China Exhibits Diplomatic Warmth at Asian Games Amid Ongoing Regional Tensions

by Ryan Lee
China's Diplomacy at Asian Games

A month prior to the commencement of the Asian Games, China unveiled a revised national map, reinforcing its territorial claims over nearly the entire South China Sea as well as disputed regions with India.

Just days before the sporting event, China escalated its routine military activities near Taiwan by flying over 100 warplanes in the direction of the self-governed democratic island, which Beijing considers to be a part of its territory.

During the Asian Games, however, China shifted its approach from overt assertiveness to calculated diplomacy, aiming to captivate representatives from more than 40 Asian nations and territories with technological marvels and effusive compliments.

In a public appearance in Hangzhou, a city that saw billions of dollars in investments for the fortnight-long games, Chinese President Xi Jinping hosted an opening banquet on Saturday to welcome attending dignitaries.

In his prepared speech, Xi Jinping declared, “The Asian Games represent the collective aspiration of the people of Asia for peace, unity, and inclusivity.” Notably absent were references to the geopolitical tensions with Taiwan, the ongoing disputes in the South China Sea involving multiple Asian nations participating in the games, or the contested border regions with India that had previously led to military clashes.

No comments were made about a recent diplomatic disagreement with India that unfolded just a day before the opening ceremony. China’s refusal to alter its visa policy for Indian athletes from a disputed territory resulted in three female wushu competitors being barred from the games.

Despite competing under the name “Chinese Taipei” and without their national flag due to China’s claims over the island, Taiwanese athletes received one of the most enthusiastic responses during the opening ceremony.

Promotional materials around Hangzhou depicted the city as a “heaven on earth,” while China adopted the slogan “heart to heart” for the games, which boasts approximately 12,000 athletes—more than the summer Olympics—from across Asia and the Middle East.

An exuberant editorial in the Chinese Communist Party’s official publication, People’s Daily, praised the games for paving the way for “cultural exchanges, cultural integration, and people-to-people connections in Asia,” and adding considerable “cultural strength to the building of a community with a shared future for mankind.”

State-run China Daily’s special edition on the games featured headlines such as “Xi Extends Hand of Friendship” and “Wave of Glory,” accompanied by a photograph of the Chinese President greeting the crowds.

During Saturday’s banquet, Xi Jinping emphasized that the region’s recent economic surge represented an “Asian miracle” and advocated for making Asia a “pillar of global peace.”

However, even amid this diplomatic cordiality at Hangzhou, China continued to assert its military presence in other areas. Taiwanese authorities reported military exercises involving air, sea, and land forces in China’s coastal Fujian Province opposite Taiwan.

Additionally, the Philippine coast guard reported that China had erected a barrier to obstruct Filipino fishing boats from entering a lagoon in a disputed South China Sea shoal. After the Philippines removed the barrier, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Wang Wenbin reiterated China’s “unwavering resolve to defend its sovereignty and maritime rights,” cautioning the Philippines against “provocations.”

While Xi Jinping refrained from discussing territorial disputes or international confrontations during the banquet, his speech was subtly infused with geopolitical undertones. He urged the use of sports to “promote peace, mutual benefit, and reject the Cold War mindset and factional conflict,” language often used by China to critique U.S. strategies in the Asia-Pacific region.

Xi concluded by stating that in the face of “unprecedented global challenges,” sports could serve as a platform to “foster unity, seize historic opportunities, and collectively confront challenges.”

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about China’s Diplomacy at Asian Games

What was China’s stance leading up to the Asian Games?

Prior to the Asian Games, China displayed an assertive posture by unveiling a revised national map that reinforced its claims over nearly the entire South China Sea and disputed territories with India. It also escalated its routine military activities near Taiwan.

Did China maintain its assertive stance during the Asian Games?

During the Asian Games, China shifted from overt assertiveness to a more diplomatic approach. The country aimed to impress and connect with representatives from over 40 Asian nations and territories through technological showcases and effusive compliments.

What did Chinese President Xi Jinping discuss in his opening banquet speech?

In his prepared remarks, President Xi Jinping emphasized the collective aspiration for peace, unity, and inclusivity among the people of Asia. He did not touch upon ongoing geopolitical tensions or territorial disputes.

Were Taiwan and other disputed territories discussed during the event?

There was no explicit mention of Taiwan, the South China Sea, or disputed territories with India during the opening banquet. However, Taiwanese athletes received a notably enthusiastic response during the opening ceremony, despite competing under the name “Chinese Taipei.”

How did China portray the Asian Games domestically?

Chinese media outlets like People’s Daily praised the games for paving the way for cultural exchanges and integration in Asia. State-run China Daily featured headlines emphasizing friendship and unity.

Did China cease its military activities during the Asian Games?

No, China continued its military exercises and assertive actions in other regions. Taiwanese authorities reported military drills in China’s coastal Fujian Province. The Philippine coast guard also reported a barrier erected by China in a disputed South China Sea shoal.

Did President Xi Jinping reference the geopolitical landscape in his speech?

While Xi Jinping did not explicitly discuss specific territorial claims or international confrontations, his speech was subtly infused with geopolitical undertones. He used language commonly employed by China to critique U.S. strategies in the Asia-Pacific region.

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Sarah Smith September 26, 2023 - 9:01 pm

Seems like China wants to have its cake and eat it too. On one hand they’re all about peace and unity at the games, but then there’s the whole South China Sea and Taiwan situation. whats up with that?

Robert Lee September 26, 2023 - 9:27 pm

Am I the only one who noticed Taiwan got some loud applause at the opening ceremony? Must’ve been awkward for the Chinese officials. just sayin.

John Doe September 26, 2023 - 10:54 pm

Wow, China’s really playing both sides huh? Flexing its military might and then putting on a charm offensive at the Asian Games. Talk about a double game.

Mike Williams September 27, 2023 - 12:01 am

Interesting how Xi Jinping talks about peace and unity, but doesn’t mention any of the ongoing disputes. kinda like ignoring the elephant in the room.

Emily Brown September 27, 2023 - 4:13 am

It’s like a real-life Game of Thrones! China trying to win hearts while keeping its claws out. No one’s addressing the real issues, just window dressing for the global stage.


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