Double-breasted wolves

(To Gino Lanzara)

Confirming an evergreen political line, Qin Gang, Beijing's new foreign minister, during his last appearance, made an assumption by Kofi Annan his own who, with unmistakable aplomb, asserted that with diplomacy you can do a lot, but with diplomacy backed by force you can do a lot more; a stance that followed what President Xi recently said at the National People's Congress on the matter to the action of containment, encirclement and repression that the countries Westerners led by the USA, according to him put in place against the Dragon, putting a strain on the country's development. So long as la diplomacy presupposes the ability to complain while stepping on another's foot1, it is appropriate to quickly retrace what has happened in recent times, as an expression of a story that seems to have wanted to recover in a dangerous way butterfly wing beat all that remained apparently static during the never too much regretted Cold War.

It is well known that in international relations no one can ever claim to be innocent; that realism leads to unthinkable revisions, indisputable: after the events of 1969 the Sino-Russian rapprochement, amicably infinite, it can rightfully enter political laboratory casuistries2, just as the creation for social use of is completely understandable encirclement syndromes. After the case of the balloon, the Chinese regime first denied any charges in relation to spying activities on American soil, only to then intensify, internally, a persistent anti-American cognitive narrative. That Yankee may not be universally welcome is in the order of things; that false information about an imminent war against China spreads a little less. Tolkien, going too far, would say epically that this is not the day.

The hunt for witch-balloons, capable of having an American state visit to China postponed indefinitely, during which not only Ukraine but also and above all Taiwan was discussed, it is part of a tactic that paints Washington as an adversary, igniting resentment fueled by fear.

We look at trade. There is no doubt that the competition between the two countries is very strong, and the competition itself also finds insights into the discussion of international technical standards, where China intends to increase participation in the working groups that determine the rules, and where the Americans they react disorganized, driven by the fear that Beijing could undermine the general system.

The widespread message is that technical standards, collective goods that oil the commercial wheels and contribute to the dissemination of information, are the basis of technological competition, and that China is taking international control of standardization, manipulating the standards themselves as elements of the conquest of the technological domain, useful to cover internal protectionism. If it is true that the Chinese government has matured proven experience both in participating in the activities of international organizations and in being able to participate in them by determining the decisions of the bodies in charge, it is however equally true that the current descendants of the Pilgrims, despite starting from advantageous positions, they have been able to do little to counter the rising tide, perhaps or by placing their own representatives in ad hoc commissions3 or by countering the BRI, which too many countries have opened its doors too easily. An even more sensible concern is that the acquisition of influence contributes to further increasing the power of the Party, a power which takes the form of revenues deriving from patents essential for the standards which thus become useful instruments of industrial policy, in anticipation of the hoped-for technological autarky .

On closer inspection, there are several reasons for contention and all, as already mentioned, are pushing to recover the crystallized time bubble from 45 to 89. It is no coincidence that Secretary of State Blinken threatened Beijing with retaliation and sanctions if he decided to support the Russian invasion, while the controversy Covid-19, which Beijing has flatly rejected, in the light of the statements of the director of the FBI, Christopher Wray, who considered very likely the hypothesis that the virus originated in a government laboratory.

The Chinese comment on the cancellation of the planned US state visit, consisted of highlighting that US perceptions and views on China are seriously distorted, and that it is clear that the USA they regard China as their main rival and greatest geopolitical challenge4. Not for nothing Qin Gang, reiterating that Taiwan is an internal affair, also recalled how Taipei represents the first red line in US-China relations that must not be crossed, something that Washington has duly done both with the overflight of the Taiwan Strait by a Boeing P-8 maritime patrol aircraft, and with the visit of Michael Chase, deputy secretary of defense, emulator of Nancy Pelosi. In this case, the identical substance of what was affirmed by the American elders both on the progress of the Iranian nuclear program and on the Chinese aims on Taiwan should be remembered: we will intervene.

Also noteworthy, for those of a somewhat not remarkable age, is the waving of the Chinese Constitution by the minister, one show the book which reminded so much of the not so distant collective exhibition of Mao's little red book5.

If for Qin the USA, with the alleged spy balloon, acted with a presumption of guilt, then it is no wonder that, from the Chinese perspective, …the policy of the United States and China has completely deviated from the rational and solid track, as there is must amazed that Qin Gang remarked on the restraint on the American side, as pars construens of the concept expressed by Xi.

Speaking of the Chinese economic difficulties, rather than looking for the causes in an ill-advised investment policy, especially in the real estate sector, the president intended to attribute them solely and exclusively to the aforementioned policy of containment and suppression conducted by the US and the West. The problem is that what is happening in China reverberates everywhere, and it is necessary to keep in mind that the pandemic has exacerbated underlying economic problems that are at least 10 years old, which depend on the economic model adopted. By increasing the share of income destined for savings, the share reserved for consumption is reduced, limiting the amount of GDP destined for households and increasing the amount that goes to businesses; household savings are therefore directed towards investments through the banking circuit.

