Focus topics

China enjoys better reputation in developing countries

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  • The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs recently shifted one of its most outspoken and assertive spokespersons, Zhao Lijian, to a less visible position within the administration.​
  • Some observers interpret this as a sign of a change away from China’s Wolf-Warrior style diplomacy. There are other signs of a softer diplomatic tone too, such as the recent op-ed by the new Chinese foreign minister, Qin Gang.​
  • Looking at the public perception of China in the developed world, a rethinking of China’s diplomacy approach might indeed be necessary: In Germany negative perception of China has increased from 54 percent of respondents in 2020 to 72 percent in 2022. Similarly, the number has increased in France from 52 percent in 2020 to 76 percent in 2022.​
  • However, China’s more assertive diplomacy seems not to have negatively affected much of the rest of the world. In fact, in some countries, negative perceptions have decreased over the last few years. In Kenya, it decreased from 39 percent last year to 16 percent today. In Nigeria, numbers fell from 23 percent in 2020 to 14 percent in 2022.​
  • This might explain why China has so far not seen the need to change how its diplomatic corps conducted diplomacy. In fact, several high-profile Wolf Warriors, such as Hua Chunying, have even been promoted in the past.​
  • But the recent personnel changes suggest that China’s calculus has shifted. A softer rhetoric from China vis-à-vis the EU will be welcome among European capitals and might put a floor under the spiraling tensions. But as long as rhetoric is not accompanied by substantial change, the fundamental tensions with the West will remain.​

Sinolytics is a European research-based consultancy entirely focused on China. It advises European companies on their strategic orientation and concrete business activities in the People’s Republic.


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