memri
October 14, 2020 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1535

Veteran Chinese Diplomat Yuan Nansheng: 'Wolf Warrior' Diplomacy Will Not Give China Victory Over U.S.; We Must Keep A Low Profile With The Sword In The Scabbard As In Deng Xiaoping's Guiding Ideology

October 14, 2020 | By Anna Mahjar-Barducci and Sasha Gong
China | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1535

Introduction

In September 2020, veteran Chinese diplomat Yuan Nansheng (袁南生)[1] published an essay, which prompted a wave of reactions, titled "My Thoughts On Sino-U.S. Relations After The Coronavirus Pandemic," analyzing past, present, and future Sino-U.S. relations.[2] (See APPENDIX)

In his article, Yuan stresses that Beijing should stop following an aggressive diplomacy, since it is in Beijing's interest to stabilize relations with Washington. Yuan further asserts that China must have a clear understanding of Sino-U.S. relations, because it is vital to maintain China's security and a good environment for development, in order to achieve the goal of the "Two Centennials,"[3] a major part of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) program to be met by 2021 and 2049. The "Two Centennials" is the basic foundation for fulfilling the "Chinese Dream," (Zhongguo meng; 中国梦) a term Xi Jinping put out in 2012 – after taking the office of CCP General Secretary – that describes a national ethos and set of ideals for the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.[4]


Yuan Nansheng (Source: Channelnewsasia.com).

U.S. And China Are Back To Being Adversaries

According to Yuan, Sino-U.S. relations went through four different stages: enemy, adversary, cooperation, and back to adversary. "The enemy stage refers to the period of the Korean War. The adversary stage refers to the period during the Cold War before the establishment of China–U.S. diplomatic ties, when U.S. policy toward China was containment. [The stage of cooperation refers] to the period between the establishment of China–U.S. diplomatic relations [in 1979] and Trump's entry into office [2017], when China – especially after the 9/11 terrorist attack – joined forces with the United States. During this period, long term cooperation became the main policy. Now the two are going back to be adversaries." Yuan stresses that in the current stage the U.S. sees China as a "strategic competitor,"[5] and as a "revisionist country" that works to change the current U.S.-led international world order.[6]

Yuan adds that Washington's China policy has become already a policy of containment and that a new Cold War is looming. The decoupling of the U.S. and China is a possibility, though as long as the economic and trade ties remain, the two countries cannot be completely decoupled. Moreover, according to Yuan, the decoupling will inevitably cause a complicated chain of reactions in many aspects.

Explaining that, from the perspective of geopolitics, China, the United States, and Russia form the most important set of triangular relations in the world today, Yuan writes: "The United States and Russia have been striving for hegemony for a long time, and China, as a lever, is in a favorable strategic position with both sides. If China and the United States are 'decoupling,' it means that the roles of China and Russia will subsequently be transposed. China will become the main target of containment by the United States. Meanwhile, Russia will be able to take great advantage with its lever."

Yuan says that there are views that China and Russia can join forces to contend with the United States. However, according to the former Chinese diplomat, this idea is not desirable: "There are no permanent friends and no permanent enemies in international relations." In Yuan's opinion, the main question is whether the decoupling of China and the United States serves or does not serve Beijing's best interests. Either way, Yuan believes that Beijing is not ready to face this scenario. "Stabilizing Sino-U.S. relations is conducive to stabilizing the international order. The degree of stability of Sino-U.S. relations is directly proportional to the well-being of the people of China and the United States and the degree of stability of the international order."


(Source: Scmp.com)

Yuan assesses that China is still a developing country and needs time to further prosper. Consequently, he warns China not to pursue an ultra-nationalistic policy, which would destabilize Sino-U.S. relations and affect Beijing's economy. Yuan calls on Beijing to maintain "strategic sobriety," recognizing that the country is still in the era of development. He then adds that "strategic patience" is also needed in order not to make mistakes in a rush for success.

Yuan further warned China to avoid "strategic misjudgments," saying: "It is necessary to prevent China from misjudging the United States, and to avoid the mistaken belief that the United States has declined... The novel coronavirus epidemic has caused severe damage to the U.S. economy, but this does not mean that China's economic development will naturally usher in major opportunities."

The 'Wolf Warrior Fighting Spirit' Runs Counter To Traditional Chinese Culture; Stabilizing Sino-U.S. Relations Is In Line With The Last Wishes Of Mao Zedong And Deng Xiaoping

The veteran Chinese diplomat then highlights the surge of ultra-nationalism and populism in China: "Some people previously called these words and deeds 'angry youth,' [fenqing; 愤青][7] and now some call it 'wolf warrior culture' [the term was taken from patriotic Chinese action movie, Wolf Warrior]." However, Yuan adds: "The 'wolf warrior fighting spirit' runs counter to traditional Chinese culture."


