In the past year or two, the spokesperson of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been labelled “wolf warrior” by some Western politicians and media, and China’s diplomatic style has been inexplicably labeled “wolf warrior diplomacy”. Recently, some Chinese scholars have written articles in overseas media criticizing China for engaging in “wolf warrior diplomacy”. In this regard, the author believes that the idea of “wolf warrior diplomacy” proffered by these people and the media is actually a false proposition.
First of all, which diplomatic style to adopt depends on the necessity of a country’s diplomacy. As the name suggests, “wolf warrior diplomacy” is toughness, that is, the use of strong diplomatic words or diplomatic behavior. Then, the opposite is softness, which might be called “sheep diplomacy.” Whether it is “wolf diplomacy” or “sheep diplomacy”, they are all different diplomatic styles. Which diplomatic style is preferable? There is no internationally recognized standard. Under one specific condition, “wolf warrior diplomacy” should be the first choice; under another specific condition, “sheep diplomacy” may be necessary. Because the external environment and mutual relations themselves are constantly changing.
Second, diplomatic styles are often reciprocal. In relationships, there is a recognized principle, that is, you cannot be a gentleman in front of a villain, and you cannot be a villain in front of a gentleman. To a certain extent, this principle can also become a standard for handling state-to-state relations. The US government continues to challenge the UN Charter, violates the norms of international relations at will, launches aggressive wars from time to time, spares no effort to use the power of the “whole government” to contain China, and even slanders China with lies and “dumping the pot”. For such a superpower, China must of course make a tough counterattack, must of course defend itself and must of course defend its national interests and equity and justice in the world. Only you are only allowed to talk nonsense, and I can’t refute it tit for tat? Obviously there is no reason to (accept) such an argument.
Third, China does not always adopt the so-called “wolf warrior diplomacy”. Some people say that the Biden administration is about to take office and China should show great patience and refrain from using “wolf warrior diplomacy” to deal with the new US government. In fact, when Biden served as President Obama’s deputy, China once proposed to the US that the two sides jointly build a “new type of relationship between major powers”. Regardless of whether the “new type of major power relationship” is hard or soft, the concept of non-conflict, non-confrontation, and win-win cooperation is in line with the UN Charter and the norms of the new type of international relations; it not only takes into account the common interests of China and the United States, but also serves the international society through a demonstration effect of “the major power style”, so why not do it? But to what extent has the US listened to China’s proposal and accepted it in practice? There is no doubt that if the Biden Administration can abandon the Trump Administration’s China policy, and not stigmatize China or suppress it or pressurise it, China will definitely reciprocate and cooperate with the United States with greater sincerity.
Fourth, the criterion for judging whether a country’s diplomatic style is reasonable or not should be whether its people approve it or not. The diplomacy of any country should focus on world peace and its own interests. Therefore, whether China’s diplomatic style is reasonable also depends on whether this style is conducive to maintaining world peace and whether it is accepted by the Chinese people. Facts have shown that China’s diplomatic style is not to undermine world peace, but to represent the progressive forces in the world and strongly attack hegemonism, bullying and unilateralism that the United States believes in. Equally important, China’s diplomatic style has received approval of the Chinese people at large. According to a poll conducted by the Global Public Opinion Center under the Global Times with the theme of “Chinese People See the World”, 71.2% of the respondents believe that “wolf warrior diplomacy” is what China’s diplomatic posture ought to be.
Fifth, being a state with etiquette, China has always advocated harmony. The diplomacy of a country is willy-nilly influenced by its cultural traditions. It is universally recognised that the core of Chinese cultural tradition is “Harmony”. Since ancient times, a culture of “harmony” has nurtured the universal view of the unity of man and nature, the concept of harmony among nations internationally, the outlook of (seeking) harmony amidst social diversity, the moral view of having a human heart and kindness and the value of righteousness. China’s proposal to promote the establishment of a community with a shared future for mankind is to promote “harmony”. Therefore, although China dared to fight the United States in order to defend its own interests, China’s diplomacy did not abandon the belief that “peace and harmony are the most valuable things”. Attaching the label of “wolf warrior diplomacy” on China is nothing but hoping that we will not fight back, we will not retaliate and that we will abandon struggle.
In sum, “wolf warrior diplomacy” is a false proposition. Confronted with the big stick of hegemonists and bottomless nonsense, how can China not stand up in self-defense.
(The author is a distinguished professor of Shanghai University)
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