Hi, China Watchers! Your guest host this week is Shirley Martey Hargis. You’re familiar with Shirley’s work since she’s a regular contributor to China Watcher. She’s also senior adviser on China to the Oxford Diplomatic Society at the University of Oxford, and is spearheading CRDF Global’s counter China technology transfer and emerging technologies programs as a senior project lead. Over to you, Shirley. — John Yearwood, global news editor
Chinese leader Xi Jinping left seasoned observers stunned this week after comments that appeared to signal a dramatic softening of the harsh rhetoric from Beijing in recent years when referring to the United States, Europe and other nations.
In his speech to the Politburo study session, Xi instructed the country’s leaders to focus on a “trustworthy, lovable and respectable” image for China. And Xinhua, China’s state-media outlet, even suggested that the country adopt a “humble” approach in relations with the outside world.
The reaction was swift among China watchers, particularly among those who flooded social media. Some wondered whether it was the end of China’s sharp-edged Wolf Warrior diplomacy. Others were hopeful that it could lead to real change, such as allowing foreign educators back into the country to do research.
“No more wolf worrier [sic] diplomacy as per President Xi at the 30th collective study session of the politburo?” Henry Gao, a law professor in Singapore, wrote on Twitter. Gao’s tweet quoted Xi as saying: “We should make friends, unite and win the majority, and continuously expand the circle of international public opinion friends who know China and are friendly to China.”
That prompted an optimistic response from Victor Shih, a Chinese politics and finance professor at the University of California San Diego. “Potentially important indeed, hopefully this means we can start to do research in China again.”