A provocative thesis

For casual observers of China, such as myself, the CPC’s ham-fisted attempts at diplomacy have been a longtime source of hilarity. Here’s a post from May of last year expressing my amazement at a statement by the Chinese ambassador to Canada, in which he accused the country of being infested with “demons” because it shot down a Chinese M&A deal.

But since the onset of the global COVID fake emergency, China has embarked on a spree of egregious diplomatic self-destruction that makes its previous missteps look like minor faux pas. I admit I find this puzzling. Are Chinese leaders really that dumb, or are they doing this on purpose? Geopolitical thinker Peter Zeihan takes a stab at explaining China’s seemingly nonsensical behavior:

The propaganda out of China of late has been…notable. Beijing has accused the French of using their nursing homes as death camps, has blamed Italy for being the source of the coronavirus (at the very peak of Italian deaths), has charged the US Army with bringing the virus to China in the first place, has thrown a “fact sheet” of truly disbelievable disinformation at the fact-oriented Germans, and turned the country’s ambassadorial core into cut-rate tabloid distributors – all while leaning on anyone and everyone from the United Nations to the World Health Organization to the European Union to regional legislative bodies to alternatively suppress and delete any information or analysis that does anything but laud China, as well as push them to take public stances that slobberingly praise China.

In doing so the Chinese have seemingly deliberately wrecked their relations with the Americans, French, Italians, Germans, Czechs, South Africans, Kazakhs and Nigerians, just to name a few. (The Swedes had all but ended their diplomatic relationship with China – having come to the public conclusion that the Chinese government was a pack of genocidal, power-mad, information-suppressing, exploitive, ultranationalists – before COVID.) […]

The explanation is unfortunately very simple: the Chinese leadership is well aware that soft power isn’t what is going to solve the problem they see. There’s some guidance as to the CCP’s thinking in how the propaganda effort is being explained within China, and it doesn’t bode well for the future.

Semi-officially, the CCP called the April (official) effort Wolf Warrior diplomacy, in reference to a recent (and wildly popular) Chinese movie series about ethically pure Chinese soldiers who purge the world of evil American mercenaries. The closest equivalent I can think of would be like calling an American propaganda effort Starship Troopers diplomacy. (Yeah, it is as stupid as it sounds.)

The (more disperse) May effort, in contrast, is being referred to as a Yihetuan Movement mindset. It is a reference to a particularly chaotic period at the turn of the 19th to the 20th centuries when a particularly violent strain of ultranationalism erupted in response to foreign actions within China. Most non-Chinese readers probably don’t recognize the Yihetuan Movement reference, but they probably do recall how it was labelled in the West: the Boxer Rebellion. More on that in a minute.

This new propaganda program isn’t about Xi attempting to convince the wider world of China’s greatness or rightness. This isn’t about the United States or Europe or Africa, and certainly not about global domination. Instead it is about intentionally saying things so far beyond the pale that there’s a global anti-Chinese backlash. The backlash itself isn’t the goal, but instead a means to an end. Xi is attempting to use a global anti-Chinese backlash to enflame anti-foreigner nationalist activity within China. Put simply, Xi is trying to get the world pissed off at China so that China becomes pissed off at the world.

Xi feel he needs to hyperstimulate and mobilize a large enough proportion of the population so that they can assist the state security services in containing, demoralizing, cowing – and if necessary, beating, killing and disappearing – those who do not buy in.

And from the next installation in the series:

The short version is that China’s spasming belligerency is a sign not of confidence and strength, but instead insecurity and weakness. It is an exceedingly appropriate response to the pickle the Chinese find themselves in.

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