Some Chinese diplomats adopt a strategic ethos known as "wolf warrior." The idea behind the ethos is to robustly and relentlessly refute criticisms of the Chinese Communist Party and its top officials.
Based on their tweets over the past few days, however, one must ask whether the wolf warriors have been infected by rabies. This is an ailment I've previously pondered might be afflicting Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian. So his latest social media adventures seem like the best place to start.
Zhao has spent the past few days doubling down on his posting of a falsified graphic of an Australian soldier beheading an Afghan toddler. This slander was so outrageous that it sparked international fury, even from states such as New Zealand that tend to give Beijing a pass. Still, the posting does reflect Beijing's rage over Australia's refusal to kneel to its intimidation tactics. More specifically, China is deeply upset that Prime Minister Scott Morrison has overturned more than a decade of Australian appeasement towards Beijing. Instead, Australia is now standing with the United States in defense of the liberal international order. In response, China is waging an escalating trade war against Canberra. Zhao's tweets are just part of this political confrontation.
Continuing China's ride on the Twitter crazy train, albeit in a more amusing manner, was Zhao's colleague, Hua Chunying. Hua pledged on Thursday that "China will deeply engage in global #IPgovernance and make the global [intellectual property] governance system more just and equitable."
To be clear, trusting China to strengthen intellectual property protections is tantamount to assigning saltwater crocodiles as swimming pool lifeguards. What China really wants here is twofold. First, to give itself and its foreign enablers a pretense of cover to oppose harsher action against Beijing's vast campaign of intellectual property theft. China wants to be able to say, "Look, we can't be doing the theft because we're so invested in global governance against that theft!" This might seem transparently disingenuous, but it's basically the same approach China adopts toward carbon emissions and climate change agreements. And that strategy works wonders for Beijing. China's second interest is in advancing a global governance structure that views certain intellectual property developments as public goods due less protection. Xi Jinping has hinted at this agenda by demanding that American companies freely share more of what they have invested in and taken risks to develop.
Finally, there's the appearance of a top editor from Beijing's propaganda newspaper, China Daily. Chen Weihua spent his Thursday taking to Twitter to call Sen. Marsha Blackburn a "bitch." Apparently concerned, however, that this wasn't sufficiently descriptive of his feelings toward the GOP senator, Chen added 20 minutes later that Blackburn "is the most racist and ignorant U.S. Senator I have seen. A lifetime bitch."
Interestingly, Chen's Twitter bio lists him as a Knight Fellow at Stanford University. Stanford's website says the stipend providing Knight fellowship "supports diverse journalists from around the world who are creating solutions to journalism’s most urgent problems... We focus on helping these journalism leaders succeed as effective change agents, improving the access to information people need to create and sustain democratic communities." Quite how a Chinese Communist Party provocateur and agent of influence such as Chen was ever judged in conformity with this criteria is unclear. Regardless, Stanford did not respond to my email.
Unfortunately, rabies has no cure.