Apr 22, 2020 - World

China's "Wolf Warrior diplomacy" comes to Twitter

Illustration of Twitter icon with bird replaced with wolf.
Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Scores of Chinese diplomats and embassies around the world have opened Twitter accounts over the past six months.

The state of play: Many of them are now using the social media platform to post accusations, boasts and name-calling directed at governments and individuals they feel have insulted China.

  • This aggressive strategy is known as "Wolf Warrior diplomacy," named after a patriotic Chinese action movie from 2017 in which a Chinese soldier saves the day in a series of adventures across Africa. (The film's popularity in China boosted it to become the highest-grossing non-English film ever.)

What they're saying: "What's behind China's perceived 'Wolf Warrior' style diplomacy is the changing strengths of China and the West," an April 16 article in the Chinese tabloid Global Times stated. "The days when China can be put in a submissive position are long gone. China's rising status in the world, requires it to safeguard its national interests in an unequivocal way."

  • But, but, but: The target of Chinese diplomatic ire often isn't Western countries, but developing nations like India and Venezuela.

Below are some examples.

  • Xu Hong, the Chinese ambassador to the Netherlands, called Trump's use of the phrase "Chinese virus" a "political virus to international solidarity and cooperation:"
Twitter post of Xu Hong, the Chinese ambassador to the Netherlands, calling out Trump's use of the phrase "Chinese virus"
  • Ji Rong, the spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in India, tweeted that calls for China to provide financial compensation for the spread of the coronavirus abroad were "ridiculous & eye-catching nonsense."
Tweet by Ji-Rong, the spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in India
  • The Chinese Embassy in Caracas criticized unnamed Venezuelan officials for referring to the coronavirus as the "Chinese" or "Wuhan" virus and ended the angry Twitter thread by telling the officials to "put on a face mask and shut up."
The Chinese Embassy in Caracas criticized unnamed Venezuelan officials for referring to the coronavirus as the "Chinese" or "Wuhan"

The bottom line: China wants other countries to know who's boss.

Go deeper: China takes a page from Russia's disinformation playbook

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