Latest news, features and analysis on global diplomatic relations, with a focus on China’s international ties – especially with the US, its Asian neighbours and the European Union.

Chinese diplomat pictured walking on locals’ backs highlights Pacific power struggle
US and Australian officials have been quick to express outrage over an image shared on social media showing the Chinese ambassador to the Pacific island nation of Kiribati walking across the backs of locals lying face down on the ground. Commander Constantine Panayiotou, the US defense attaché to Kiribati, tweeted: “I simply cannot imagine any scenario in which walking on the backs of children is acceptable behavior by an ambassador of any country (or any adult for that matter).” But many in Kiribati said the practice is customary and that the image featuring China’s ambassador Tang Songgen, on his arrival on the island of Marakei, had been taken out of context. “The Marakei people can welco
Beijing says it’s not trying to unseat America as superpower
Beijing has issued its most detailed response to date to Washington’s increasingly assertive approach to countering China’s rising global influence. Days after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo vowed to confront what he called Chinese Communist Party’s “designs for hegemony,” his Chinese counterpart, Foreign Minister Wang Yi, said Beijing has no intention of unseating the United States as a superpower. “Today’s China is not the former Soviet Union. We have no intention of becoming another United States. China does not export ideology and never interferes in other countries’ internal affairs,” Wang told state news agency Xinhua in an interview on Wednesday. Wang’s remarks were Beijing’s firs
‘Chinese diplomatic failure’ as Australia’s dovish voices fall silent
When Australia first proposed an international inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, which would send relations with China to their lowest ebb in years, reaction at home was mixed. Kerry Stokes, one of the country’s richest tycoons, used a front-page interview in the West Australian newspaper he owns to warn against poking “our biggest provider of income in the eye,” while mining magnate Andrew Forrest called for any investigation to be delayed. Former foreign ministers Bob Carr and Gareth Evans criticized the government for creating unnecessary tensions by turning an otherwise reasonable search for answers into a public spectacle, instead of engaging in quiet diplomacy. In t
China to investigate ambassador’s death in Israel
China is sending a team of investigators to Israel to probe the death of Du Wei, its ambassador to the country, whose body was found at his residence in Tel Aviv on Sunday. The team, accompanied by a member of Du’s family, will handle arrangements for the remains, as well as conducting its own internal investigation, according to Israeli newspaper Haaretz. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Du, 57, died unexpectedly “of health reasons.” Du was last seen in public on Tuesday in a video conference with an official from Israel’s foreign affairs ministry, according to the embassy website. Du was assigned to serve in Israel in February, when China was in the throes of the corona
China’s mask diplomacy may not be enough to save face
China’s aggressive response to criticism and its behavior during the coronavirus pandemic risk alienating the rest of the world, diplomatic advisers and observers have said. They called for Beijing to rethink its engagement with the rest of the world and warned its “mask diplomacy” – which plays up its role in providing vital supplies – risks undermining its efforts to map out a long-term role as a responsible player on the global stage. China’s critics have accused the country of painting its political system as superior in containing the virus and highlighting its role as a world leader, while ignoring early missteps including covering up the initial stages of the outbreak in December. Ch
Are China's ‘Wolf Warriors’ baring their teeth too often?
China's “Wolf Warrior” diplomats and state media have been told to tone down their efforts to defend Beijing's handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Emboldened by the country’s success in containing the outbreak at home, and displeased with what they see as unfair criticism of China from abroad, official news outlets and diplomats have adopted an aggressively nationalist tone to defend the country's handling of the situation. But some of the country’s top foreign policy advisers say this is only serving to drive the world further away from China. “The aim is to promote the Chinese political system as superior, and to project the image of China as a world leader in combating a global health c
China’s aggressive diplomacy may be backfiring
China’s diplomats are fighting an uphill battle to fend off intensifying criticism from Beijing’s critics of the country’s initial mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic. In recent weeks, some of the country’s most seasoned ambassadors have found themselves engaged in a war of words with their host countries.  But rather than adopting the traditional approach of managing tensions through diplomatic protocols, many of them have risen to the call of Chinese President Xi Jinping and displayed their “fighting spirit” – often at the expense of China’s global image, pundits say. Last week alone, at least seven Chinese ambassadors – to France, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Ghana and the Afri
Top Chinese spying agency embroiled in German probe
China's top intelligence agency has been embroiled in a German probe into a former ambassador of the European Union who was accused of spying for China. Police raided nine addresses in Berlin and Brussels, as well as the German states of Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria, on Wednesday. The authorities were targeting the ex-ambassador, who was not named, and two other people. The news was first reported by Der Spiegel magazine, which says that two of the addresses in question were linked to people who provided private and business information to the Chinese Ministry of State Security, the country’s top counter-intelligence and foreign intelligence unit. The case is the first in recent years invol
Qasem Soleimani killing shows China on the sidelines in the Middle East
The killing on Friday of top Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani by the United States was very bad news for China.  Tehran’s inevitable response will further deteriorate the geopolitical situation in the Persian Gulf region, which serves much of Chinese oil needs and is an essential element of President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative. Beijing said the US drone strike against the Iranian general, who headed the Islamic Revolutionary Guard’s elite Quds Force and was responsible for Iran’s overseas military and intelligence operations, was a form of abuse. In a phone call with his Iranian counterpart over the weekend, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi pointed out that China would continue
China tests urban killer drones for export
A Chinese technology firm is testing a new attack drone specifically designed to help ground troops in street-level combat, in the hope that it can sell the unit abroad, reports say. Engineers recently completed a successful air-to-ground test firing exercise for the mini quadcopter named Tianyi, Modern Weaponry reported. The developer, Tianjin Zhongwei Aerospace Data System Technology, said the unmanned aerial vehicle had been designed to carry out both reconnaissance missions and close-range strikes against armored vehicles or individuals in an urban environment. “It is suitable for circumstances that include asymmetric combat, counterterrorism and special forces [operations] and street ba