China’s “wolf warriors” may have to start behaving. Xi Jinping recently delivered a speech to senior Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials, calling on them to create an image of a “credible, lovable and respectable China,” according to a report by state-run media Xinhua.
Xi told the officials to get a “grip on their diplomatic tone, be modest, humble, and more friendly to other nations.”
“It is necessary to make friends, unite and win over the majority, and constantly expand the circle of friends [when it comes to] international public opinion,” Xi said.
A few days ago, three U.S. Senators visited Taiwan and arrived in Taipei on a U.S. military aircraft, rather than a private jet. China’s defense ministry denounced the visit and the use of the military aircraft, and demanded that the United States handle the Taiwan issue cautiously. Compared with remarks made by CCP officials amid recent conflicts with the United States, this tone is much softer.
Now that the United States is truly mobilizing to combat the CCP’s growing influence, the pressure may be too much for the CCP to handle. There are a number of reasons that could explain why Xi is directing the CCP to tone down its aggressive approach in dealing with other nations. Let’s take a look at it from a geopolitical perspective.
Which Side Is Russia On?
Russia is a key factor within the CCP’s strategy to grow and maintain its global power geopolitically. The United States and China are aware of Russia’s power as the third player amid rising tensions between Washington and Beijing.
U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin are scheduled to meet at a hotel in Geneva on June 16, a meeting that makes the CCP very nervous. The CCP’s relationship with Russia is a key factor in the Chinese regime’s ability to maintain pressure against the United States.
The president of Xinhua News Agency asked Putin to address China-Russia relations at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum on June 4. Putin responded that the relationship between the two nations is very good, hailing the recent $270 billion supply contract between Russian oil giant Rosneft and Chinese state firm CNPC, set to last for the next 25 years. In his remarks, Putin called the oil agreement “absolutely unprecedented.”
CCP state media quickly took advantage of Putin’s praise of the oil deal and reported the Russian leader as saying that the bond between the two nations is “the best in the history of Sino-Russian relations.” In June, Xinhua ran numerous articles exalting the strength and unity of the friendly ties between China and Russia.
Many of China’s leading scholars on Sino-Russian relations recently released high profile statements glorifying the friendship between both countries.
“China and Russia need to work together to maintain regional stability,” said Sun Zhuangzhi, a Sino-Russia expert from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, in a Global Times article.
Xie Fuzhan, dean of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, also spoke on the issue at an international conference. “China and Russia, as responsible countries, adhere to the ideas of peaceful development and are determined to form a fair world order.”
Yet Russian leaders have shown restraint while publicly speaking about relations with China. Similar to Putin, Russian Foreign Minister Sergoy Lavrov’s tone on Sino-Russia relations does not outwardly confirm a close alliance with the CCP.
While Russian leaders have been emphasizing cooperation in economics and trade, and pandemic prevention, they refrain from discussing strategic relations and the impression of an established China and Russian alliance.
The fact is, China and Russia do indeed work together to advance their respective national interests.
After Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, the country was jointly sanctioned by the United States and Western countries. In response, Russia took the initiative to strengthen its alliance with China in order to present a threat to Western nations, easing the pressure of Western economic sanctions.
In early June 2019, China and Russia signed a joint statement on the comprehensive strategic partnership of cooperation between the two countries.
It’s a fact that Russia and China have a recent history of forming strategic alliances against Western nations. In that case, why has Russia refrained from openly announcing an alliance with China?
As the rivalry between China and United States grows, Russia stands to benefit from its position in the middle. A clear partnership with China would cut Russia off from U.S. benefits. A clear partnership with the United States would cut Russia off from Chinese benefits.
The Russian government has a history of acting ruthlessly to get what it wants, and the CCP knows it. During World War II, the Soviet Union and Poland created an alliance treaty. When Germany attacked Poland, the Soviet Union sent troops and the Poles believed the Soviets would come to their aid. Instead, the Soviets seized the opportunity to occupy half of Poland. Many Poles surrendered to Soviet Russia to avoid being captured by Nazi Germany.
During World War II, the Soviet Union was also worried about a Japanese attack, so it deployed a large number of troops in the Far East. In order to deter Japan, the Soviet Union provided large amounts of aid to the Republic of China, supporting Chiang Kai-shek’s resistance to Japan.
