New Era, Qin Gang, China’s new foreign minister, held his first annual press conference on the sidelines of the National People’s Congress. The previous theory that Qin would somehow use a lighter touch as China’s foreign minister was disproved by his first lengthy interaction with the media, which took place in the tightly controlled setting of official Chinese press briefings.
Even directly, Qin was asked about perceptions that China would “take a softer approach with its diplomacy” as a result of his appointment. He responded by quoting a Confucian proverb: Kindness should be repaid with kindness, and resentment should be dealt with justly.
There is no dearth of goodwill and kindness in China’s diplomacy. However, if confronted with jackals or wolves, Chinese diplomats would be forced to face them head-on in order to safeguard our motherland,” Qin stated. That was not dissimilar to the even cruder formulation that was once provided by the Chinese ambassador to Sweden: We give fine wine to our friends, but we have shotguns for our enemies.
Although Qin considers the concept of “wolf warrior diplomacy” to be a “narrative trap,” it is evident that the overarching philosophy will endure. In response to what it views as extremely difficult international challenges, China will continue to pursue a diplomatic strategy that is unreservedly aggressive.
According to Qin’s words, “The new journey of China’s diplomacy will be an expedition with glories and dreams, as well as a long voyage through stormy seas.” The greater the difficulty of the mission, the more glorious its completion.”
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The general tone is consistent with the new official emphasis on “dare to struggle” (Xinhua’s translation: “have the courage to fight”). China’s preferred name for what foreign observers have mockingly dubbed “wolf warrior diplomacy” is this. It appears to be a new saying, symbolically replacing Deng Xiaoping’s long-standing advice to “hide your capabilities and bide your time.” In fact, Xi’s much longer foreign policy mantra at a recent industry meeting ended with the phrase “dare to struggle.” Deng’s “conceal your capacities and wait for your opportunity” had a comparative beginning.
In a section of the speech where he talked about both internal and external challenges, Xi warned, “In the future, the risks and challenges we face will only become more numerous and more severe.” He advocated for national unity, in which all citizens work toward a common objective. He declared that the people would only be able to “endlessly seize new and greater victories” if they “dare to struggle and are good at struggle.”
In Xi’s work report to the 20th Party Congress, the phrase “dare to struggle and be good at struggle” () appeared, indicating its official status as a guiding principle for foreign policy in the “New Era.” After the congress, a People’s Daily article said that the idea of “dare to struggle” is “embodying fearlessness.” It also said that “in the face of major risks and powerful opponents, always wanting to pass one’s days in peace, and not wanting to struggle, is unrealistic.”
It’s interesting that the phrase is used to talk about problems at home and abroad. In fact, it was first mentioned in Xi’s speech at a ceremony in September 2020 to commemorate the nation’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Regardless of whether the “struggle” is internal or external, the fundamental principle remains the same: The Chinese people need to come together as a whole and not be afraid to fight; in fact, they should be proud of how well they fight.
Xi declared, “Struggle is an art form, and we must be good at it.” Perfection comes from practice.
Naturally, the United States will be the target of much of this struggle. Beijing attributes Washington’s failures to the fact that it perceives itself as operating in a hostile external environment. The United States “means to contain and suppress China in all respects and get the two countries locked in a zero-sum game,” Qin stated in his press conference. If “the United States does not hit the brake but continues to speed down the wrong path,” he warned of “catastrophic consequences.”
In addition, Qin dismissed the Biden administration’s calls to “establish guardrails” to help manage China-U.S. competition, which Beijing clearly views as dishonest in light of Washington’s other policy moves (such as sanctions specifically targeting China’s tech industry and an increased defense presence in China’s near foreign territory). According to Qin’s rant, the Biden administration’s interpretation of the phrases “‘establishing guardrails’ for China-U.S. relations and’not seeking conflict’ actually means that China should not respond in words or action when slandered or attacked.” That is simply not possible!
Deng’s advice to “hide and bide” has been put on hold for a long time in favor of Xi’s advice to “strive for achievements.” In light of what Beijing perceives as an increasing threat to its continued development, that has now been elevated to the even more urgent “dare to struggle.” The idea that China is in a “period of important strategic opportunity for development” has been abandoned by the country’s leaders. Instead, Xi and his deputies see China as embroiled in an existential and increasingly perilous conflict amid “profound and complex changes in both the domestic and international landscape,” as recently stated in the Two Sessions.
Take note if you were anticipating a change in China’s diplomatic tone.
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