Xi urges Chinese envoys to create ‘diplomatic iron army’

(This Dec. 27th story has been refiled to correct translation in paragraph 11)

By Laurie Chen

BEIJING (Reuters) – Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday urged Chinese ambassadors to forge a “diplomatic iron army” loyal to the Communist Party, reviving the abrasive “Wolf Warrior” rhetoric propagated by some diplomats as a sign of China’s increasingly assertive foreign policy.

“Dare to be good at struggle and to become defenders of the national interest. It is necessary to… resolutely safeguard the interests of national sovereignty, security and development with a posture of readiness and a firm will to defy strong powers,” Xi told Chinese overseas envoys gathered in Beijing, state broadcaster CCTV reported.

His remarks harked back to a more brash, confrontational style of rhetoric adopted by Chinese diplomats since 2020, which had been less prominent this year as China sought to attract foreign investment for its weakened economy.

Ties with the United States thawed briefly after Xi met U.S. President Joe Biden in November, but China is also currently engaged in diplomatic disputes with the Philippines over a contested reef in the South China Sea, as well as Japan over its discharge of nuclear-contaminated wastewater from its wrecked Fukushima reactor.

Xi also urged envoys to adhere to Party discipline, repeating the word “strict” seven times in an annual keynote speech after the Central Foreign Affairs Work Conference, a secretive high-level Communist Party foreign policy planning meeting that takes place once every five years, concluded on Thursday.

“It is necessary to put rules and discipline in front, strictly discipline oneself, take strict responsibility… and create a diplomatic iron army that is loyal to the Party… dares to and is good at struggle, and observes strict discipline,” Xi said during the envoys’ conference at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People.

Xi’s remarks come amid a renewed disciplinary push among China’s diplomatic corps after the previous foreign minister Qin Gang was removed from his post in July, having served only seven months in the role amid rumours of an affair.

“Loyalty to the Party, the country and the people is the glorious tradition of the diplomatic front,” said Xi.

“It is necessary to build a strong line of ideological defence… and be an astute person with firm political beliefs who strictly complies with rules and discipline.”

Xi also emphasised the need for China to increase its international influence to combat what he believes are the West’s attempts to contain and suppress China, repeating the word “struggle” five times.

“We must make broad and deep friendships, and the fight to win people’s hearts must be carried out at all levels. We must use foreign language and methods to tell the China story well,” said Xi, echoing a June 2021 speech in which he urged officials to create a “trustworthy, lovable and respectable” image of China.

At the Central Foreign Affairs Work Conference, Xi also lashed out against the West’s “bullying” and “hegemony”, urging diplomats and officials to “carry forward our fighting spirit”.

(Reporting by Laurie Chen and Beijing newsroom; Editing by Alex Richardson and Nick Macfie)