Behind China’s wolf warrior diplomacy

Context: Xi Jinping is deepening a ‘Chinese Communist Party-state’ brand of nationalism for a domestic and global audience.

What is Chinese brand of nationalism?

  • An abrasive brand of nationalism is associated with China.
  • Beijing’s recourse to nationalistic aggression as a foreign policy strategy has gained the euphemism of ‘wolf warrior diplomacy’.
  • It involves a state-sponsored and systemic indoctrination campaign.
  • It has acquired the dynamics of Chinese nationalism with Xi Jinping at the Core.

What is its basis?

  • The Chinese Communist Party initially embraced nationalism as a co-option strategy in the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square massacre.
  • Nationalism has turned into a state dogma to embed the Chinese Communist Party in the political subconsciousness of the country, and secure the filial piety of its populace.
  • It derives its inspiration from the idiom of ‘Great Rejuvenation’ and its obsession with re-achieving the glories of an imaginary past.

How this is linked with threat perception?

  • The first concerted attempt by the Chinese Communist Party to shape Chinese nationalism came with the launch of the ‘Patriotic Education Campaign’ in the 1990s.
  • At the core of this campaign was the grand design to project the Chinese Communist Party as the harbinger and sole guarantor of the peace, prosperity and sovereignty of the eternally ‘victimised’ Chinese nation.
  • It is based on an aggressive posturing and display of strength in international affairs.
  • It is secured through patriotic indoctrination campaigns, promotion of a leadership personality cult, and the now legendary anti-corruption drive.

What is Agenda of indoctrination?

  • After Mao, Xi has become the only Chinese leader to appoint a Party theoretician on the Politburo Standing Committee.
  • The new ‘Patriotic Education’ guidelines were introduced in 2019, along with the ‘2019-2023 National Work Program for the Education and Cultivation of Party Members’.
  • It includes extra-curricular activities such as ‘Red Education’ and the aim of such programmes is to cultivate future generations of Chinese youth with ‘Red DNA’.
  • In 2018, the Party launched a “patriotic striving spirit” campaign to ‘enhance patriotism’ among Chinese intellectuals.
  • Chinese media outlets have been asked to follow the dictum of “telling China’s stories well” to shape domestic and international opinion as per the Party’s diktats.
  • Promotion of the Xi Jinping personality cult has become an intrinsic component of Chinese nationalism.
  • Elite institutions in China have either established research centres or introduced mandatory courses in ‘Xi Jinping Thought’.
  • The Ministry of Foreign Affairs recently inaugurated a ‘Xi Jinping Thought’ study centre to guide the “theoretical construction” of China’s foreign policy.

What are the plans ahead?

  • Cult of personality will gain further momentum after the recently concluded fifth plenum of the Party which approved a plan for China to become a global leader in technology by 2035.
  • Xi has further declared his intentions to remain at the helm of China’s affairs long after his due retirement date as General Secretary of the Party in 2022.
  • The international community is poised to face an increasingly aggressive Chinese nationalism.

Vaccine nationalism

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