Xi Jinping wants to “make friends” with the world. But Beijing can’t shake off its wolf-warrior habits

Speaking at a study session for senior Communist Party leaders on Monday, the Chinese president said it was important for the country to tell its story in a positive way, presenting the image of a ” China credible, kind and respectable, ”according to state news agency Xinhua.
Xi’s vision makes sense. Since coming to power in 2012, he has pushed China to play a bigger role in world affairs, but other than Russia and Pakistan, China has few strong diplomatic ties with the major world powers.
What Xi didn’t say is that his country currently has a big image problem in many parts of the world. A late 2020 Pew Research report found that out of 14 countries surveyed in Europe, North America and East Asia, each had a predominantly negative view of China.

Part of Beijing’s image problem comes from the Covid-19 pandemic and claims that the government covered up the initial outbreak in Wuhan in December 2019, potentially exacerbating the global spread of the virus.

But opinions about China were getting worse even before the pandemic – and this is in part due to the country’s adherence to ‘wolf warrior’ diplomacy.

Named after a series of Chinese nationalist action films, this chauvinistic foreign policy began to take shape in 2019 when senior diplomats began to aggressively denounce alleged slights against China at press conferences or on the media. social networks.

In July 2019, Zhao Lijian, then a counselor at the Chinese Embassy in Pakistan, began to condemn what he saw as the United States’ hypocrisy on human rights, highlighting Washington’s own problems by issues of racism, income inequality and gun violence.

Zhao’s rock-solid defense of China was controversial. But it won him a promotion to foreign ministry spokesperson, and other Chinese diplomats began to reflect it.
There have been reports of unease about the Wolf Warriors within the Chinese diplomatic community, but as of yet, there is no indication that Zhao or his colleagues are overpowered, especially not when their approach is so popular with the domestic public. .

After top Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi told his US counterparts in March that Washington “does not have the qualifications to speak to China,” his slogan was quickly printed on T-shirts sold in Beijing and elsewhere. other cities.

Xi might want China to extend the hand of friendship to the world, but with the Foreign Ministry’s wolf warriors howling behind his back, many countries might be reluctant to take a chance.

Around asia

  • A massive clean-up was underway for a sixth day in Sri Lanka after a chemical container ship caught fire 12 days ago, triggering one of the worst environmental disasters in the country’s history.
  • The Vietnamese Ministry of Health has detected a new suspected variant of coronavirus which appears to be a hybrid of two highly transmissible strains.
  • Belgium recalls its ambassador to South Korea following an incident in which his wife was recorded beating a woman in Seoul.
  • The Malaysian Air Force sent fighter jets on Monday after 16 Chinese military planes entered its exclusive economic zone.

China’s business: why a strong yuan is risky

The Chinese yuan has been the strongest for three years.

The yuan was last traded at 6.382 to the US dollar. This is the highest level since May 2018, an increase due in part to the country’s economic recovery and a weaker US dollar.

Chaoping Zhu, global markets strategist at JP Morgan Asset Management, said in a research note Wednesday that the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) has been more tolerant of fluctuations in the yuan’s value over the last year – it increased by some 10%. . He added that the market expects the central bank – which allows currency to trade in a narrow “band” every day – to resist a stronger yuan as a way to counter commodity costs. , such as steel and other building materials, which are necessary for China’s ambitious infrastructure plans.

But the appreciation of the yuan poses a dilemma for Beijing, and can now serve as a lesson in how China is trying to control everything in its economy to avoid going too fast.

A stronger currency makes exports less competitive and hurts domestic producers who send goods abroad. A yuan that grows in value too quickly could also threaten financial stability, as it creates the risk that too much speculative money will flow into the country – fueling local asset bubbles or causing inflation.

Wary of the rapid appraisal, the authorities have already advised caution, saying this the yuan should not be used as a tool to control the cost of imports. Liu Guoqiang, vice-governor of the PBOC, said last week that the central bank wanted to keep the yuan “basically stable”. And on Monday, the PBOC announced it would increase the reserve requirement ratio for foreign currency deposits by 2 percentage points to 7%, the first hike in 14 years. This increase will force banks to deposit more assets in foreign currencies, putting downward pressure on the yuan.

It’s a small move in the grand scheme of things, but it still sent a strong signal to the market that policymakers just aren’t comfortable with the speed at which the yuan is rising in value.

It could also mean that other steps could be taken to slow its pace.

– By Laura Il

Chinese blogger jailed for “defamation of martyrs”

In China, challenging the official narrative can come at a high price.

On Monday, a popular Chinese blogger who questioned the official record of border clashes between China and India last year was sentenced to 8 months in prison – a harsh punishment that serves as a warning to the rest of the country.
Qiu Ziming, 38, is the first person to be jailed for the crime of “defaming heroes and martyrs”. The offense was added to Chinese criminal law in an amendment that came into effect in March.

A court in the eastern city of Nanjing ruled that Qiu had “slandered” Chinese border troops and “damaged the reputation and honor of heroes and martyrs” in two posts on social media site Weibo, on which Qiu had 2.5 million fans.

The bloody border clash last June in the Galwan Valley was the deadliest between China and India in more than 40 years.
The articles, published in February, focused on last June’s bloody clash between China and India along the disputed Galwan Valley in the Himalayas. New Delhi has said at least 20 Indian soldiers have died, while Beijing has been silent on the death toll for months. In February, the Chinese military finally revealed that four Chinese soldiers had been killed.

Commenting on Weibo, Qiu suggested that the PLA’s actual death toll may be higher than the official number, and that a commander survived because he was the most senior officer at the scene.

A few hours later, Qiu was arrested and his Weibo account was closed. At least five other people were also arrested for “slandering” the dead Chinese soldiers.

On Monday, the court also ordered Qiu to apologize publicly within 10 days via major national portals and state media. He had previously made a televised confession on state broadcaster CCTV in March. “I am extremely ashamed of myself and I am very sorry,” he said then.

Quoted and noted

“The first batch of vaccines to be supplied to Covax rolled off the production line today, showing China’s commitment to offering vaccines as global public products.” – Chinese ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin announced on Tuesday, hours before the World Health Organization (WHO) approves China’s Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use. So far, two Chinese-made Covid vaccines have been approved by the WHO, allowing them to be distributed by COVAX, a WHO-backed initiative to ensure equitable global access to coronavirus vaccines.

Photo of the day

More children welcomed: Children across China celebrated International Children’s Day on Tuesday, a day after the Chinese government announced it would allow all married couples to have three children in order to slow the decline in the country’s birth rate. .

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