Washington DC [USA], May 20 (ANI): China's low-key diplomats around the world have started asserting themselves aggressively to enforce Beijing's narratives on the coronavirus pandemic, bickering with Western powers and even some friendly countries.
The brash new attitude is part of a deliberate shift within the Chinese Foreign Ministry, spurred on by Chinese leaders seeking to claim what they see as their nation's rightful place in the world, the Wall Street Journal reported.
In Venezuela, a major recipient of Beijing's aid, the Chinese embassy lashed out at local legislators who described the pathogen that causes COVID-19 as the "China coronavirus." Those legislators, the embassy said in a March statement on its website, were suffering from a "political virus."
"Since you are already very sick from this, hurry up to ask for proper treatment," the Chinese embassy added.
"The first step might be to wear the masks and shut up," it further said.
Citing other instances, the newspaper stated that Beijing's envoy in Paris promised a fight with France should China's interests be threatened, and then engaged in a public spat with his host country over the coronavirus pandemic.
The Chinese embassy in Sri Lanka boasted of China's handling of the pandemic to an activist on Twitter who had fewer than 30 followers. Beijing cancelled a nationwide tour by the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra after a tussle with the city's mayor over Taiwan.
For decades, Chinese diplomats had largely heeded the words of Deng Xiaoping, the reformist leader who exhorted his countrymen to "hide our light and bide our time"--keeping a low profile while accumulating China's strengths.
China became more outspoken as its economic power grew. This trend accelerated under its President Xi Jinping, who has staked his legitimacy on a "China Dream" of restoring national glory and pursued an increasingly uncompromising posture in international affairs.
Much of the growing assertiveness is aimed at stoking national pride back home -- a key tool in the ruling Communist Party's political playbook, and rebalancing the international order in ways that promote the party's interests. Under Xi, China has cast itself as a responsible world power, offering leadership in global governance and pouring loans and aid into developing countries.
"Chinese citizens increasingly expect the Chinese government to stand tall and be proud in the world," said Jessica Chen Weiss, a Cornell University associate professor who has studied the role of nationalism in China's foreign relations.
"What China really wants under Xi Jinping is a world that is safe for his continued leadership," she further said.
In pursuing a more pugnacious style, the Communist Party is pushing to capitalise on a United States retreat from global institutions under President Donald Trump's "America First" approach. China has worked to increase its influence in international organisations, such as the United Nations, that the Trump administration has disparaged.
Xi has ramped up the Communist Party's control over the Foreign Ministry, whose officials had been suspected by some within the party to be less ideologically committed due to their interactions with foreign cultures and counterparts.
The Journal reported that the pandemic has provided the biggest test of China's 'Wolf Warrior' diplomacy. As other governments struggled to contain the coronavirus, Beijing trumpeted its iron-fisted response and won praise for providing critical medical gear to countries in need. It also pushed back at critics who questioned its early handling of the contagion.
In February, the Chinese embassy in Nepal said that it lodged complaints with Nepal's Kathmandu Post and "reserves the right of further action" after the English-language newspaper, with a circulation of less than 100,000, ran a syndicated opinion piece criticising China's coronavirus response that featured an image of a Chinese yuan note with Mao Zedong wearing a face mask.
The US and some other Western governments have pushed back against Beijing, accusing China of bungling its initial coronavirus response and calling for an international probe into the origin of the virus.
Some analysts quoted by the newspaper stated that the squabbling has cost China a chance to earn global goodwill, exposing the limits of Beijing's reliance on abrasive rhetoric and material assistance to dissuade critics and win favour. (ANI)