Monday, 27 March 2023

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China’s German Shepherd diplomacy | Financial Times

China’s German Shepherd diplomacy | Financial Times

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Wolf Warrior 2, sequel to Wolf Warrior, was China’s highest ever grossing movie soon after its 2017 release. These lurid blockbusters coincided with the new and more ebullient phase of Chinese diplomacy. Wolf warrior diplomacy became its natural moniker.

I thought of those films this week after China brokered a rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Iran, a deal that Washington’s foreign policy community rightly bemoaned would have been beyond America’s reach. In his statement on the deal, which took almost everyone by surprise — including, apparently, Israel’s Mossad — Jake Sullivan, America’s national security adviser, acknowledged that point while also welcoming any steps to reduce instability in the Middle East. Though Sullivan was speaking the truth, I have to commend him for doing so in these hyperventilating times.

Contrary to the cartoonishly hawkish consensus expressed by the House select committee on China, Beijing is not seeking America’s “submission”. Nor is it China’s declared goal to snuff out America’s “fundamental freedoms”. These are overhyped conclusions drawn from a selective ransacking of Xi Jinping’s statements — and most recently those by Qin Gang, China’s wolf warrior-ish new foreign minister.

To be sure, China wants to make the world safe for autocrats, which chiefly means China. It is also in a deadly serious great power competition with the US. The challenge posed by China demands the highest-level strategic thinking from America. But China has no universalist “autocracy versus democracy” framing to match America’s. No doubt, it makes life simpler to invert our worldview into China’s. But it would be a disservice to America’s ability to operate effectively in the world to project ourselves on to them. For an all-too-rare evaluation of our tendency to reach first for the most Manichean conclusions, and how they threaten to become self-fulfilling, I commend this excellent piece in the National Interest by Paul Heer.

Which brings me back to the Saudi-Iran deal. I have been struggling to come up with a downside. The context is that Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, requested Xi Jinping to broker it during the Chinese leader’s state visit to the kingdom late last year. He did not ask Joe Biden to be the mediator…

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