China seeks new credible image after diplomatic setback

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President Xi Jinping urged Chinese officials to build a “trustworthy, loving and respectful” image for the country, in a sign that Beijing is looking to smoothen its harsh diplomatic approach.

According to the official Xinhua news agency, on Monday, Xi told senior Communist Party leaders that the country should “make friends on a large scale, unite the majority and continuously expand its circle of friends with those who are in China.” understand and are friendly.” Beijing is required to “hold on the tone” in its communication with the world, and be “open and self-confident, but also polite and courteous.”

The comments suggest Xi may rethink his communications strategy on the global stage as President Joe Biden works to strengthen US ties weakened under his predecessor’s “America First” policies. Xi has rejected the party’s decades-old “hide and seek” strategy of keeping a low international profile in favor of “big country diplomacy”.

China has swiftly backed down against alleged violations of its core interests by foreign countries with trade measures, travel restrictions and diplomatic protests – an approach sometimes criticized as “wolf warrior” diplomacy. That style has been blamed for diplomatic setbacks with partners appearing open to closer ties with Beijing, such as the European Union and the Philippines.

Wang Yiwei, director of Renmin University’s Institute of International Affairs and a former Chinese diplomat, said China’s more assertive diplomacy came in response to those in the West who presented the country as a threat. But it has failed to satisfy both the domestic and international audience, he said.

“China’s image in the West has been tarnished since the pandemic and this needs to be taken seriously,” he said. “China’s rise in power needs to be accepted by the world. That will be the real growth of power.”

It remains to be seen whether the push will have any effect on China’s policies in disputes with countries such as the US, Australia or the European Union, all of which have seen relations worsen in recent months. Views of China turned increasingly negative last year in 14 countries surveyed by the Pew Research Center, according to data released in October.

China’s emphasis on the superiority of socialism has caused some concern in the West, Wang said, and the ridicule of other countries’ failure to contain COVID-19 was “a little too much.”

The discussion on international communication included a lecture by Fudan University professor Zhang Weiwei, who is also a staunch and vocal advocate for making China’s governance model superior to that of Western democracies.

Wang Wen, executive dean of Renmin University’s Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies and adviser to the government, said it was the first such session organized by the 25-member politburo. He said Beijing would continue to defend its interests abroad.