Poster of "Wolf Warrior" (Source: China.org.cn)

In Yuan's opinion, if extreme nationalism and populism lead Beijing's foreign policy, China will be perceived as an enemy: "To avoid blind nationalism, one must popularize knowledge, reiterate common sense, prevent information asymmetry, and let the public learn more about history."

Yuan recalls that the diplomatic thinking and practice of Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping attached great importance to Sino-U.S. relations: "Mao Zedong's development, from 'leaning to one side' anti-U.S. diplomacy to 'one-line' U.S. diplomacy, has greatly expanded China's diplomatic space and changed the pattern and direction of the world... [Deng Xiaoping] took over the big game of U.S. relations in a difficult situation, made smart moves in every way, promoted the normalization of Sino-U.S. relations, and created the most important external environment for China's internal reform and opening up to the world." Hence, Yuan assessed that stabilizing Sino-U.S. relations is in line with "the policies and the last wishes" of Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping.


Mao Zedong meets U.S. President Richard Nixon at Zhongnanhai in Beijing on Feb. 21, 1972 (source: Chinadaily.com.cn).


An aide helps Deng Xiaoping to put on a cowboy hat in Texas in 1979 (source: Scmp.com).


Deng Xiaoping and U.S. President Jimmy Carter in Washington D.C., in 1979 (source: Chinadaily.com.cn).

Keeping A Low Profile And Striving For Achievement

Yuan concludes stating that, in order to stabilize Sino-U.S. relations, China should adhere to Deng Xiaoping's guiding ideology of keeping a low profile (taoguangyanghui; 韬光养晦), which translates as "hiding our capacities and biding our time and making a difference."

In fact, according to Yuan, Chinese diplomacy needs to be stronger, not just tougher. Yuan explains: "[Deng Xiaoping's] guiding ideology is not out of date. As long as our country is still in the early stage of socialism, as long as we are still a developing country, insisting on 'hiding our capacities to bide our time and make a difference' is the essential principle."

Yuan explains: "'Hiding one's capacity and biding one's time' is a sword inserted into a scabbard... Some people think that keeping a low profile is 'calcium deficiency' and weakness. This is completely misunderstood." He then adds: "You cannot work with people by having a knife in hand. Picking up a sword is the duty of a soldier. However, when dealing with foreign affairs, we should keep a low profile with the sword in the scabbard, but let the other side know that you have a sword there."

It is worth noting that Deng Xiaoping's strategy of keeping a low profile (taoguangyanghui; 韬光养晦) differs in tenets and methods from the strategy of striving for achievement (fenfayouwei;奋发有为), a foreign policy strategy that challenges U.S. regional primacy, launched by Chinese President Xi Jinping in his speech at the CCP foreign affairs conference on October 24, 2013.

In his article, Yuan stresses that China should follow the "keep a low profile" strategy (KLP), without giving up the "striving for achievement" strategy (SFA). "Not only to keep a low profile, but also to strive for achievement," Yuan writes. He opines that the SFA strategy alone may fail if not accompanied by the KLP strategy.


President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands during a joint statement to members of the media Great Hall of the People, Nov. 9, 2017, in Beijing, China. (Source: China.usembassy-china.org.cn)

Conclusion

Renowned Chinese Professor Yan Xuetong (阎学通), dean of the Institute for International Relations at China's elite Tsinghua University, explains in a 2014 article, titled "From Keeping A Low Profile To Striving For Achievement," that the SFA strategy is based on the assumption of the structural contradiction between a rising power (i.e., China) and a status quo hegemon (i.e., the U.S.).[8]

Yan stresses that as China grows increasingly stronger, its neighbors could perceive the SFA as an aggressive strategy: "Therefore, China needs to implement the SFA very delicately to avoid being regarded as an aggressive power and prevent international support for challengers."[9]

Indeed, the veteran Chinese diplomat Yuan seems to echo Yan's worries, particularly regarding Sino-U.S. relations in the post coronavirus pandemic, in the current adversary stage. Therefore, Yuan suggests connecting the two strategies, at least until China is strong enough to change the world order. After all, the translation of "keeping a low profile" does not carry the full meaning of "taoguangyanghui [韬光养晦]."  The actual meaning, with historical and literary context, means: do not shine, retain strength, but prepare to strive (for achievement) when the opportunity comes. As Yuan concludes: "A diplomatic power should be moderate when it is time to be gentle, be appropriate when it is time to ask for help, be tough when it is time to speak with strength, and be triumphant when it is time to strike."

