China’s growing conflicts with multiple Asian nations and the muscle-flexing in the South China Sea is proof of its ‘wolf warrior’ diplomacy. China has escalated tensions with India, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Vietnam, Japan, Indonesia, Australia and its Pacific foe – the US.
The term ‘wolf warrior’ emerged from a popular 2015 Chinese movie of the same name premised on soldiers going out and teaching the enemies of China a lesson.
“Xi Jinping is just lashing out a number of countries, not just India, South China Sea, the US, Kazakhastan, Western Europe and is part of a broader project. This is extremely dangerous because if Xi Jinping faces setbacks, then he may believe that he will lose power.
His threshold from the risk will be extremely low and he is capable of doing anything,” warned Gordon Chang, the author of The Coming Collapse of China.
This wasn’t always the case with China. Beijing’s “Opening up and reform” policy in 1978 led to the acceleration of China’s economic growth resulting in the whole of Asia tying itself to China.
China took over the US in 2019, for the first time since 1997, to become ASEAN’s second-largest trading partner. “For years, Southeast Asian countries have relied on the U.S. for their security while tying their economic growth to China. Such a balancing act was only possible under the premise that China was on a “peaceful rise”, wrote Toru Takahashi, the Editor-in-Chief (Asia) at Nikkei Asian Review.
Tensions are running high close to home in Taiwan as the Chinese are stepping up the military action around the region. “The People’s Liberation Army is constantly harassing our sea and air space,” said Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen. “We need to always be on the alert and keep a close watch to protect national security,” she added.
According to Takahashi, when Chinese Premier Li Keqiang delivered the government work report to parliament in May, the word “peaceful” disappeared from the part that touched upon reunification with Taiwan. China has been vocal in proclaiming that it will not hesitate to use force to prevent Taiwan’s independence.
Muscle flexing in the South China Sea has been ongoing for a while now and tensions are high in Hong Kong, the semi-autonomous region, over the new national security law.
But the most recent clash has been on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with India. “When it tussled with the Indian army in the border-disputed area of the Himalayas in June, China had sent in the militia with martial arts backgrounds in advance, knowing that firearms cannot be used in the area,” explained Takahashi.
China has also received a global backlash for its mishandling of the Covid-19 which has now lead to a global pandemic. When Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison proposed an independent survey on the source of the new coronavirus, many countries including India supported the proposal which was accepted by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Beijing was enraged by Australia over the proposal and imposed restrictions on barley and meat from Australia and issued a warning to its people to refrain visiting the country.
China has begun to “wield the economic coercion weapon,” said Michael Shoebridge, director of defence and national security at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. “As the Chinese government aggression increases, the business risk for all companies trading with China is growing.”
According to Shekhar Gupta, the editor in chief of ThePrint, China has adopted a ‘wolf-warrior’ mentality because an increasing sense of insecurity and defensiveness is causing it to become aggressive.