Coronavirus News Asia

China stokes the furnace of nationalism


For the past five months, Covid-19 carnage has wrecked lives and infected more than 4.1 million people across the planet. It has also attacked the DNA of diplomatic discourse among the world’s major players.

At times, the caustic geopolitical atmosphere has proved as corrosive as the SARS-CoV-2 virus. But even before the crisis, there were signs of a seismic shift in international relations with China ramping up the rhetoric. 

Ultranationalism in the form of “Wolf Warrior” dialog had drowned out the moderates in Zhongnanhai, the central headquarters of the ruling Communist Party. The loudest voice in the room was now the unwritten edict from Beijing.

Brash and bombastic, “Wolf Warrior” diplomacy is named after two fiercely patriotic Chinese movies. But the shrill language harks back to the period of the Boxer Rebellion between 1899 and 1901, according to one eminent academic.

“Who could have guessed that things would get exponentially worse during the coronavirus epidemic? Numerous absurd rumors have been doing the rounds, although they all feed into one overriding sentiment to ‘bolster China and disparage the West’,”  Zi Zhongyun, the former head of the Institute of American Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, wrote in an essay for China Heritage. 

“Moreover, anyone who does or says anything construed as offering a defense of the ‘enemy’ is readily denounced as a ‘race traitor’. The most significant difference between the unfolding crisis at present and that of the past [Boxer Rebellion] is that this time around, foreign invaders did not unleash the disaster that is sweeping over us. Quite the opposite: now we are an exporter nation,” she continued in the English translation by Geremie R Barmé.

“In the past, we wanted to expel the Foreign Devils. Nowadays, they are packing up and leaving in droves of their own accord; to persuade them to stay will be a downright challenge,” Zi added.

Since the Covid-19 outbreak at the start of the year in the city of Wuhan, Beijing has “stoked” the furnace of “nationalism” after rolling out a high-profile propaganda campaign amid the global pandemic.



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