The Big Ideas

'Why China Is Going All "Wolf Warrior," All the Time'
'Why China Is Going All "Wolf Warrior," All the Time'
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April 4, 2021
BIG IDEA | ‘All this is to say that, living in Beijing as I do, I think the current approach is predictable and consistent with everything else we are seeing in China in the New Era.’

In the last issue of the ‘China Macro Commentary,’ I quoted John Pomfret from his WAPO op-ed, ‘China’s biggest global foil is often just China,’ where he noted his (and my) dismay at how China is ‘alienating individuals and nations across the world.’

  • ‘I’ve been studying China for my entire adult life and I have to admit to being bewildered by China’s performance.’
  • In response, a very senior and experienced reader in Beijing sent me these excellent insights:

‘In this edition of the newsletter you (and John Pomfret) raise the question of why China is pursuing such a hard line in its diplomacy in such a counterproductive way. ‘This could be happening because:’

  1. ‘The senior leadership are truly alarmed by what they see as an irreversible deterioration in U.S.-China relations, and they believe they need to pull out all the stops to prepare for even worse days to come, including by promoting -- domestically -- negative views about the U.S. and other countries, decreasing economic reliance on the U.S., and reducing bilateral cultural interactions;’
  2. ‘Given the "irreversible decline of the West and rise of the East," they genuinely believe this hard line will ultimately prove to be the most effective way to achieve their goals vis a vis foreign governments and other foreign actors;’
  3. ‘Xi can't act internationally in a way that would undercut the no-nonsense, uncompromising and confident image he desires to project at home;’
  4. ‘The hardline diplomacy generally plays well at home; and’
  5. ‘At the present time, officials throughout the Chinese government hierarchy (not just in foreign affairs) are behaving very rigidly; they feel compelled to toe the line and don't dare deviate from whatever messages they are hearing from the top.’

‘All this is to say that, living in Beijing as I do, I think the current approach is predictable and consistent with everything else we are seeing in China in the New Era.’