Chinese Consulate-General in Rio de Janeiro Li Yang criticized Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Twitter Sunday. He tweeted, with a photo of Trudeau, that, “Boy, your greatest achievement is to have ruined the friendly relations between China and Canada, and have turned Canada into a running dog of the US. Spendthrift!” His post aroused controversy among Western public opinion. It also triggered discussion among some Chinese people after being translated into Chinese and published on domestic social media platforms.
First of all, I think Li told the truth. The Trudeau government indeed has destroyed the China-Canada relations. It followed the US lead in China policy. This has devalued Canada’s diplomatic independence and sovereign dignity.
Second, the words Li used were sensitive and controversial. It’s natural that some people’s first reaction is, “should a diplomat speak like this?” I think Li should have anticipated such reactions. The controversy surrounding his words is something that he should bear.
Third, the China-US and China-West conflicts have intensified. Sentiments on both sides have seen vehemence with rhetoric escalating. The words used by the US and Western politicians are constantly breaking boundaries. For instance, former US secretary of state Mike Pompeo and others repeatedly resorted to extreme words such as “evil” to describe CPC and China. The US government has viciously attacked Xinjiang with the label of “genocide.” Some US lawmakers have gone even further to target specific Chinese individuals. These are all serious breaches of normal diplomatic etiquette. In general, the language the Chinese side uses is more restrained than their US and Western counterparts.
Fourth, it is true that many people on the Chinese side have built up a lot of anger. Some of them have taken the tit-for-tat way of “calling each other names” to help some people vent their anger. But this has brought controversy at the same time.
Fifth, there were times when I could not help scolding too. But I still think that we should improve the art of the struggle, and that the language we use should be carefully chosen so there is no vulnerable point for others to capitalize on. This should be the direction in which we strengthen our combat effectiveness, rather than the use of acrid words. The general effect is better.
Sixth, as more and more diplomats opened their social media accounts, their difference in personalities is bound to be reflected in different ways. I don’t think any of their Twitter accounts can represent the whole picture of China’s diplomatic style. The extent to which the language on Twitter should be the same or different from the language in documents is, to be sure, quite vague. In this case, this tweet from the Chinese consulate-general in Rio should not be overstated as a symbolic trend.