A more “cute” China? Xi Jinping hinted at launching a charm offensive to “expand” Beijing’s “circle of friends”

China’s supreme leader Xi Jinping’s speech this week aroused the interest of Chinese observers, and the speech seemed to extend a huge and unexpected olive branch to the world.

But there is almost no consensus on how much observers should understand Xi Jinping’s words and what they might mean for Canada.

Some people say that this speech seems to mark a real change in the attitude of the leader most closely related to China’s highly aggressive attitude in international relations—after a series of super-nationalist Chinese action films, it is usually Called “Wolf Diplomacy”.

“We must make friends, unite the broad masses, and continuously expand the circle of friends of international public opinion,” Xi Jinping told Communist Party officials in a speech reported by China’s Xinhua News Agency and other Chinese media.

Xi Jinping seems to have rarely acknowledged China’s current international isolation. He said that Chinese diplomats should show the world “a credible, lovely and respectable China.”

The man who has rewarded and promoted the most radical diplomats and spokespersons in speech and social media since 2012 now says that he wants them to speak to the world in a tone of “openness and confidence, but also modesty and humility” Speak.

Canada has been on the receiving end of some of these Non-diplomatic behavior By Chinese diplomats.

‘This is a recalibration’

Gordon Holden, director of the China Institute at the University of Alberta, said that the full text of Xi Jinping’s speech does not appear to be widely shared.

“But I have seen some very disappointing interpretations, and I think this is the best result we can get,” he said.

“It played a role in the party structure. These words come from [Xi’s] Mouth during learning. This is obviously recognized by him and the Politburo Standing Committee.

“This is a kind of recalibration. Whether we accept it or not, the party is a thinking machine that can be recalibrated.”

In terms of disease and death, China may have escaped the worst of the pandemic. But the country’s public image around the world—which had deteriorated before the COVID-19 attack—has absolutely taken a hit.

During a protest in Istanbul on Thursday, March 25, 2021, a protester in a Uighur community living in Turkey held up an anti-Chinese placard. Hundreds of Uyghurs held protests in Istanbul and the capital Ankara, demanding that the Turkish government take a tougher stance on human rights violations in the Xinjiang region of western China. (Emra Gurrel/Associated Press)

From North America to Europe, from India to East Asia and Australasia, anger and suspicion about the origin of the pandemic combined with anger about the actions and speeches of the Chinese government, resulting in Historic decline In the public’s recognition of the system.

The image of China has also been hit in Canada. Poll released in March According to reports, most Canadians and 49% of Liberal Party voters want Canada to boycott the Beijing Olympics.


There are signs that Beijing’s diplomatic approach may be undergoing a real and thoughtful shift.

Yesterday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Weibin said that Xi Jinping’s speech “conforms to the needs of China’s peaceful development and reform and opening up”.

Although Xi Jinping has led the reform movement to fight corruption, there are few signs that he is willing to “open up” his government.

“It is reported that he received a briefing from a professor at Shanghai Fudan University”-Zhang Weiwei-“implying that the propaganda work has not been effectively completed, and that this very aggressive wolf warrior method has not achieved China’s goals,” the predecessor said. Canadian diplomat Charles Burton (I graduated from Fudan University).

Zhang Weiwei is a figure closely related to the former leader Deng Xiaoping. He did open up the country and eliminated some of the tougher aspects of China in the Mao Zedong era.

‘Head will roll’

“I think this may indicate that there will be some changes in the public image that China promotes, but in the end, the government will not change its policies,” Burton said.

“I don’t think this will have any impact on Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor. I think the Chinese will still pressure Australia to withdraw its request for China to carefully check the origin of COVID-19. But I think we may be targeting A more conciliatory language is seen in public statements abroad.”

On March 22, 2021, Chargé d’Affaires of the Canadian Embassy, ??Jim Nichol (right) and the Acting Deputy Head of the U.S. Embassy, ??William Klein (second from right), were denied access to a private interview with Canadian Michael Cumming Kai After the trial, spoke to the media and supporting diplomats in Beijing. (Kevin Frere/Getty Images)

Burton said the new tone may have a more direct impact on the young nationalist officials favored by the Xi regime.

“They don’t seem to know how to communicate with us in a way that makes us feel better about that regime,” he said. “So, you know, this shows that certain members of the Chinese Communist Party who are responsible for external propaganda may be hot-headed.”

Partisan practice

China, which was ruled by the committee in the past, has been more like a performance by a person since Xi Jinping came to power in 2012. He worked hard to create a Mao Zedong-style cult of personality around him, and he was unwilling to admit his mistakes-this is another reason why this speech is so compelling.

“When you have a one-party state, it is easy to assume that Xi Jinping is always giving orders,” Holden said.

Instead, he said, “Factions within the party become parties and act as parties. There are other voices. They are often suppressed by Xi Jinping’s control of the party’s structure, broadcasting infrastructure, and media.”

Holden said that Xi Jinping’s role in the party is “dominant but not omnipotent”, adding that Xi Jinping knows that he cannot always ignore other points of view.

But if Xi Jinping is persuaded to ease his tone, does that mean that he will also change the essence?

Cumming Kai and Spavor

The Chinese Embassy in Ottawa did not answer questions about what the speech means to the relationship with Canada or to the relationship between the two Canadians still detained in China.

Burton said that as long as Meng Wanzhou, a Chinese technology executive, is still detained in Canada awaiting possible extradition to the United States, he believes that China will not consider the release of Cumming Kay or Michael Spavor.

“The fact is that Canada has not taken any form of retaliatory measures against China regarding the hostage diplomacy of Cumming Kai and Spavor, or China’s earlier non-tariff barriers on our agricultural exports to China,” he said. .

“So I think from their perspective, holding Kovrig and Spavor is effective.”

Houlden saw a similar deadlock.

“I have already met with the foreign policy agencies in the International Department of the Communist Party of China. I agree with them that the Canada-China relationship cannot be substantially improved until the dual issues of Meng Wanzhou and the two Michaels are resolved. ,” he Say.

“China has always believed that Meng Wanzhou is a prerequisite for improvement, and I think Canada has adopted a similar approach to these two Michaels.”

When Angus Reid was surveyed in October last year, 77% of Canadians agreed that “unless Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig are detained from China Release, otherwise the two countries will not be able to establish a good relationship.” Only one in ten people disagrees with this statement.

Speak softly but keep the stick

This week, on the same day Xi Jinping delivered his “cute” speech, 16 Chinese military aircraft invaded Sarawak’s airspace over Malaysia, suggesting that this change may be mainly decorative.

In response, the Malaysian jet took off in an emergency.

“China and Malaysia are friendly neighbors,” the Chinese Embassy in Kuala Lumpur said in response to criticism. Obviously, the Chinese government’s definition of friendship does not conform to the opinions of Malaysians. They summoned the Chinese ambassador to protest another attempt by China to control the South China Sea.

Canadian ships have conducted multiple freedom of navigation patrols in the area to counter China’s infringements. HMCS Calgary recent Obscured by Chinese warships When it passed near the sensitive Nansha Islands.

China’s increasingly tough attitude will certainly become the main topic of discussion at the G7 summit in the UK this month. The three non-members in dispute with China-India, Australia and South Korea-have been invited to the summit. The Biden administration in the United States has always been open to trying to form a coalition of nations willing to fight back against China.

All of this may help explain the lovely remarks that suddenly came out of Beijing.

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