However, in 1941, the Soviet Union signed a peace treaty with Japan, permitting Japan’s occupation of the three eastern provinces in China. The Soviet Union immediately ceased all support to pre-Communist China, an act that enraged Chiang Kai-shek.
At the helm of Putin, Russia knows that a vague stance between China and the United States is in its own best interest—a development that has evoked the CCP’s anxiety about its geopolitical security.
South Korea’s Shifting Loyalty
South Korean President, Moon Jae-in, recently met with President Biden. Following their meeting, the United States and South Korea released a joint statement addressing key points regarding China’s geopolitical interests.
In the statement, Moon surprised many by agreeing that South Korea would work with the United States on “peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.”
After Moon came to power in 2017, South Korea’s foreign policy shifted to balance a relationship between both China and the United States, relying on the United States for military protection and China for economic development.
Under Moon, the relationship between South Korea and Japan soured immensely. Three-way military cooperation between the United States, Japan, and South Korea effectively ceased.
The relationship between the United States and South Korea also greatly cooled. Moon opted into the CCP’s “Three No’s” policy: no participation in the U.S. missile defense system; no additional deployment of the “THAAD” system; and no joining the ROK-U.S.-Japan military alliance. Through its diplomacy with South Korea, the CCP effectively broke down the U.S.-East Asian security triangle.
South Korea’s importance is in its role within the U.S.-Japan-Korea Iron Triangle in the U.S. West Pacific strategy.
In order to effectively contain China and respond to the North Korean nuclear issue, Washington is prioritizing to re-establish cooperation among South Korea, Japan, and the United States.
After Biden and Moon met at the end of May, the White House released a statement reaffirming trilateral security cooperation among South Korea, Japan, and the United States.
Why did South Korea seek U.S. reconciliation and accept the trilateral negotiation? The main reason is that the United States is redrawing its economic map, dividing the global supply chain into low- and high-end industries.
The United States is determined to decouple the supply chain of high-end technology from China, and this is reflected in the recently passed Innovation and Competition Act. The complete decoupling of advanced technology is tantamount to the reorganization of the global high-tech supply chain.
The new plans for an updated American supply chain have included Europe, India, Japan, and Taiwan. Notably, the plans leave out South Korea due to its growing relationship with China.
Without access to the U.S. technology supply chain, the South Korean economy would suffer.
Before the 1960s, South Korea’s economy revolved around agriculture and farming. South Korea’s pivot to technology exports and manufacturing fueled its astronomical economic growth from the 1960s to 1980s, establishing it as a top global economy. In the 1980s, it overtook other promising world economies such as Brazil, Latin America’s strongest economy. Brazil’s growth was propelled by exporting technology to the U.S. market.
South Korea now serves as a model for export-driven nations with technology as its biggest export, specifically, electrical machinery. In 2019, the country exported $85.2 billion in integrated circuits.
The United States and Japan remain two of its key export partners, right after China. If South Korea is excluded from technology trading developments with the United States and its allies, it stands to lose its position as a leading technology exporter. South Korea’s future economic growth would certainly suffer immensely. This is why Moon visited Biden in the United States.
Soon after the meeting, Moon and Biden released a joint statement declaring shared cooperation on issues such as protecting the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea, maintaining the THAAD system, and ending the South Korea Ballistic Missile Range Guidelines signed in 1979, which would lift the 497-mile limit on the range of South Korean missiles. This is why South Korea is willing to conduct tripartite security negotiations with the United States and Japan.
One of the CCP’s greatest diplomatic achievements was to successfully remove South Korea’s participation in the U.S.-Japan-Korea Iron Triangle. But with these recent developments, this key achievement is lost.
In the past few years, China has strained its diplomatic relations with India, Australia, Canada, Britain, and the European Union. Only Russia remains, yet China cannot guarantee confidence from Putin. South Korea has now also announced cooperation with the United States. This is the geopolitical context for Beijing to change its foreign policy approach.
It may already be too late for the “wolf warriors” to backtrack now.
Alexander Liao is a columnist and journalist in research on international affairs in the United States, China, and Southeast Asia. He has published a large number of reports, commentaries, and video programs in newspapers and Chinese financial magazines in the United States and Hong Kong.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.