David Kelly directs research for China Policy, a Beijing-based research and advisory company working across major policy fields. Heading up the geopolitics portfolio, David’s day job examines China’s record on going global, One Belt One Road and the export of domestic governance. His social science training keeps him engaged with the vicissitudes of contemporary Chinese society where he teaches a graduate course at Peking University. An international media commentator, he appears on the BBC, Voice of America, Australian ABC, Al Jazeera and in leading print media. His special interest is in the external impact of China’s governance model.
‘Win-win cooperation’, ‘new-style big power relations’, ‘intimacy, honesty, reciprocity and tolerance’ and ‘communities of shared destiny’ – China’s foreign policy community have heard it all before. These expressions appear to arouse doubt rather than trust in China’s intentions. China’s diplospeak has also revived language from imperial history, such as the ‘new Silk Road’, tianxia (all under heaven) and chaogong (the tribute system).
The view in the foreign policy community is divided. Defenders of the current practices have the top leaders, not least President Xi, on their side where many of these expressions started as direct quotes from the highest levels of Chinese government.
The defence offered for this language is basic – “should a rising China have to fit its diplospeak to other powers’ rules and conventions?” Domestic critics ask, “do we want to convince others or not?”
David Kelly examined this complex subject through some of the ‘master flavours’ of China’s diplospeak.