If Xi has only now decided to identify the West tout court as responsible for the fatal distractions in Beijing, it seems clear that the Party, in order to deal with the internal situation, needs yet another foreign sorceress to be burned at the stake, a sorceress so powerful as to be able to evoke apocalyptic catastrophes. That diplomats must then be accustomed to climbing very smooth vitrified walls, was demonstrated by Qin himself when, speaking of Ukraine, he was pleased to qualify Sino-Russian relations as a model for the multipolar world, a world that, the more turbulent it is, the more it needs Moscow-Beijing relations to move forward.

Was it possible to expect anything different after the October convention? No, since there has been no alternation in the subjects entrusted with the management of power, only the decision of when give up that is, ailments and fate permitting in 2035, without taking into any consideration the rationale which, precisely in the alternation of top management, aimed at avoiding a dangerous accumulation of skills; a bit like those bad boys did, back in the day square city (ding! Find her!) with the figure of the double console.

Xi's rise has led to a new perspective of the international order, different from the Western liberal one, an order in which sovereignty e non-interference prevail over subjectivities, something that, at first glance, is completely difficult to assimilate by a Westerner 2.0, also because conceptually very far, in its post-colonial and Confucian meanings, from a rigid normative universe where the supine acceptance of authority that's all.

What to expect in the long run? Given that an empire, like a diamond, is forever, a reinforcement of the hegemonic concept in a Marxist guise, according to the paradigms similar to those identified for the UK, France, Turkey, Russia by Lorenzo Vita in his latest book, Infinite Empires, it is perfectly understandable; all accompanied by a necessary modernization, development, security aspects, a contained and dignified prosperity.

Black swans6 and gray rhinos? No, thanks: no surprises, we are Chinese.

From 1949 to today, five generations of party leaders have followed one another, each represented by a leader: In the Statute of the CCP there is a brief formulation which constitutes the quintessence of the thought distillation of each generation. In the case of Mao and Deng, the name of the leader is also indicated; since 2017, with the return to the personalization of power, the adoption of a formula was inaugurated which included the name of Xi with the same degree used for Mao, namely: the Xi's Thought of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era.

Could not miss the celestial bet on the war in Ukraine, with the presentation of a paper which smacks more of a political document than a peace plan, poor in details and full of anodyne ambiguities.

The 12 points of the Beijing plan, in calling for dialogue and respect for sovereignty without expanding military blocs (especially NATO), does not suggest what role China could play in facilitating peace negotiations. Moreover, the document arrived after one of the last trips to Russia by Wang Yi, Qin's predecessor, following the news of a possible pact between the two countries aimed at allowing the Russian supply of kamikaze drones7.

Among the most interesting parts is the eighth point, in which Beijing takes a stand against the development and use of chemical and biological weapons and against the atomic threat, in contrast with the unilateral Russian decision to denounce the START Treaty. China then admits its economic interest in reconstruction, and aims to curb the sanctions, an abuse of Western brand.

However, the plan does not give any details, it does not reveal any intention or negotiating basis, it does not show signs of wanting to withdraw from the non-recognition of the Crimean annexation, but it uses Russian rhetoric about the expansion of military blocs, supporting the idea of ​​a regime change Ukrainian with a simultaneous departure from the European Union.

The relationship between China and Russia according to Qin is therefore based on principles of non-alliance, non-confrontation and non-targeting of third parties, a policy thanks to which it will be possible to reach (watch out for swallows flying) multipolarity and democracy in international relations, obviously net of the unfortunate Tiananmen Square hiccup, but it is a consideration off the record.

With the USA, on the other hand, relations are one zero-sum game little reassuring where you die and I live. In these areas, China has released the conceptual document of the Global Security Initiative, a work of ideas and principles that clarifies the functioning of cooperation by emphasizing the Chinese determination in safeguarding world peace; a document that supports a security governance structure centered on the UN however inhibited from intervening on internal issues even if they are in contrast with the principles of international law. After all, you can't have everything, can you?

How important is Qin Gang? A lot, given that he replaced the very loyal Wang Yi, head of Chinese diplomacy for 10 years, before taking on the position of director of the Office of the Central Commission for Foreign Affairs of the CPC. Given Qin's past as ambassador to the United States, some hoped that his appointment would lead to political changes, forgetting both how the new minister has never spared criticism of Washington, despite the post-appointment honeyed tweets, and paradoxically his past not very diplomatic as spokesperson for the foreign ministry (2005-2014). The rise of a trusted and angular collaborator should give indications about the assertive evolution of Beijing's foreign policy.

