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Zhao Lijian: China Retires Its Fiercest ‘Wolf Warrior’ Diplomat

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China has reassigned its controversial “Wolf Warrior” diplomat, Zhao Lijian, to a different post. The former foreign ministry spokesman has been moved to the position of deputy head of the Department of Boundary and Ocean Affairs, where he will help manage China’s maritime and land boundaries. It is unclear when he took up his new role, or what prompted the move.

Zhao was known for his confrontational and combative approach, which was in stark contrast to the previously restrained brand of Chinese diplomacy. He was considered the leading light of “Wolf Warrior” diplomacy, a term derived from a popular Chinese movie franchise about a special forces soldier. In three years as foreign ministry spokesman, Zhao often courted controversy with his tweets, including a suggestion that the coronavirus was manufactured by the US military and brought to China. He also set off a diplomatic furor when he posted a doctored image of an Australian soldier killing an Afghan child.

His reassignment coincides with China’s former ambassador to the US, Qin Gang, becoming China’s new foreign minister. However, some observers have cautioned against interpreting Zhao’s move as a sign that China is moving away from combative diplomacy, as it is believed to be a fundamental tenet of President Xi Jinping’s style of diplomacy. It is unclear what the future holds for Zhao, but the role of foreign ministry spokesperson is considered a prominent one that has led to further promotion in the past.

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