China’s foreign ministry defends ‘fighting spirit’ of its diplomats

China's Vice-Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu added that the country has “fought forcefully against egregious acts”. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING - China’s foreign ministry on Thursday offered a full-throated defence of its more assertive brand of foreign policy under President Xi Jinping, arguing that its diplomats have safeguarded the country’s core interests and national dignity with their fighting spirit.

Doubling down on this approach, Vice-Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu said Chinese diplomats would continue to “harness this fighting spirit”, as the country still faces mounting external pressure from countries such as the United States.

“Daring to fight and being good at fighting are the fine traditions and distinctive features of China’s diplomacy,” he said at a press briefing held on the sidelines of the Communist Party of China’s week-long 20th Congress in Beijing.

“We are not intimidated by hegemonic practices, and will always stand up for justice against all forms of hegemonism and power politics. We have an unwavering determination and a rock-firm will to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity, and safeguard the fundamental interests of the Chinese nation,” he said in an obvious swipe at the US.

Mr Ma added that China has “fought forcefully against egregious acts”, citing US Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan in August as an example.

Under President Xi, Chinese diplomats have become more confrontational, pushing back forcefully against what they see as criticism levelled at China, leading observers to refer to them as “wolf warriors” – in reference to two nationalistic action movies.

This forceful approach has also seen China militarise the South China Sea in its territorial dispute with some Asean states, and step up pressure on Taiwan, with which it seeks to reunify one day.

After Mrs Pelosi’s visit, the mainland conducted military drills around the island to show it had the capability to blockade Taiwan.

Mr Ma’s latest comments are a further indication that this more assertive China is here to stay.

But foreign policy experts say that Chinese diplomacy under Mr Xi has caused China to become increasingly isolated.

Its relations with the US are at the lowest point in decades, and its close relationship with Russia has caused countries to view China’s actions with suspicion.

Beijing has argued that under Mr Xi, China’s international appeal, influence and power to shape the world has grown, but surveys have shown that negative views of the country in many Western nations are on the rise.

Mr Xi, who is set to receive a landmark third term in power at the end of the party congress, warned of the external challenges that China was facing, saying at the start of the congress on Sunday that “external attempts to suppress and contain China may escalate at any time”.

On Thursday, while he did not explicitly refer to the US, Mr Ma criticised efforts by the West to form alliances to confront China, saying that such bullying acts “represent the biggest threat to world order”.

“A divided world does not serve the interests of anyone, and bloc-based confrontation will only push the world to a dead end,” he said.

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