Reshuffling in China’s Foreign Policy

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    • In recent weeks, China launched a personnel reshuffle on the foreign policy front.

    Key Points 

    • Change in China’s Foreign Administration: 
      • China appointed the former Chinese ambassador to the US as the new foreign minister and a former foreign ministry spokesperson was transferred to the department of boundary and ocean affairs.
      • The new foreign minister is seen in some foreign policy circles as someone who is a wolf warrior but a much more tactful one.
    • Expected Implications:
      • Some political analysts view these changes as possible signs that China may be pivoting from the hardline “wolf-warrior diplomacy” that has characterized China’s foreign policy over the last few years. 
      • China is buying time to stabilize the situation at home while strengthening itself for the ongoing rivalry with the United States and its allies.
      • Through this appointment, China is trying to rebalance the earlier era of wolf warrior diplomacy.
      • Some experts say the personnel reshuffling doesn’t necessarily change the trajectory of China’s diplomatic approach.
    • Predictability for Western Countries:
      • The new appointment will provide greater stability and predictability in China’s diplomacy going forward
      • For western countries, that will probably be a good thing, since China’s wolf warrior diplomats have been rather unpredictable over the last few years.

    Wolf-warrior Diplomacy

    • Origin:
      • The term that gained popularity, especially after Xi became President, 
      • A 2015 Chinese action film, titled ‘Wolf Warrior’, and its sequel have served as the inspiration for the term. 
    • About:
      • It is a tactic for the Chinese government to extend its ideology beyond China and counter the West and defend itself
      • It is an unofficial term for the more aggressive and confrontational style of communication that Chinese diplomats have taken to in the last decade.
      • It confronts head-on any criticism of China in the public sphere. They lecture host governments and don’t always show up when ‘summoned’ by foreign offices. Delhi has been at the receiving end for a while — especially during the recent crises of Doklam and Ladakh.”
    • Need for wolf warrior diplomacy:
      • The change in strategy has been attributed to many reasons, such as 
        • Xi’s more authoritarian tendencies as compared to earlier leaders, 
        • deteriorating US-China relations under former US President, 
        • the coronavirus pandemic-related accusations on China, etc.
      • According to Chinese officials, the move is simply about standing up to what they believe is Western interference. 
      • China’s leader stated that the term was rhetorical “tit-for-tat”.

    Challenges

    • China- US Rivalry:
      • Despite the optimism expressed, tensions between China and the US remain high. 
    • Isolation of China:
      • Over the last three years, China has largely isolated itself from the rest of the world, as its top officials, including the President, were consistently absent from major international events. 
    • Enhanced Military Activities:
      • Since the former US House Speaker’s visit to Taiwan last year, China has increased its military activities around the island. 
      • The US, meanwhile, is also seeking to strengthen security and military ties with countries like Japan and the Philippines.

    China’s Focus in Future

    • Strengthening Economy:
      • China needs to strengthen its economy and break out from the relative isolation the zero-COVID policies have put it in.
    • Focus on Western Europe:
      • As China tries to recalibrate its foreign policy approach under Xi’s third term, experts think the personnel reshuffling seems to suggest that western European countries, Australia and Canada are going to be the major focus of China’s foreign policy efforts in the coming years.
      • China will make Western Europe and by extension, some western countries the major focus of their diplomatic engagement in the coming years.
    • No Change in Stance:
      • Even though China and the US are trying to restart bilateral dialogue, China and the US are not going to make any fundamental changes to their positions on key foreign policy issues.
      • On the issues of the international system, the rules-based order and the position of Taiwan, there is not much of a shift on either side.

     

    Current Chinese Discourse on India

    •  Not Underestimating India:
      • Chinese observers believe that China should not underestimate an otherwise adversary, that is India’s potential for accelerated development in the coming years and prepare for a situation where it emerges as the world’s second or third-largest economy, challenging China’s primacy in Asia and threatening its national security.
    • Development Competition:
      • It is interesting to note that at a time when all eyes in India are fixed on the volatile border, the Chinese side seems to be of the opinion that the real conflict between China and India is not at the LAC but in the development competition, particularly in India’s ambition to catch up with China.
    • Challenging India’s Manufacturing Industry:
      • China is acting on the risks and challenges arising from the rise of India’s manufacturing industry and in turn taking effective measures to safeguard China’s critical economic and geopolitical interests.
    • United States (US) Disturbing China-India Game:
      • China does not like India adding the US power to the China-India game” to neutralize China’s existing economic and military superiority vis-à-vis India.

    Way Ahead

    • The China-US relations shouldn’t be a zero-sum game and the world is wide enough for China and the United States to both develop and prosper.
    • At the same time, it would be ideal if major European countries would keep or even deepen their dependencies on China and thus make them less likely to stand by the US in the time of potential conflict.

    Source: IE