Following a diplomatic incident that began on social media, the French Foreign Ministry summoned China’s envoy to Paris on Monday due to a flood of “unacceptable” insults that the embassy charged at a French academic on Twitter. China’s specialist Antoine Bondaz, who had not spared in his criticism of Beijing online, landed on the Chinese embassy’s social media on hair after tweeting about Taiwan. Bondaz was called a “little man of the time”, an “ideological troll” and a “crazy hyena”. Jowharspoke to the researcher about the unprecedented event.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian used moderate language on Monday after requesting that Chinese Ambassador Lu Shaye be called to a word, but the essence was clear. “There is no place in French-Chinese relations for insults and attempted threats against elected officials and researchers. We defend those who embody freedom of expression and democracy. Always and everywhere,” Le Drian tweeted. “The views of the Chinese Embassy in France and their actions against elected officials, researchers and EU diplomats are not acceptable. I have asked the Ambassador to be summoned to be reminded of this.”
The mockery comes when Beijing has cracked down on new Western sanctions for human rights violations and violence against the Muslim Uighur minority in China. The country has responded with a travel ban on ten Europeans, including the French parliament’s legislator Raphaël Glucksmann – sanctions the French Foreign Ministry considers “unacceptable”.
❝There is no place in the Franco-Chinese relations for insults and attempts to threaten elected officials and researchers. We defend those who embody freedom of expression and democracy. Always and everywhere. @JY_LeDrian
– France Diplomacy🇫🇷 (@francediplo_EN) March 22, 2021
Bondaz, a researcher at the Paris-based Foundation for Strategic Research (FRS) that focuses on China and Asia more broadly, is not on the list of individuals that China has sanctioned. Ambassador Lus’ volley of invective against him began on Friday on Twitter. After pointing out in a post mentioning the Chinese embassy that Quai d’Orsay, the French Foreign Ministry, had stood by the French parliamentarian’s free decision to visit Taiwan, the Chinese embassy tweeted a brief response in two words: “petite frappe” – various translated as a small gang, small insect or small villain. The issue of self-governing Taiwan is particularly sensitive for Beijing, which considers the island an integral part of China, and therefore seeks to isolate Taiwan diplomatically and detests all initiatives that tend to legitimate Taiwanese autonomy.
Bordaz’s tweet had ended with “big, big kisses to you as well as to your trolls”, referring to the many pro-Beijing Twitter accounts that mainly work to reinforce the Chinese authorities’ messages. The jockey tone apparently did not please the ambassador.
The Global Times gets involved
Following the initial exchange, Bordaz, a recognized expert on China and the Korean Peninsula regularly featured on FRANCE 24, received a number of expressions of support from prominent individuals in France who condemned the embassy’s undiplomatic approach. Nathalie Loiseau, for example, a former Secretary of State for European Affairs under French President Emmanuel Macron, commented: “Rarely have we seen diplomats damage their country’s image so brutally, vulgarly, that’s what China is showing you.”
China’s diplomats in France were not impressed by the growing support for Bordaz. In a lengthy communication released on Sunday, the embassy said it had been subjected to constant “harassment” by the French researcher and suggested that it only respond to the “provocations” of a “crazy hyena”. The embassy also accused Bordaz of being an “ideological troll” lacking impartiality who “bows” to the Taiwanese authorities.
On Monday, the Chinese daily The Global Times ran with the subject in its English edition. The newspaper’s op-ed suggested that the French researcher was a “radical” advocating anti-China propaganda in line with hawks in the United States.
“The level and basicity of the attacks is surprising because this attack is not developed with arguments and only aims to impress and scare me,” Bondaz told Jowharon Monday. “But as things are clear, I am neither impressed nor intimidated, and above all, it was predictable to work with topics that are sensitive to Chinese political authorities, such as Taiwan, exposing me to these attacks one day or another.” The researcher has been the leader of the “Taiwan, on security and diplomacy” program at the Foundation for Strategic Research since January.
An undiplomatic ambassador?
The Chinese ambassador to France Lu seems to be one of the most ardent advocates of so-called wolf war diplomacy. The term is used to denote the threatening and aggressive attitude adopted by some of the young guard of China’s diplomats under President Xi Jinping.
The envoy, who has served in that capacity in France since 2019, was already notorious for his outspoken style as China’s ambassador to Canada. While sent to Ottawa, Lu handled the crisis released by the arrest of Huawei CEO Meng Wanzhou on Canadian soil in 2018. Even there, his language was unlimited. In an op-ed in Canada’s The Hill Times, Lu beat the country and its allies to demand the release of Canadians detained in China following Meng’s arrest. “The reason some people are accustomed to arrogantly adopting double standards is due to Western selfishness and white supremacy,” Lu wrote. “They have not shown respect for the rule of law, but have mocked and trampled on the rule of law.”
Following Lu’s arrival in France, the envoy was also summoned to the Foreign Ministry in April 2020 due to comments he made about French nursing home staff, who he said had “abandoned their services” in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. In his defense, the diplomat said that his comments were not directed at France.
The Chinese embassy in Paris has stood by its aggressive tone in spitting with Bordaz, making a veiled cover reference to the “wolf warrior” he made in one of his tweets. “There are people who want to see Chinese diplomacy become the ‘lamb”s diplomacy, which weather attacks without turning a blind eye. That era is well and truly over!” the embassy tweeted on Monday.
But the online attack on Bordaz differed from the traditional salvos used by Xi Jinping’s wolf warriors.
“These attacks are not representative of what some describe as ‘wolf warfare diplomacy’ because they go far beyond just the claim of Chinese interests. No other Chinese embassy in Europe goes that far or that low,” Bordaz said. “These attacks are in fact aimed at stifling public debate in France by allowing the Chinese embassy to introduce the topics that may or may not be discussed.”
After Lu responded to the call on Tuesday morning, AFP reported, a French diplomatic official said the envoy had been received by the ministry’s Asia director, who informed him that “the embassy’s methods and tone in its public comments were completely unacceptable and exceeded all limits as usual. accepted by any embassy in the world “.
This article has been translated and updated from the original in French.