Beijing’s tougher approach to diplomacy has been evident under President Xi Jinping’s push for China to resume its historic place as a global power. But with the nation increasingly being attacked by governments over the Covid-19 pandemic, its envoys are countering claims and accusations in even more strident tones. The combative approach has won plaudits among a burgeoning nationalist audience at home, but there are also increasing numbers of voices warning of the risk of a backlash. They are right; if radical sentiments are allowed to spread and get the upper hand at the expense of rational thinking, the consequences are bound to have a lasting impact on diplomatic relations and development. Claims that China is to blame for the pandemic are irrational and not based on fact. Suggestions by United States President Donald Trump and others that Beijing should pay compensation for the hardship caused are similarly irresponsible; scapegoating China to divert attention from domestic failures and missteps is hypocritical. But that does not justify the aggressive response of Chinese envoys who at times have appeared to be competing to outdo one another. Far removed from the restrained and often dull tones of predecessors who often simply read out prepared statements, the new breed of emissaries have been dubbed “wolf warrior diplomats”, reference to patriotic movies featuring a powerfully built Chinese commando who kills foreign adversaries with his bare hands. The pushback is on several fronts; there is a growing chorus of governments seeking an independent investigation into the source of the coronavirus, a heavy reliance on China in supply chains has been revealed, Chinese companies are accused of shipping substandard medical products and protective gear, and alleged maltreatment of Nigerian migrants in Guangzhou has sparked a backlash in Africa, on top of existing issues from the use of Huawei’s 5G technology to claims of Beijing’s interference in domestic politics. Beijing has every right to respond in the name of protecting its interests as well as explaining its position. When the pandemic has receded, there is certainly need for a review into how it began and spread to prevent an occurrence. But these are sensitive issues that require a reasoned and measured response, not belligerent outbursts. Warnings from inside over China’s ‘Wolf Warrior’ coronavirus diplomacy Australia, in the vanguard of calls for an inquiry, received a typical response from the Chinese ambassador – he threatened an economic boycott. That plays well with nationalists in China, but fuels a loss of trust and credibility towards Beijing. China does not need isolation at a time of global recession and rivalry with the US, nor pressure from radical voices at home. Sensational remarks have to be set aside in favour of rational responses and diplomatic language. Help us understand what you are interested in so that we can improve SCMP and provide a better experience for you. We would like to invite you to take this five-minute survey on how you engage with SCMP and the news.