War of words erupts between Chinese ex-ambassador and editor of nationalist tabloid

Former envoy Wu Jianmin says Global Times’ boss Hu Xijin fails to present the complexities of international affairs – a criticism brushed off as the thinking of ‘old diplomats’

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 April, 2016, 6:29pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 April, 2016, 6:29pm

An unusual war of words has broken out between a former Chinese diplomat and a top editor at a state-backed tabloid known for its nationalistic tone.

The tiff began last Wednesday when Wu Jianmin, the former ambassador to France, said some reports by Global Times, which is affiliated with People’s Daily, were “very extreme” and failed to provide a complete picture of international events.

Many people now still have the habitual thought of wars and revolutions
Wu Jianmin, former ambassador

“Many people now still have the habitual thought of wars and revolutions and always think about waging a war,” Wu told students of China Foreign Affairs University in a talk on understanding global affairs. He said such people thought that if China couldn’t defeat the United States, then it should fight the Philippines.

Rather than allowing the dangers of wars as portrayed by some “so-called strategists” to take centre stage, people should instead focus on peaceful development.

Wu recalled that Hu Xijin, the Times’ editor-in-chief, told a forum last year that the world was a “mass”.

He noted that an editor-in-chief “who is very knowledgeable” still “didn’t get the situation right”.

Wu’s remarks were widely reported by mainland media, and Hu said on social media on Thursday that he was forced to respond. In a lengthy post on his Weibo, he said the comments were typical of the thinking of “old-fashioned Chinese diplomats”, who believed the media’s role was “only to increase the chaos and a source of nationalism”.

They hope the media should highlight ‘diplomatic achievements’
Hu Xijin, Global Times boss, criticising the thinking of a certain type of diplomat

“They hope the media should highlight ‘diplomatic achievements’ and focus only on the development of friendly cooperation between China and other countries,” Hu said.

They should never touch sensitive issues and speak “strictly in line with the tone of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, like a parrot repeating the words of a human”, he said.

Hu said that Wu’s criticism came as the Times published reports that sounded more hawkish than usual and struck a different tone from the official line.

Hu argued his newspaper was providing a platform for diverse voices, which was a “positive asset of China’s foreign policy”.

The Times has often found itself at the centre of controversy for its nationalist fervour, but Hu said his newspaper also ran commentaries by individuals like Wu, who was seen as a dove in foreign policy.

“The media will always be more ‘hawkish’ than foreign policy … and Western countries are all good at taking advantage of that,” Hu said, “Diplomats like ambassador Wu are not good at making use of such resources of the media ... and this is such a pity.”