*Anna Mahjar-Barducci is Director of the Russian Media Studies Project; Sasha Gong is Director of the Chinese Media Studies Project

APPENDIX – "My Thoughts on Sino-U.S. Relations After The Coronavirus Pandemic" By Yuan Nansheng; Chinese In China International Strategic Review 2020; September 2020 Edition


(Source: Mp.weixin.qq.com)

The Sino-U.S. Relationship Is The Most Important Bilateral Relationship In The World And The Pillar Of The Contemporary International Order

"On April 8, 2020, Chairman Xi Jinping presided over a meeting of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee. He emphasized that 'facing the severe and complex situation of the global pandemic and the current world economic situation, we must maintain our bottom line. We must prepare for long term responses, ideologically and practically, to the changes in the outside world.'

"This author believes that the 'outside world' indicated by the central leader mainly referred to Sino-U.S. relations. The Sino-U.S. relationship is the most important bilateral relationship in the world and the pillar of the contemporary international order. We must have a clear understanding of Sino-U.S. relations after the coronavirus pandemic. Such an understanding is extremely important for us to respond the serious challenges under the new circumstances, to maintain a secure and healthy environment for development, and to realize the goal of the 'Two Centennials.'

China And America Have Created A Historical Record Of Economic And Trade Exchanges Under The WTO System2.

1. Sino-U.S. relationship will not go back to the old days

"In his article published in early April 2020, Henry Kissinger predicted that the coronavirus pandemic would permanently change the international order. Even earlier, Kissinger said that Sino-U.S. relations would not go back to the old days. His opinion has good merit.

"The trend of Sino-U.S. relations has evolved with the international order, which has been changed by the pandemic in the following aspects: a reversal of globalization worldwide; the strategic cooperation between China and the United States that has turned into what the Americans call 'the Sino-U.S. strategic competition;' decades of China's strategic opportunity that have turned into a period of 'de-sinicization' (in essence, de-globalization is de-sinicization); and international cooperation based on complementary division of labor that has turned into international cooperation based on common values. With the withdrawal of the United States from international organizations, the World Trade Organization (WTO), World Health Organization (WHO), and other groups have been weakened. Their functions have been reduced. The United States and its allies may launch new organizations which exclude China. The international order built by the Yalta Conference, with United Nations as its symbol, has been challenged.

"Sino-U.S. relations are different from the previous one between the Soviet Union and the United States, especially in economic and trade relations. Back then, the Soviet Union and its satellites organized as the Eastern Socialist Bloc based on a closed planned economic system. The United States, the Great Britain, and other countries formed the capitalist camp based on market economy that operated in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) system.

"Nowadays, China and America have created a historical record of economic and trade exchanges under the WTO system. Since 1979, when the two countries established diplomatic relations, the amount of bilateral trade increased by 207 times. Total annual trade in commercial goods has almost reached $600 billion. The total annual trade in services has exceeded $100 billion. While the Chinese economy has benefited greatly in exports, employment, technology, and talent, China has become the fastest growing overseas market for the U.S. export market, buying 26% of Boeing aircraft, 56% of soybeans, 16% of automobiles, 23% of agricultural products, and 23% of semiconductors. In the service trade, China has accumulated a deficit. The Chinese have spent a great deal in tourism and education. In 2016, China invested $50 billion in the U.S. non-finance sectors. Chinese investment in the U.S. spread across 44 states, creating 100,000 jobs for Americans.

"Compared with the U.S.-Russia relationship, the mutual benefits between China and the U.S. from economic and trade are much higher. For example, China-U.S. trade in commercial goods approaches $600 billion, while that amount between the U.S. and Russia gains only $15 billion. Moreover, Russia and the U.S. compete in energy and other fields. The scale of Russia's economy cannot be compared to that of China. Russia's current GDP can only be equivalent to that of China's Guangdong Province. Russia is light weight in economy and trade, this explains why the U.S. and other western countries dare to impose sanctions on the country.

The Sino-U.S. Relationship Has Gone Through Four Stages: Enemy, Adversary, Cooperation, And Back To Adversary

"The Sino-U.S. relationship today differs greatly from the past. The relationship has gone through four stages: enemy, adversary, cooperation, and back to adversary. The enemy stage refers to the period of the Korean War. The adversary stage refers to the period during the Cold War before the establishment of China–U.S. diplomatic ties, when U.S. policy toward China was containment. [The stage of cooperation refers] to the period between the establishment of China-U.S. diplomatic relations [1979] and Trump's entry into office [2017], when China – especially after the 9/11 terrorist attack – joined forces with the United States. During this period, long term cooperation became the main policy.

