Chinese Diplomacy: Changing Nature


The Peoples’ Republic of China founded in 1949. Zhou Enlai was China’s head of government, serving from October 1949 until his death in January 1976. He was also the Foreign Minister. Here giving a very short introduction about Zhou is necessary because he was one of the best diplomats in China. His style of diplomacy came to define Chinese foreign policy over the next century. Mao was the leader of the country but the Zhou Enlai was one who managed the complete government behind the curtain. The official position of Zhou Enlai was premier which was officially head of government. But now there is no value of Premier of China. All control under the Chinese President Xi-Jinping. Over time everything goes cloudy.

Refined and “United front” Approach to Diplomacy

If Mao Zedong represented the crude face of Chinese communism, then Zhou was the epitome of its refinement. Where Mao preferred to exercise his power from “out of the barrel of a gun” but Zhou preferred to seduce his opponents through word and gesture in the pursuit of national self-interest, with the elegance of an opera star. The stick was used rarely, and only when all other means of persuasion failed. 

Zhou’s strategy was consistent with the three principles. And these three principles are called the “United Front”.

Avoid isolation: Do not be isolated in the world because China was a communist country at that time which was not recognized as a country by other western countries. But India was the first that recognize China as a country. 

Build solidarity with non-aligned countries: During the Cold War, maximum parts of the world divided into two parts. First, the country who took a standoff in favour of the USA and another one who took stand in favour of Russia. But fewer countries remain neutral. And it was China’s policy to build a strong relationship with them. 

Divide the West: Ultimately, the goal was set by China to divide the USA, UK and other western countries. Therefore, it shows that China was unofficial stands in favour of Russia.

This United Front defined as isolate the main threat by building unity with all other forces.

Korean War: Examination of Chinese Diplomacy

Korean War started in 1950, one year after the foundation of PRC.

The USA invaded North Korea, Zhou summoned the Indian Ambassador in Beijing to deliver a message to the Americans “If the U.S troops cross the 38th Parallel, then Chine will intervene in this matter and took the side of North Korea because North Korea was also a communist country. If Zhou wanted, he could covey this message by his own, but uses the diplomatic step to take this action. And India was later persuaded to act as a neutral mediator between China and the US during many difficult phases of the negotiations settling the Korean War.

PRC at International Fora

In 1954, PRC participated in Geneva conference on the Korean War and Indo China War

Zhou’s strategy was to undermine western unity – Persuasion and compromise. The US anticipated that Chinese humiliation at the conference but Zhou handle the situation by deploying all his charm, vitality and intelligence. And finally, playing the weaker hand, Zhou turned the tables on the US.

Important Qualities of Chinese Diplomacy in the Past

Under Zhou, diplomats of calibre kept the ship of state steady in churning sea full of norms. When the tide rose, these diplomatic fishermen gathered the fish – expanding China’s global peace presence and gaining international acceptability. When it ebbed they saw to it that the ship remained firmly moored. They navigated the Cold War, playing the Soviets against the Americans. Additionally, 24 Character Strategy supplemented to Zhou’s strategy by other Chinese Diplomats. And it was “observe calmly; secure our position; cope with affairs calmly; hide our capacities and bide our time; be good at maintaining a low profile; and never claim leadership;

And the outcome of this diplomacy was praiseworthy. By the end of the twentieth century, another country was started recognizing China as a powerful developing country. China persuaded US President Richard Nixon to abandon Taiwan. All this was the result of a staggering act of the best diplomacy.

Change in Style

At the current time, China prospered and began to occupy centre stage in the world diplomacy, but the ship began to come apart from its moorings. A new generation of diplomats, with knowledge of the English language, arrogance increases and it has replaced humility. Persuasion is quickly abandoned in favour of the stick when countries take actions contrary to Chinese wishes. China pursuing unilateralism instead of compromise in the South China Sea. In place of ‘united front’ tactics, they are bent on creating problems simultaneously with multiple neighbouring countries. Statements of fact or reasoned opinions are seen by them as insult or humiliation.