, a diplomat for the Wolf Clan, was demoted to the same position as before as a form of punishment.

Even though China engaged in the most wolfish diplomacy, not all Chinese diplomats approved of the strategy. When it comes to advancing national interests, some diplomats have resorted to “wolf warrior” tactics. Wolf Warrior Diplomacy was opposed by many Chinese thinkers, who did not want China to be an easy target in international competition, even in a period of strong propaganda. As China’s political priorities shift, the country’s foreign ministry is abandoning its “Wolf Warrior” approach to diplomacy. The fact that China’s political leaders put Wolf Warrior diplomats in lower-level jobs and did other things to show this is clear.

Tareq Hasan
Tareq Hasan
Md Tareq Hasan, an independent political analyst, writes about politics, public policy, political and human-centered figures, diplomacy, and current national and international affairs. He is currently working as an 'Assistant Editor' of Perspective magazine, a magazine based in Bangladesh.