Part of Beijing’s image problem comes from the Covid-19 pandemic, and allegations the government covered up the original outbreak in Wuhan in December 2019, potentially worsening the global spread of the virus.
But opinions of China were worsening even before the pandemic — and part of that is down to the country’s embrace of “wolf warrior” diplomacy.
Named after a series of nationalistic Chinese action films, this jingoistic foreign policy first began to take shape in 2019 when top diplomats began aggressively calling out alleged slights against China in press conferences or on social media.
In July 2019, Zhao Lijian, then a counselor at the Chinese embassy in Pakistan, began to condemn what he saw as the United States’ hypocrisy over human rights, pointing out Washington’s own problems with racism, income inequality and gun violence.
After top Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi told his US counterparts in March that Washington “does not have the qualification to speak to China,” his catchphrase was quickly printed on T-shirts sold in Beijing and other cities.
Xi might want China to extend the hand of friendship to the world, but with the wolf warriors of the Foreign Ministry howling at his back, many countries might be reticent to take the chance.
- A huge cleanup operation was underway for a sixth day in Sri Lanka after a container ship laden with chemicals caught fire 12 days ago, unleashing one of the worst ecological disasters in the country’s history.
- Vietnam’s health ministry has detected a suspected new coronavirus variant which appears to be a hybrid of two highly transmissible strains.
- Belgium is recalling its ambassador to South Korea following an incident in which his wife was recorded striking a woman in Seoul.
- Malaysia’s air force scrambled fighter jets on Monday after 16 Chinese military aircraft flew into its Exclusive Economic Zone.
The business of China: Why a strong yuan is risky
China’s yuan is the strongest it’s been in three years.
The yuan was last trading 6.382 per US dollar. That’s the strongest level since May 2018, a boost attributable in part to the country’s economic recovery and a weaker US dollar.
Chaoping Zhu, global market strategist at JP Morgan Asset Management, said in a Wednesday research note that the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) has been more tolerant of movement in the value of the yuan over the last year — it’s risen some 10%. He added that the market expects the central bank — which allows the currency to trade every day within a narrow “band” — can withstand a stronger yuan as a way to counter the costs of commodities, like steel and other building materials, which are necessary for China’s ambitious infrastructure plans.
But the appreciation of the yuan poses a dilemma for Beijing, and may now serve as a lesson in how China tries to control everything in its economy from moving too quickly.
A stronger currency makes exports less competitive, and hurts domestic producers that send goods overseas. A yuan that rises in value too fast could also threaten financial stability, since it creates the risk that too much speculative money could flow into the country — fueling local asset bubbles or causing inflation.
Wary of the rapid appreciation, authorities have already been advising caution, saying
that the yuan shouldn’t be used as a tool to control the cost of imports. Liu Guoqiang, vice governor of the PBOC, said last week that the central bank wants to keep the yuan “basically stable.” And on Monday, the PBOC said it would raise the reserve requirement ratio for foreign exchange deposits by 2 percentage points to 7%, the first hike in 14 years. The increase will force banks to deposit more foreign exchange assets, putting downward pressure on the yuan.
It’s a small move in the grand scheme of things, but it still sent out a strong signal to the market that policymakers just aren’t comfortable with how fast the yuan is rising in value.
It could also mean that more measures may come along to slow its pace.
— By Laura He
Chinese blogger jailed for ‘defaming martyrs’
In China, disputing the official narrative can come with a heavy price.
A court in the eastern city of Nanjing ruled that Qiu had “slandered” China’s border troops and “infringed the reputation and honor of heroes and martyrs” in two posts on social media site Weibo, on which Qiu had 2.5 million fans.
Commenting on Weibo, Qiu suggested that the PLA’s actual death toll might be higher than the official count, and that a commander survived because he was the highest-ranking officer at the scene.
Hours later, Qiu was detained, and his Weibo account was shut down. At least five other people were also detained for “defaming” the dead Chinese soldiers.
On Monday, the court also ordered Qiu to apologize publicly within 10 days through major domestic portals and state media. He had already made a televised confession on state broadcaster CCTV in March. “I feel extremely ashamed of myself, and I’m very sorry,” he said then.
Quoted and noted
“The first batch of vaccines to be supplied to Covax rolled off the production line today, showing China’s commitment to offering vaccines as global public products.” — Chinese ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin announced on Tuesday, hours before the World Health Organization (WHO) approved China’s Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use. So far, two Chinese-made Covid vaccines have been endorsed by the WHO, which allows them to be distributed by COVAX, a WHO-backed initiative to ensure equitable global access of coronavirus vaccines.
Photo of the day
More kids welcomed: Children across China celebrated International Children’s Day on Tuesday, a day after the Chinese government announced that it would allow all married couples to have three children to slow the nation’s declining birthrate.