"Now the two are going back to be adversaries. The first and second adversaries are not the same thing. Although China and the U.S. are rivals in both stages, in the first stage, the U.S. only regards China as a rival, and there was no strategic competition. In the second stage, namely, the current state, based on what the Americans say, the two have become 'strategic competitors.' Trump and other American dignitaries regard China as a 'country that wants to change the existing order,' alleging that China is unhappy with the current system which includes the U.S.-led international order, and that China is working to change the existing system. The U.S. responded with putting down a long-term, all-round strategic competition with China in a 'whole-of-government' approach.

"The relationship between China and the United States before and after the pandemic has been dramatically altered.

"First, public opinion shifted. According to data collected by polling agencies, in both China and the U.S., the number of citizens with negative views of the other country is now the majority. The number of American citizens who hold a positive view of China has dropped down to the historical low level of this century, and one of the lowest since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries 40 years ago.

"Second, bilateral economic and trade relations have been altered. Although the trade war between the two countries came to an end after the signing of the first-phase economic and trade agreement, the economic and trade issues between China and the United States have not been completely resolved. Americans did not remove many of the additional tariff on China before the signing of the above agreement. After the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. capital might further withdrawal from the Chinese market. Both nations are unwilling to plan further investment in one another's country.

"Third, willingness of cooperation in other areas has significantly declined. The number of Chinese who travel, study, organize art performances and exhibitions, and emigrate to the United States is decreasing.

"Fourth, the trust between the two nations in the strategic vision of each other has been weakened. That trend seems hard to reverse. This is the most important change. In the future, the United States will increase its pressure on China in the areas of trade, technology, cyber security, and issues like Taiwan, Hong Kong, Tibet, and Xinjiang."

After The Pandemic, America's China Policy Has Become A Policy Of Containment; A New Cold War Is Looming

"Some have argued that the pandemic would accelerate de-globalization. In this new Cold War, the decoupling of the U.S. and China would also accelerate. Is this possible? After the pandemic, America's China policy has become a policy of containment. A new Cold War is looming. However unlikely for the two nations to decouple, it remains a possibility. We must not rule it out.

"The new Cold War would distance China and the United States, namely, through detachment in technology, investment, industries, education, human resources, and so on. The Americans are indeed making some moves to decouple. But will decoupling become a reality? I think not. In 2013, this author served as the Chinese Consul General in San Francisco. During my tenure, a flight took off between China and the U.S. every 7 minutes, with 10,000 passengers daily, and 4 million per year. Each tourist from China spent an average of $6,000 in the United States. The two nations grew close each other. One quarter of American citizens in San Francisco were with Chinese origin. Twelve thousand graduates of Tsinghua University lived in the areas covered by the San Francisco consulate. More than 7,000 Peking University graduates lived in the same areas. It would not be an easy move to decouple the two countries.

"Yet contacts, communication, and interaction between them will not be as frequent. As long as the economic and trade tie remains, the U.S. and China could not be completely decoupled. The level of bilateral trade is so high, the industrial and supply chains are so intertwined, the demand of capital from China by the U.S. is so great, the interdependency of technology is so tight, the connection of the two peoples is so close, the impact of the mutual strategic move is so deep around the globe, that when decoupling happens, international chaos will be unavoidable. Moreover, the decoupling inevitably causes complicated chain reactions in many aspects, which will be damaging and painful."

After The Pandemic, Globalization Will Continue; However, It Is Possible That China Will Be Pushed Out By Nations With Different Political Values; Yet, Globalization Without China Is Not True Globalization

"In the worldwide pandemic, the United States has not sent enough signals to other countries to call for solidarity and cooperation, and has not shown willingness and ability to lead. The U.S. did not take effective actions and failed to deal with the pandemic, and then turned to blame China. The U.S. government made bad moves, but China surely suffers the consequences. The U.S. has become the center of the global pandemic, with the highest numbers of infections and deaths. Trump has been sunk to a storm of controversy and was criticized domestically and internationally. The presidential election is approaching. There are many irrational arguments, including the China issue. Support for Trump is declining. His re-election effort may be in vain. Trump is trying to shift public attention to China, asking people to focus on China as the problem in dealing with the pandemic in its early stage. His wants to win the election by poisoning public opinion on China.

