Open Forum

COVID-19, a black swan event, altered the planned trajectory of China’s domestic politics and its engagement with the rest of the world. The public health crisis from COVID-19 has strained every country’s resources and every government’s credibility. Especially for an authoritarian state such as China, which has drawn its legitimacy primarily from its performance, COVID-19 has turned into a national mobilization campaign to defend China’s innocence and the Chinese Communist Party’s legitimacy. Consequently, Chinese foreign policy as well as the propaganda apparatus unleashed unprecedented “wolf warrior” diplomacy to attack critics and rally support. (Named after a 2015 Chinese film, “wolf warrior” is a popular term in China used to describe patriotic individuals and entities that resort to assertive or even aggressive behaviors to defend Chinese national interests.) During the early stage of the crisis, Chinese “warriors” facilitated a narrative of China’s superior governance model in disease control. Later on, their priorities shifted toward defending China’s innocence and rallying support through attacks on the United States to blur the picture and aid diplomacy to buy good will, diffusing charges of responsibility and manipulating the prospects for an international investigation.

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