Photo: Shutterstock/File
As I see it
by Maria Siow
As I see it
by Maria Siow

China’s foreign policy should not include social media potshots from diplomats aimed at foreign governments

  • Recently, numerous Chinese diplomats have taken to social media to highlight the differences in foreign diplomacy between Beijing and Washington
  • Such actions cannot help relations between Beijing and the West, which have soured over issues ranging from trade, human rights to the origins of Covid

Last Thursday, Chinese Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Ma Zhaoxu said his nation’s diplomats would not “sit and do nothing while our country’s interests are being harmed”.

“We Chinese will not capitulate,” Ma told reporters at a news conference to discuss Chinese diplomacy in the decade since Chinese leader Xi Jinping assumed power.
The comments have been widely interpreted to mean that China’s wolf warrior diplomacy is likely to prevail.

But it also implies that simplistic, even problematic narratives propagated by Chinese diplomats especially on social media are expected to continue.

A tweet from a Chinese diplomat shows what China and the United States brought to Türkiye. Photo: Twitter
Such as a recent Twitter post by someone holding the title of assistant foreign minister where China is said to have brought to Türkiye “silk, ceramics and tea” while the US “armour, sabre and guns”.
In a tweet by a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, two photos – one of the United States’ C-17 military transport aircraft and a Y-20, China’s equivalent – were featured side by side.

One was depicted as “destruction” and the other as “construction”, as the second showed Chinese humanitarian aid supplies against the backdrop of the aircraft.

In a retweet by someone who identifies as the consul general of China in Belfast, China is said to have initiated 0 conflict for “70+ years since the founding of the PRC, not even a proxy war”.

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson’s social media post shows that the humanitarian aid provided by the US is “destruction’, while China provides “construction”. Photo: Twitter

In contrast, the US is depicted as having waged 201 wars, “proxy wars included”, where “only 16 years of its 240+ years of history saw no warfare”.

One Chinese diplomat retweeted that Chinese aid to the world included “food, blankets, sleeping pads and moisture-proof pads”.

While US aid was made up of “UAVs (unstaffed aerial vehicles), rockets, missiles, and armoured vehicles”.

There are countless such posts that have been retweeted multiple times among numerous Chinese diplomats, especially images that showed pictures of tanks, planes and warships and were labelled “democracy or democrazy”?

I am not sure if such questionable portrayals are necessarily helpful in protecting Chinese interests or creating positive impressions of China.

This social media post by a Chinese diplomat shows that the United States’ mission of trying to bring democracy to countries has instead brought chaos. Photo: Twitter
The process of dumbing-down in a world that has become increasingly polarised is perhaps to be expected. Especially since relations between Beijing and the West have soured over issues ranging from trade, human rights to the origins of the Covid pandemic.

But surely propagating such narratives should be the domain of incensed rabble- rousers and not esteemed diplomats who are tasked to forge and improve relations with reasoned discourse?

While such jingoism may have been intended for a domestic audience, the damage to ties with foreign countries is likely to be irreparable.

The damage to the image of the Chinese foreign ministry is also likely to be permanent.

Diplomacy requires finesse, which is why diplomats are given this delicate task. Leave the job of throwing potshots to others instead.