"After the pandemic, globalization will continue. However, another trend may emerge. The previous path of globalization emphasized cost reduction and international division of labor. The new path may emphasize on common values. It is possible that China will be pushed out by nations with different political values. Yet, globalization without China is not true globalization. Without participation from China, the world market is not complete. As a major power in manufacture, trade, and markets, China can show its strengths and avoid its weaknesses. Based on that, China can expand its frontier of interests."[10]

The Degree Of Stability Of Sino-U.S. Relations Is Directly Proportional To The Well-Being Of The People Of China And The U.S. And The Degree Of Stability Of The International Order

2. China-U.S. relations need to maintain stability

"On April 6, 2017, President Xi Jinping and President Trump held a China-U.S. heads-up meeting at Mar-a-Lago Estate in Florida, USA. During the meeting, Xi Jinping emphasized that good relations between China and the United States are not only beneficial to the two countries and two peoples, but also to the world. Xi indicated that the two nations had a thousand reasons to improve Sino-U.S. relations, and none to ruin Sino-U.S. relations. Over the past 45 years since the normalization of Sino-U.S. relations, although the interests between the two countries have gone through ups and downs, they have achieved historic progress, which has brought huge practical benefits to the two peoples.

"How will Sino-U.S. relations develop in the next 45 years? President Xi said, 'We need to think deeply, and we need the leaders of the two countries to make political decisions and take historical responsibility. I would like to work with Mr. President to promote greater development of Sino-U.S. relations from a new starting point.'

"On the morning of June 29, 2019, Xi Jinping and Trump held a meeting in Osaka, Japan. Xi Jinping pointed out: 'China-U.S. cooperation will benefit both, and struggle will hurt both. Cooperation is better than friction, and dialogue is better than confrontation. At present, China-U.S. relations are encountering some difficulties, which are not in the interests of both sides. Although China and the United States have some differences. However, the interests of both parties are highly integrated and the areas of cooperation are broad. They should not fall into the trap of so-called conflict and confrontation, but should promote each other and develop together.'

"Stabilizing Sino-U.S. relations is conducive to stabilizing the international order. The degree of stability of Sino-U.S. relations is directly proportional to the well-being of the people of China and the United States and the degree of stability of the international order. Here is the argument of this author."

Mao Zedong And Deng Xiaoping Attached Great Importance To Sino-U.S. Relations

"Judging from the diplomatic thinking and practice of Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, both attached great importance to, and personally planned, Sino-U.S. relations. Mao Zedong's development from 'leaning to one side' anti-U.S. diplomacy to 'one-line' U.S. diplomacy has greatly expanded China's diplomatic space and changed the pattern and direction of the world.

"Not long after Deng Xiaoping returned from the 'Cultural Revolution,' he became Premier Zhou Enlai's main assistant in handling foreign affairs, especially the establishment of diplomatic relations with the United States. He took over the big game of U.S. relations in a difficult situation, made smart moves in every way, promoted the normalization of Sino-U.S. relations, and created the most important external environment for China's internal reform and opening up to the world. Stabilizing Sino-U.S. relations is in line with the policies and the last wishes of Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping."

If China And The U.S. Are 'decoupling,' China And Russia Can Join Forces To Contend With The U.S.; However, This Idea Is Not Desirable; There Are No Permanent Friends And No Permanent Enemies In International Relations

"From the perspective of geopolitics, China, the United States, and Russia form the most important set of triangular relations in the world today. The United States and Russia have been striving for hegemony for a long time, and China, as a lever, is in a favorable strategic position with both sides. If China and the United States are 'decoupling,' it means that the roles of China and Russia will subsequently be transposed. China will become the main target of containment by the United States. Meanwhile, Russia will be able to take great advantage with its lever.

"The 'decoupling' of China and the United States means that China is actually carrying the flag and taking the lead. This has led to a reduction in China's diplomatic initiative and freedom, which means an increase in China's diplomatic costs with diminishing returns. There are views that China and Russia can join forces to contend with the United States. This idea is not desirable. There are no permanent friends and no permanent enemies in international relations. If China and the United States really decouple, what will happen to the direction of China-U.S., China-Russia, and Russia-US relations? Will it be in China's interests? These are issues worthy of careful consideration.

"From the perspective of the goal of building a community with a shared future for mankind, if China and the United States are decoupled, the two largest economies in the world cannot achieve win-win cooperation. How can we build a community with a shared future for mankind?"

In Order To Stabilize Sino-U.S. Relations, China Needs To Maintain Strategic Patience, Keep A Low Profile And Strive For Achievement

"How, then, does one stabilize Sino-U.S. relations? The first step is to maintain a strategic sobriety, to recognize that we are still in the era of peace and development, that we remain in the early stage of socialism, and that our country is still a developing country. The second is to maintain strategic patience to prevent rushing for success. The third is to hold the strategic bottom line, not only to keep a low profile, but also to strive for achievement. The fourth is to prevent strategic misjudgments. In particular, it is necessary to prevent China from misjudging the United States, and to avoid the mistaken belief that the United States has declined.

