For years Chinese diplomacy has been quiet and uncontroversial, emphasising cooperation rather than confrontation. All that has now changed. China sees itself as the rising power, strong economically, growing in military power and becoming a force to be reckoned with. China believes that its views should be heard and will not accept criticism.

In the main, most countries try be conciliatory towards China. The exception of late was the Trump administration, which China is glad to see the back of. In its last gasp, however, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo decided on confrontation over the issue of the Uighur ethnic minority, issuing a “Determination of the Secretary of State on Atrocities in Xinjiang” on 19 January which read, in part “After careful examination of the available facts, I have determined that the PRC (People’s Republic of China), under the direction and control of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party), has committed genocide against the predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang. I believe this genocide is ongoing, and that we are witnessing the systematic attempt to destroy Uyghurs by the Chinese party-state […] The governing authorities of the second most economically, militarily, and politically powerful country on earth have made clear that they are engaged in the forced assimilation and eventual erasure of a vulnerable ethnic and religious minority group, even as they simultaneously assert their country as a global leader and attempt to remold the international system in their image.”

A Chinese response was not long in coming. On 20 January a Foreign Ministry answer to a media question stated “Pompeo's venomous lies in the past several years are too numerous to be counted, and the matter you mentioned is only one of those ludicrous fabrications. To us, Pompeo's so-called ‘determination’ is nothing more than a piece of waste paper. This notorious liar and cheater is making himself a doomed clown and a joke of the century with his show of lies and madness just before the curtain falls.”

Aggressive Chinese diplomacy is here to stay. The trade embargo on Australia, the new security law in Hong Kong and incursions into Taiwan’s airspace coupled with the reaction to questions on Xinjiang, reflect this. In contrast, the foreign policy of the new Biden administration is based on the concept of ‘strategic patience.’ One wonders how that will work on a China not in patient mode!

David Saw in Paris for MON

Not well thought of in China, former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was described by a government spokesperson as a “notorious liar and cheater.” (Photo: US government)

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