"Never let a crisis go wasted," so goes the adage in politics. Rather than joining America and its allies in sanctioning Russia for invading Ukraine, China is using "wolf diplomacy" to advance its international agenda. For instance, last month, a Global Times editorial blamed the U.S.-led sanctions against Russia for rising food and energy prices, which have helped push Sri Lanka’s economy off the cliff.

This month another Global Times editorial accused Washington of "dragging South Pacific into the geopolitical game" by planning to expand military bases in the Solomon Islands — that's something China has already been doing by signing a security agreement with the island nation.

Meanwhile, there's China's wolf diplomacy in the South China Sea, where Beijing has been trying to intimidate its neighbors with some success (e.g., the Philippines).

And there's China's wolf diplomacy in Taiwan Strait, where Beijing tells everyone to stay away from Taiwan, which it considers an integral part of the motherland.

While helping advance its international agenda, "wolf diplomacy" serves Beijing's domestic agenda to reconcile power, too.

"The Chinese Communist Party's "wolf warrior" diplomacy — threatening to impose sanctions in a combative way against the United States, Europe, Japan and others that object to its systems and policies — represents Chinese President Xi Jinping's aim to strengthen a cohesive force within his country," writes Hidemi Shiroyama, professor at Hokkaido University Research Faculty of Media and Communication, in a recent Japan Times editorial.

Wolf warrior diplomacy is the new assertive brand of Chinese diplomacy," according to Peter Martin, author of China's Civilian Army: The Making of Wolf Warrior Diplomacy (2021). "In the past, Chinese diplomats tended to keep a lower profile and to be quite cautious and moderate in the way that they interacted with the outside world," says Martin in an interview with the National Bureau of Asian Research (NBR) last October. "Recently, however, they have become far more strident and assertive — exhibiting behavior that ranges from storming out of an international meeting to shouting at foreign counterparts and even insulting foreign leaders."

More assertive diplomacy is a crucial factor in fostering Beijing's nationalism, according to Professor Shiroyama. "The more assertive style taken by the party is stimulating nationalism in China, which has emerged from the "century of humiliation" — losing both its territory and sovereignty to the West and Japan in the 19th and early 20th centuries — into one of the great powers of today," he adds.

Martin traces the rise of China's warrior diplomacy to 2008–9 and it accelerated after Xi Jinping came to office in 2012–13. "After the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Chinese diplomats felt under attack but also proud of the way that their country has handled the crisis," he says. "The new mixture of confidence and increasing insecurity combined to create what we now call wolf warrior diplomacy."

Will Chinese diplomats continue to feel proud after the recent lockdowns in major Chinese cities? It remains to be seen.

Beijing's 'wolf warrior' diplomacy has sparked spats with several countries Beijing's 'wolf warrior' diplomacy has sparked spats with several countries Photo: AFP / Anthony WALLACE