"It is necessary to prevent the misunderstanding that the problems that the U.S. has experienced in the fight against the novel coronavirus epidemic mean that the United States has 'declined,' that the global battle against the epidemic should therefore be replaced by another country, that in the pandemic the United States has asked other nations to assume its own historical task of global 'leadership responsibility,' and that since China was the first to be impacted and the first to get out of the epidemic, it brought China a historic opportunity to compete with the United States for hegemony. It is completely wrong to examine China's actions from the perspective of competitive hegemony.

"We must see that despite the various problems that have emerged in American politics and society in recent years, the United States is still moving forward, and has not declined. In the past 100 years, the United States has always retained about one-quarter of the global economy. This may be the case in the foreseeable future. The United States continues to possess technological hegemony, military hegemony, and financial hegemony, and remains the world's largest geographically superior power. The United States is a major agricultural country, a major educational country, a major technological country and a major resource country.

"Take agriculture as an example. With less than 3 million people working on the sector, the United States has become the world's largest food producer and exporter. American food exports account for half of the world's total food exports, while China has become the world's largest food importer. The total economy of the United States has exceeded $20 trillion. In a horizontal comparison, only a few countries such as China, India, Vietnam, and Ethiopia have exceeded the United States in the rate of long-term economic growth. American influence and control are declining, mainly due to the rise of China and emerging powers. Relatively speaking, the U.S.'s global influence has declined. There is also the unilateralism of the United States and the concept of 'America First' which has also caused the decline of the United States' 'soft power.'

"The novel coronavirus epidemic has caused severe damage to the U.S. economy, but this does not mean that China's economic development will naturally usher in major opportunities. The economic difficulties of China and the United States will negatively impact each country and the world. As the United States has the most advanced technology, the world's largest consumer market, the world's largest financial market, and the dominant currency in world circulation, the United States is likely to be the first to get out of economic difficulties and return to normal.

"Of course, the stabilization of Sino-U.S. relations is not one-sided wishful thinking. It requires both China and the United States to meet each other halfway. China must comprehensively evaluate Sino-U.S. relations, and while not parting ways, it must also be prepared for multiple actions."

In China, We Often Feel The Surging Trend Of Ultra-Nationalism And Populism: Some People Previously Called These Words And Deeds 'Angry Youth,' And Now Some Call It 'Wolf Warrior Culture'

3. Persist in keeping a low profile and striving for achievement

"It is true that China's anti-epidemic performance is good, but the prediction that the new coronavirus epidemic is a 'historical opportunity' for China's rise is clearly a strategic misjudgment. Some people of insight in China worry that the epidemic will fuel domestic nationalism, and this worry is justified.

"Trump proposed 'America First' as a governing vision, and the international community generally believes that he is catering to American populism, ultra-nationalism, and unilateralism. If Chinese nationalism and ultra-nationalism are not guarded against and allowed to develop and spread, the international community may therefore mistakenly believe that China is also pursuing 'China First.'

"In recent years, extreme nationalism and populism have converged and spread internationally. Trump's election as President of the United States through slogans such as calling for 'America First' is a product of populist thought. In China, we often feel the surging trend of ultra-nationalism and populism. Some people previously called these words and deeds 'angry youth,' and now some call it 'Wolf Warrior culture.' The emergence of extreme nationalism and populism in China is not surprising. Its existence and development have a profound historical and cultural origin and practical foundation.

"First, it is influenced by the 'China-centrism,' that is, the 'Tianxia View.' In China's thousands of years of history, the core ideology that dominates foreign relations has always been the traditional 'China Centralism.' This ideology is derived from the self-superiority of the Chinese nation and believes that China is at the center of the world both geographically and culturally. Called 'Huaxia,' the earlier Western invasion had a huge impact on 'China-centrism' as a way of looking at the country's place in the world. The military failure then forced China to be involved in the modern world system, and the traditional Hua Yi [Sino–barbarian dichotomy] order and the concept of heaven gradually collapsed. China is no longer the center of the world, "Huaxia Centralism" has gradually declined, while nationalist ideology has gradually emerged as a new spiritual bond, gradually replacing the role of 'Huaxia Centralism.'

"The second is the influence of the 'conclusion theory.' As an ancient saying indicates, 'Those who clearly commit a strong man will be punishable even if they are far away.' Hearing different opinions in foreign exchanges, some people often become angry. In some cases, 'dialogue' has become 'contradictory' or even 'sole curse.'

"Third is the 'theory of victory.' Since the Chinese system is superior to the Western system, the United States has decayed, and China has become the world's second largest economy. It has never been closer to the center of the world stage as it is now. Therefore, China's replacement of the United States' top position is the only way and is just around the corner.

