There’s a glaring contradiction at the heart of Chinese statecraft. China often lauds its 5,000 years of history, and yet the People’s Republic is only 70 years old. In any reckoning, then, Chinese diplomacy has both long roots and young shoots. History looms heavily over China, yet its governing structure and diplomatic practises are raw. Zhou Enlai was noted for the skilfulness of his foreign policy, yet he remains a rare breed in the People’s Republic.
Recent statements by Chinese diplomats show the struggles the country has in telling its story in an appealing way. Lijian Zhao is the DCM (deputy chief of mission) for the Chinese embassy in Pakistan; perhaps a minor functionary in the grand scheme of things, but it’s rare that many Chinese officials take to Twitter to express genuine thought and opinions, so it’s usually worth following them. After defending China’s treatment of the Uighur ethnic minority in Xinjiang, he sought in two tweets to point out US weaknesses: