The gloves—or masks—are off in Asia. China’s coronavirus mask diplomacy has given way to bare-knuckled geopolitical fistfights with a growing array of its neighbors. In the past few months alone, it clashed with India in one of the worst border flare-ups in decades, escalated standoffs with Vietnam and Malaysia in the South China Sea, pressured Taiwan with nighttime drills in the Taiwan Strait, and threatened Australia with boycotts of wine, beef, barley, and Chinese students. Meanwhile, China’s “wolf warrior” diplomats—a moniker taken from a particularly nationalistic Rambo-esque movie—are engaging in a vigorous cybercampaign to defend Communist Party interests and offer thinly veiled threats if countries stray from the “correct stance” on important issues.
JUNE 18, 2020, 11:09 AM
Julian Gewirtz is currently an Academy Scholar at Harvard University's Weatherhead Center for International Affairs. He is the author of Unlikely Partners: Chinese Reformers, Western Economists, and the Making of Global China (Harvard University Press, 2017) and a new book on the tumult, legacies, and historical manipulation of China's 1980s (Harvard University Press, 2021). He received his doctorate in modern Chinese history in 2018 from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. He has been a Lecturer in History at Harvard, a Fellow in History and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, and a Special Advisor at the U.S. Department of Energy. His research is published in the Journal of Asian Studies, Past & Present, and Foreign Affairs. He has also written on Asia for publications including The Guardian, Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, Politico, Caijing, Caixin, and Harper’s. (Twitter: @JulianGewirtz)