"Fourth is the 'must battle theory.' This is a militarist approach in which advocates think that 'China and the United States must have a war,' 'China and Japan must have a war,' 'China and India must have a war,' 'China and South Korea must have a war,' 'China and the Philippines must have a war,' 'China and Vietnam must have a war,' etc. Over the years, such voices have been heard endlessly, and some people have simply equated light talk of war with patriotism."

Inciting And Coercing Public Opinion Are Ways To Kidnap Diplomacy

"Public opinion cannot simply be equated with ultra-nationalism and populism. Successful diplomacy can often be good at controlling public opinion and make public opinion a card in diplomacy. However, ultra-nationalism and populism are easy to use because of the 'patriotic' banner. Stirring public opinion, inciting public opinion, and coercing public opinion, in this case, are ways to kidnap diplomacy. Traditional Chinese culture advocates that when dealing with people, you should 'suddenly come without being surprised, and without being angry for no reason.' However, the 'wolf warrior fighting spirit' runs counter to traditional Chinese culture. If the people's opinion is engulfed, the consequences will be worrying. The degree of diplomacy abducted by public opinion is inversely proportional to the diplomatic space. The greater the voice of extreme nationalism and populism, the more likely it is to replace dialogue with foreign exchanges, and China will have fewer friends.

"To avoid blind nationalism, one must popularize knowledge, reiterate common sense, prevent information asymmetry, and let the public learn more about history. The breeding of blind nationalism among some people is inseparable from the asymmetry of information and 'sitting the well and watching the sky.' For example, our country has become the world's second largest economy. Of course, it is worthy of pride. However, some people are proud and arrogant and preach 'Awesome, my country!' everywhere, which may cause problems.

"In fact, when the Eight-Power Allied Forces invaded China in 1900, China's GDP ranked second in the world. By 1927, when the Chinese warlords were fighting and the national power declined the most, Zou Taofen, the former editor-in-chief of Life Weekly, quoted an important document in Life Weekly in October of the same year, stating that "China's wealth is actually ranked number three in the world, above Germany, Japan and France."

"In 1949, China's GDP fell to fourth place. According to calculations by the famous world economic historian Angus Maddison, China's GDP in the beginning of the first millennia was second only to India, making it the second largest economy in the world. India at that time included Pakistan, Kashmir, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and so on. In 1500 AD (the Ming Dynasty) surpassed India to become the world's largest economy.

"For thousands of years, China has been the most qualified second largest economy in the world. China has ranked second three times, once before the Ming Dynasty, once after being overtaken by Britain in modern history, and once during this period. Understanding these conditions will help keep a clear head. The second is to strengthen guidance, improve thinking methods, and prevent simplification, labeling, and becoming emotional about problems, such as equating smashing Japanese cars with patriotism. The third is to keep the bottom line. For example, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was diagnosed with the novel coronavirus. The United States has become the world's largest country with the novel coronavirus, with more than 100,000 deaths. These are definitely not something to be excited or congratulatory about.

"It is a good thing for the people to pay attention to diplomatic issues, and it is not contradictory to for diplomacy to be handled by professionals. The more symmetrical, mature and rational the public information, the greater the diplomatic space. In today's self-media era, when facing the voice of the public, diplomats must first understand and respect public opinion. This is determined by the principle of 'diplomacy for the people' of China's diplomacy, as well as the meaning of world diplomacy.

"Second, it is not just public opinion that matters. Countless facts have proved that diplomacy is kidnapped by public opinion, inevitably bringing catastrophic consequences. For example, after the October Revolution in Russia, Lev M. Karakhan, the Deputy People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs of the Soviet Union, issued a declaration on China, announcing the unconditional abandonment of territories plundered from China under the unequal treaty. Adolf Abramovich Joffe, an alternate member of the Politburo of the Soviet Communist Party Central Committee and Deputy People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs of the Soviet Union, negotiated the establishment of diplomatic relations with China, hoping to hedge the huge pressure from Britain on Soviet Russia.

"Gu Weijun, then foreign minister of the Beijing government, told Joffe that if Soviet Russia withdrew from Mongolia, China and Russia could establish diplomatic relations immediately. But students from Peking University demonstrated and demanded the establishment of diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union unconditionally, and declared that if Gu would refuse, they would do what the May Fourth Movement did to Cao Rulin and others who participated in the Paris Peace Conference. They claimed that would burn the Gu family house. Gu said, you could burn my house, and I still would not agree. There is no reason to establish diplomatic relations while Russia was occupying a large area of China. Later, Gu Weijun's house received a package, which really exploded when it was opened. Despite this, Gu Weijun still refused to give in.

