China and the US tiptoe through a diplomatic minefield

Sparks look certain to fly when US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman meets  Wang Yi

China risks sleepwalking into a diplomatic minefield amid a chorus of “Wolf Warrior” howls.

The hardline rhetoric emanating from the heart of the ruling Communist Party is destabilizing the Asia-Pacific and fueling an arms race with the United States

Flagrant breaches of international law, such as the “massive hack of Microsoft’s email server software,” have only added to an already tense situation.

Naturally, Beijing has heaped the blame on the US and its democratic allies for spreading “panic” and “lies.”

“The US and its major allies have engaged in a shameless pattern of systematic smears against China,” state-run Global Times warned in an editorial earlier this week.

Wolf Warrior line

“People familiar with the internet know that this is a very common rogue-style public opinion attack … a carefully planned plot to frame the accused [China],” the newspaper owned by the Party’s official mouthpiece, the People’s Daily, said.

Since the heavily-controlled media is censored by the CCP and pushes the “Wolf Warrior” diplomatic line in international affairs, the response was predictable.

Still, this will be the backdrop that faces US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman during her visit next week. The schedule will involve discussions with Foreign Minister Wang Yi in the city of Tianjin, which is southeast of Beijing.

China-US flashpoints

What was said: “I want to stress that, issues relating to Taiwan, Hong Kong and Xinjiang are China’s internal affairs that allow no foreign interference. The US deliberately seeks confrontation to form [an] anti-China encirclement,” Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told a media briefing. 

Back off: “If the US expects to bring up again questions about Xinjiang and Hong Kong, they have to know they are wasting time,” Lu Xiang, of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, said on Wednesday.

Delve deeper: Sherman’s visit is part of a whirlwind tour of diplomacy which takes in Japan, South Korea and Mongolia. “[She] intends for this engagement to demonstrate to the PRC [People’s Republic of China] what responsible and healthy competition can look like,” Ned Price, a spokesman for the US State Department, said earlier this week.

Candid talks: “These discussions are part of US efforts to hold candid exchanges with PRC officials. [Sherman] will discuss areas where we have serious concerns about PRC actions,” the US State Department said in a statement.

China Factor comment: We expect heated exchanges wrapped up in diplomatic nuance.