Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has been tasked with improving and sometimes salvaging ties with countries all around the world. This is an uphill battle for him and in all practical sense an unsurmountable one. He has become a tool to take all the shame, ridicule, infamy and humiliation from the world in the stead of Xi Jinping. After his Europe trip and waiting long for Japan trip to take shape with no avail, Wang Yi is on an official five-nation tour of ASEAN countries, which include Cambodia, Malaysia, Laos, Singapore and Thailand.
The Chinese diplomats throughout the Indo-pacific and elsewhere have dented Beijing’s brand value by their wolf warrior diplomacy of no holds bar criticism of the host countries. Criticism has gone on to become straight forward intimidations and threats. This diplomatic tactic of the wolf warrior diplomats has achieved quite a lot. The best example can be turning a relatively neutral Australia with deep economic ties into an adherent critic of China. And creating the viability of an institutionalized QUAD.
Other countries are angry too. Be it the not so diplomatic language of Chinese Ambassadors in their host countries, military takeover of Hong Kong in all practical sense, genocide of Uyghurs in Xinjian, human rights violation in Tibet and Outer Mongolia, and the high-handed approach to border disputes with all its neighbours.
The whole world is now sure that the rise of China is going to be peaceful only if everyone prostrates in front of the Middle Kingdom, which will not happen even by a long shot. Thus, understanding the situation, Xi Jinping has been sending Wang Yi to do damage control.
However, if Wang Yi’s visits to European Union countries is taken as an example, it was a disaster of gargantuan scale. All the leaders in multiple bilateral events, even pro-China Angela Merkel confronted China on the human rights violation and recorded their concerns for the same. China’s 17+1 architecture which encompasses the Central & Eastern European countries saw cracks emerging, with the Czech Republic and other smaller countries minced no words in their criticism of China.
All of this and the responses from China made the trip a long and gruelling humiliation train with Wang Yi becoming the punching bag for the whole of Europe. And now the same person has been sent to ASEAN to improve Beijing’s image in the region and, this can also be seen as Chinese efforts to counter growing US influence in these countries.
The Foreign Minister is visiting the countries of which Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore have had a history of criticizing China for its overreach in the ASEAN nations. And with the visit focusing on the idea that Association of South East Asian Countries (ASEAN) nations should work together with China to remove external disruptions, targeting the USA, he is bound to receive further backlash.
He is facing a hostile crowd as the four of the five countries that he visited have joined ‘Mekong’ partnership with the United States. He has met with the Thai President on Thursday and before that other leaders, too, and is trying hard to bring these countries towards Chinese fold. The visit by Wang Yi has been a failure. Even with all the charm offensive and investment promises, no country effectively went into the Chinese camp completely.
The five ASEAN countries that Wang Yi visited have done well to balance China’s influence with the USA. Although the Foreign Minister denounced QUAD as the Indo-Pacific NATO which will create an unwarranted geopolitical race in the region during his press conference in Malaysia, ASEAN countries are delighted by the developments linking to QUAD, unlike China. Given QUAD’s emphasis on ASEAN centrality.
As Wang Yi, during his visit, calls the USA as a threat to regional stability, Xi Jinping was telling his soldiers to get ready for war, which was a really interesting situation. Wang Yi has been selected to take on the global infamy and humiliation in the stead of Xi Jinping. Thus, the trips of the Chinese Foreign Minister have not led to any substantial victories, but have been a trail of humiliation and ridicule at a time when the country seems to become cornered.