Xi urges Chinese envoys to create 'diplomatic iron army'
Xi urges Chinese envoys to create 'diplomatic iron army'
Xi urges Chinese envoys to create 'diplomatic iron army'
by DZRH News06 January 2024
China's President Xi Jinping speaks at the "Senior Chinese Leader Event" held by the National Committee on US-China Relations and the US-China Business Council on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in San Francisco, California, U.S., November 15, 2023. REUTERS/Carlos Barria/Pool/File Photo

By Laurie Chen

BEIJING (Reuters) -Chinese President Xi Jinping has urged Chinese envoys to forge a "diplomatic iron army" loyal to the Communist Party "with a posture of readiness and a firm will to defy strong powers".

The speech marked a shift in tone after months of softer diplomacy when China sought foreign investment for its sagging economy, including in a carefully staged summit with U.S. President Joe Biden and dinner with American business leaders in November.

"Dare to be good at struggle and to become defenders of the national interest. It is necessary to... resolutely safeguard the interests of national sovereignty, security and development with a posture of readiness and a firm will to defy strong powers," Xi told Chinese ambassadors in Beijing, according to state broadcaster CCTV.


Before the recent warming, Chinese diplomats had embraced a more confrontational rhetoric known as "wolf warrior" diplomacy, which marked a departure from the restraint that had long characterised Beijing's engagement with the world.

Despite some recent goodwill gestures towards Washington and several other nations, China has also engaged in an acrimonious dispute with the Philippines over a contested reef in the South China Sea and with Japan over its discharge of treated radioactive water from its wrecked Fukushima power plant.

Xi's comments were made in an annual keynote speech to the envoys in the Great Hall of the People following the conclusion of the Central Foreign Affairs Work Conference, a secretive high-level Communist Party foreign policy planning meeting that takes place once every five years.

He urged envoys to adhere to Party discipline, repeating the word "strict" seven times.


"It is necessary to put rules and discipline in front, strictly discipline oneself, take strict responsibility... and create a diplomatic iron army that is loyal to the Party... dares to and is good at struggle, and observes strict discipline," Xi said.

In a commentary published after Xi's speech, state news agency Xinhua said the envoys "were not being urged to put on a menacing face before the world. Instead, they were being encouraged to act on their best behaviour and not bend the rules."

It said the phrase "iron army" is frequently used in official Chinese statements and is meant to emphasise the "discipline of government officials".

In one example, the phrase "iron army" was written into the 2022 work report of China's Supreme People's Court, which vowed to build an "iron army" of courts loyal to the party, country, people and the law.


Xi's remarks come amid a renewed disciplinary push among China's diplomatic corps after the previous foreign minister, Qin Gang, was removed from his post in July, having served only seven months in the role amid rumours of an affair.

"Loyalty to the Party, the country and the people is the glorious tradition of the diplomatic front," said Xi.

"It is necessary to build a strong line of ideological defence... and be an astute person with firm political beliefs who strictly complies with rules and discipline."

Xi also emphasised the need for China to increase its international influence to combat what he believes are the West's attempts to contain and suppress China, repeating the word "struggle" five times.


"We must make broad and deep friendships, and the fight to win people's hearts must be carried out at all levels. We must use foreign language and methods to tell the China story well," said Xi, echoing a June 2021 speech in which he urged officials to create a "trustworthy, lovable and respectable" image of China.

At the Central Foreign Affairs Work Conference, Xi also lashed out against the West's "bullying" and "hegemony", urging diplomats and officials to "carry forward our fighting spirit".

(Reporting by Laurie Chen and Beijing newsroom; Editing by Alex Richardson, Nick Macfie, Antoni Slodkowski and Neil Fullick)

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