Wolf warrior diplomacy – just a question of rhetoric and a question of generations?
Recently, a new catchphrase has appeared: Wolf warrior diplomacy. It describes a much more offensive form of Chinese diplomacy, even perceived as aggressive by the West, which differs from the diplomacy that has been used to date. Some experts explain this fact that a new generation of Chinese diplomats are pushing to power who want to distinguish themselves and are lacking the normal diplomatic manners. The fact is, however, that the previous Chinese diplomacy had no Trump as an opponent and no one spoke of wolf warrior diplomacy in connection with Trump rhetoric, and this new form of diplomacy is above all an expression of objective geopolitical power shifts in favor of China, which is economically, politically and militarily strengthened and accordingly also represents his interests more offensively and more power-consciously.
The Global Times devoted its own commentary to the topic, in which it asked what is so bellicose about wolf warrior diplomacy, since China only openly names its legitimate interests, which it would have formulated in earlier times. So it should be noted that the so-called wolf warrior diplomacy is an indicator of objective power growth for the CCP and its associated demands on the world to which the West was not yet used to. The young diplomats of China only execute what the Communist Party of China also wants and now represents more aggressively due to its increase in power. Be it Hong Kong, the South China and East China Seas or Taiwan, as well as the vision of a multipolar world and that of a new world power that is restoring the old greatness of China.
However, the generation change thesis is not entirely wrong either. The earlier generation of Chinese were more reserved. In Western student dromitories, the Chinese guest and exchange students were primarily seen as shy and disinterested mathematics nerd who quickly withdrew to the study room when discussing politics or social issues occured, avoided such discussions and learned. That has now changed. Today’s Chinese exchange students seek contact, are aggressive, eloquent, educated beyond the MINT subjects, often represent the point of view of the CCP quite openly, are proud of their country and have a completely different self-confidence due to the increase in power of their country. This also applies to the other side. Young Hong Kong Chinese, Taiwanese and Thais do not hold back politically, are no longer just career-oriented, start democratic movements that shake the world, are tech-savvy, aggressive, loud, demanding, passionate about their cause, like maybe young Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution. In Asia, a generational change is brewing as well as a sexual revolution, a change in values in all directions, especially as it is very polarized.
In China there are discussions on social media that take place under the strict control of the CCP, but there are also a large number of young netizens who write nationalist and chauvinistic comments that overflow with great power madness and hubris while the CCP and its censorship try to contain such nationalist rhetoric. Deng Xiaoping still had the slogan that one had to hide one’s strengths in order not to turn foreign countries against China, that one had to be interested in a peaceful international environment in order to rise peacefully and gradually to a world power.Deng Xiaoping was also a good friend of Henry Kissinger , Lee Kuan Yew and Helmut Schmidt, especially since he shared their real political view of the Balance of Power. These times are over since the so-called wolf warrior diplomacy, since China has now gained strength and is now less interested in restraint. Deng would probably not have done much differently if he had been in government today, but that’s speculation. But even then Deng started a war against Vietnam shortly after his US visit, whereby the People’s Liberation Army was still so backward that it suffered a humiliating defeat, which prompted Deng to push ahead with the modernization of the Chinese military as part of his 4 modernizations. Deng saw that China was still as a 3rd world country at that time, poor and militarily weak. His reluctance and avoidance of sharp rhetoric were explained by the factual balance of power, which he wanted to change.
On the one hand, the Communist Party of China stirs up nationalism and world power awareness; on the other hand, it tries to control the overly emotional and exuberant moods in the population again. Sections of the Chinese youth, and not just them, as well as the young Chinese diplomats, would like to go further than the CCP and Xi Jinping. The former Bush employee Yang Jiechi, who then rose in Chinese diplomacy and is sent by China as a negotiator and mediator to resolve Sino-American disputes, is more of an oldfashioned model, and Mike Pompeo also said that talks with Yang are not worth the time and he also showéd no ability to compromise, but repeats the old KP slogans and diplomatic formula of the time of engagement policy, which can´t be accepted anymore.
Wolf warrior diplomacy is also in part a reaction to Trump’s rhetoric. The fact that Xi Jinping has now enforced a possible lifelong term of office may also be explained by the fact that, like Putin, he holds himself as the guarantor of a stable China and wants to prevent overreactions from younger and fiery successors. Don’t forget German history when the young Kaiser Wilhelm 2 toppled the old iron chancellor Bismarck. This generational change also had fatal foreign policy effects. Because while Bismarck was a dedicated supporter of realpolitik, the balance of power and the saturation of German interests as well as being opposed to colonial politics, the young German emperor switched to world politics, German wolf warrior rhetoric and disastrous foreign policy maneuvers that increasingly isolated Germany and then plunged it into a world war. Therefore, the wolf warrior diplomacy is above all an expression of the objective increase in power of China, which is now also expressed verbally, whereby a young Chinese generation of diplomats and politicians is growing up for whom this is the normal tone and who might want it to be even more warlike in the future with further growth of power.