In slang, Qin is a wolf warrior8, a diplomat worthy of recognition, useful for the strategic narration of the Party and for the rejuvenation of a very delicate and complex dicastery, especially now that it will have to defend a country involved in questionable post-zero Covid management. Given the pungent and direct rhetoric of him it is not possible to give predictions about the success of Qin which great broker; however, the fact of having been spokesman for the ministry gives him knowledge of the value and strategic timing of narratives, which leads one to believe that the level of infowar Chinese will increase9, hardly maintaining a moderate and dialoguing position.

The statements released so far, net of clichés, do not prevent the emergence of Qin's party formation, which re-proposes the Chinese version on the need to avoid to base one's own security on the insecurities of others, a calembour with which to assert that the Ukrainian conflict is NATO's fault.

From a Western point of view, it is therefore necessary to remember that, in one's fold, there is the risk of letting a wolf in sheep's clothing enter, not a formulator, but an implementer of Xi's policy10.

How consciously is Russia fighting on behalf of third parties? Just looking at the need for equipment and weapons so much, also because the war, stopping the drang nach osten of NATO, also defends Chinese interests. Too bad the Ukrainian shock woke up an otherwise numb Alliance; it should also be remembered that the pact signed with Moscow is poor in revenues for Beijing, especially as regards the economic relations entertained by the Dragon with the West. This could explain why the Kremlin is contenting itself with Chinese political support alone, and with a guarantee that Beijing will not act asymmetrically with its economy to slow down the Russian war effort. As regards Russian nuclear declarations, China could only distance itself, in order not to find itself among the outcasts.

If Russia needs to conquer Ukraine to confirm a power that will in any case be significantly weakened, China must aim for stability and de-escalation especially in a commercial key. In maintaining a pro-Russian neutrality, Beijing has refrained from imposing sanctions, maintaining the line of the outgoing Wang Yi who attributed the responsibility for the conflict to cold war mentality. The Chinese consensus is tepid, however, as the conflict has highlighted the limitations between China and Russia.

Denouncing the war after declarations of unlimited friendship would have meant a very serious error of evaluation for China; in fact, now, it is the unexpected continuation of the conflict that could bind Beijing to Moscow, thanks also to the parallels with Taiwan. In summary, China and Russia are confirming themselves as partners as a result, linked by need to reclaim global status and intolerance towards a West that hinders their ambitions11.

China intends to keep its neighbor and former nuclear-armed rival Russia on its side as it looks ahead to long-running competition with the US. At the moment the Sino-Russian neighborhood has proved to be much more dangerous in its conception than in its functioning. The most damaging consequence of Russia's aggression for China is the heightened global awareness and sense of urgency about Taiwan. Beijing's behavior demonstrates that there are still limits to the partnership with Moscow, given that China has much more to lose than Russia due to global instability and economic isolation.

In conclusion, the issue of sanctions remains at the center of Sino-American attention, with Beijing on the one hand reiterating its right to criticize, but on the other it cannot help but fear compromising trade relations and access to Western technologies.

New sanctions would cause incalculable damage to Xi's leadership that, never like now, and in spite of i hawks, it must choose its allies carefully also because while Beijing talks to Minsk, Washington lands in Central Asia in the Stan. After all, even according to Kissinger, one who has always known a lot about China, diplomacy is the art of limiting power. 

1 Henri Tisot

2 After Stalin's death (1953) and after the start of the Khrushchevite process of de-Stalinization, with the principle of peaceful coexistence and with the criticism leveled at the great leap forward, Sino-Russian relations deteriorated to the point of accusations of revisionism, social-imperialism, nationalism and anti-Marxism.

3 Over the past 15 years, Chinese private and public sector counterparts have participated and assumed leadership roles in international bodies. In the ISO, China has expanded the number of committees and sub-committees it participates in, ranking third in total committee participation, behind the UK and Germany.


5 Qin connected Taipei and Kiev: Why make big speeches about respecting sovereignty andterritorial integrity of Ukraine, if you don't want to respect China's territorial sovereignty in the Taiwan question?

6 Unpredictable events and known dangers but in a state of calm

7 Der Spiegel

8 Qin has earned the qualification of wolf warrior thanks to the aggressiveness and vehemence with which they respond to Western positions, taking advantage of a social presence forbidden to Chinese citizens. Qin insisted that Chinese diplomats are not wolf warriors, but simply stay dancing with the wolves, pushed onto the defensive by Western attacks. When faced with jackals and wolves, China has no choice but to face them head on, he warned.

9 In 2020, Qin repeatedly asserted that China's image in the West deteriorated because the media never accepted Beijing's political system or economic rise, forgetting that the deterioration was due to Chinese responsibilities and lack of transparency on the pandemic. initially kept hidden.

10 Bonnie Glaser, China expert at the German Marshall Fund of the United States for Reuters

11 Elizabeth Wishnick Professor of Political Science at Montclair State University, where she is also the coordinator of the Asian Studies Undergraduate Minor.

Photo: Xinhua