"The people did not see that the Karakhan Declaration on China was just a diplomatic gesture, there was no intention to implement it, and indeed it has never been implemented. Later, Joffe flew to Shanghai and issued the 'Sun-Joffe Declaration' with Sun Yat-sen in Shanghai. Soviet Russia promised to help the Chinese Kuomintang. Sun said that Russia would not have to withdraw its troops from Outer Mongolia, thus planting the seeds of Outer Mongolia's separation from China. History has proved that Gu Weijun was right. After all, the masses are not diplomatic professionals. Blindly accommodating public opinion, even to please public opinion, is likely to harm the national interest, and ultimately the public interest."

We Must Adhere To Deng Xiaoping's Guiding Ideology Of 'Hiding Our Capacities And Biding Our Time And Making A Difference;' China's Diplomacy Should Be 'Strengthened' Rather Than 'Toughened,'

"To stabilize Sino-U.S. relations, we must adhere to Deng Xiaoping's guiding ideology of 'hiding our capacities and biding our time.' This guiding ideology is not out of date. As long as our country is still in the early stage of socialism, as long as we are still a developing country, insisting on 'hiding our capacities to bide our time and make a difference' is the essential principle.

"Keeping a low profile does not mean not being tough. Deng Xiaoping put forward the idea of 'hiding one's capacity and biding time and making a difference,' which in itself implies that the tough time should be tough. 'Hiding one's capacity and biding one's time' is a sword inserted into a scabbard. Diplomatic 'hiding one's capacity and biding one's time' refers to the use of a humble attitude to communicate with other countries, rather than being aggressive and difficult. Some people think that keeping a low profile is 'calcium deficiency' and weakness.

"This is completely misunderstood. You cannot work with people by having a knife in hand. Picking up a sword is the duty of a soldier. However, when dealing with foreign affairs, we should keep a low profile with the sword in the scabbard, but let the other side know that you have a sword there.

Gu Weijun respected everyone on diplomatic occasions, because loud voice is not a winning weapon in diplomatic battles, neither taking out the sword. The key to win is good reasoning. The envoy of the Southern Song Dynasty, Wang Lun, went to the Kingdom of Jin four times and took back more land at the negotiating table than any other famous anti-Jin general, including Yue Fei. He relied on wisdom instead of scolding. Regarding the issue of keeping a low profile, it is normal to have controversies in society, and it is a good thing. China's diplomacy should be 'strengthened' rather than simply 'toughened,' because a diplomatic power should be moderate when it is time to be gentle, be appropriate when it is time to ask for help, be tough when it is time to speak with strength, and be triumphant when it is time to strike."

 

[1] Yuan Nansheng is Vice President of China Society of International Relations, Former Party Secretary of the Committee of China Foreign Affairs University, and veteran Chinese diplomat.

[2] The original text was published in Chinese in China International Strategic Review 2020 (Part 1), edited by Wang Jisi, World Knowledge Publishing House, September 2020 edition. It was the published online by the Peking University Research Institute for international strategies, mp.weixin.qq.com/s/s_xiC__nlnJQYAovHwnFTg, accessed October 14, 2020.

[3] Xinhuanet.com/english/2017-10/17/c_136686770.htm, October 17, 2017.

[4] Chinadaily.com.cn/china/2014npcandcppcc/2014-03/05/content_17324203.htm, March 5, 2014.

[5] Ft.com/content/215cf8fa-e3cb-11e7-8b99-0191e45377ec, accessed October 14, 2020.

[7] It is worth noting that in 2016 Yuan Nansheng published an article, in which he criticized China's "angry youth" and accuse it of jeopardizing China's diplomacy. Cul.qq.com/a/20160414/014182.htm, April 17, 2016.

[8] Original article in Chinese: Imir.tsinghua.edu.cn/publish/iis/7238/20150119090336388135265/tgyh(1).pdf, accessed October 14, 2020.

The article was also translated into English: Academic.oup.com/cjip/article/7/2/153/438673, April 22, 2014.

[9] Academic.oup.com/cjip/article/7/2/153/438673, April 22, 2014.

[10] American historian Fredrick Jackson Turner's "Frontier Thesis," which was formulated in 1893, has impacted Chinese scholars since the early 1980s. Turner believed that the strength of the America identity was based in its land and vast frontier. The theory has influenced Chinese scholars in the perspective of China's frontier development. See image of a Chinese translation of Turner's book: Img9.doubanio.com/view/subject/l/public/s10205710.jpg, accessed October 14, 2020.

Share this Report:

HELP BRIDGE THE LANGUAGE GAP – DONATE TO MEMRI’S 2020 SUMMER CAMPAIGN