China defended its assertive foreign policy approach on Thursday as its diplomats are embroiled a scandal that saw a Hong Kong protester assaulted after being dragged into its consulate in Manchester.
Police are investigating the incident on Sunday, which has led to calls for the diplomat involved to be expelled from the country.
However, there was little sign of any easing of the policy imposed under President Xi Jinping, which urges its diplomats to “dare to fight” despite many claims that this ‘Wolf Warrior’ stance has backfired on the global stage.
“To dare to fight is the spiritual character of Chinese diplomacy,” China’s vice foreign minister, Ma Zhaoxu, told a news conference in Beijing on Thursday on the sidelines of the ruling Communist Party’s twice-a-decade congress.
“Chinese diplomacy will continue to display fighting spirit, improve our ability to fight, always stand ready at the frontline to protect our national interest and dignity,” he added.
UK Seeks an Explanation
Britain on Tuesday summoned China’s charge d’affaires in London to explain what had happened at the consulate on Sunday, with British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly saying the protest, which involved 30 to 40 people including Hong Kong citizens now resident in Britain, had been peaceful and legal.
China has disputed this and other critical accounts of its diplomats’ actions during events which took place at a demonstration on Sunday against Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Xi is widely expected to secure a precedent-breaking third leadership term at the 20th party congress, which ends this weekend.
China’s consul general in Manchester, Zheng Xiyuan, who has been accused of involvement in the incident, defended his actions, saying the man had been “abusing my country, my leader.”
“It is my duty,” Zheng told Sky News on Wednesday. “I think any diplomats, if faced with such kind of behaviour we should maintain our dignity.”
As relations with the West have soured over issues from human rights to Covid-19, Chinese diplomats have, under Xi, become more assertive on the public stage.
Negative Response, Survey Finds
Some critics see such stridency as intended for a domestic audience that nonetheless hurts its foreign ties, such as when France’s foreign ministry summoned Chinese ambassador Lu Shaye over repeated insults and threats aimed at French lawmakers and a researcher in March 2021.
A global survey released last month by the Washington-based Pew Research Center found public opinion towards China in the United States and other advanced economies had turned “precipitously more negative” under Xi.
The combative Wolf Warrior diplomatic style was nicknamed after a popular patriotic Chinese movie franchise.
- Reuters with additional editing by Jim Pollard