It is hard not to wonder whether President Xi Jinping is intent on trimming his sails to the winds of change. As much is pretty obvious from his imprimatur to China’s official media and “wolf warrior” diplomats to tone down what he calls an “aggressive strategy and present the current loveable picture of China”.

Incredible as it may sound, this is a watershed change for a robust ideologue, and arguably an admission of Beijing’s increasing isolation over the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, one that has now been exacerbated by the deadly resurgenge in different parts of the world, including South and Southeast Asia.

Generally regarded as the most effective Chinese leader after Mao Zedong, President Xi was addressing a research session for the ruling Communist Party’s prime management. In what appears to be a deviation from the customary offical perception, Xi asserted that new ideas, domains and expressions must be created to inform the world about China.

In a remark seen as an expression of dissatisfaction with the present set of “wolf warrior” diplomats and aggressive official media outlets, Xi spoke of the necessity for conveying the picture of a “credible, loveable and respectable China.” His presentation, according to the state-run China Daily, was marked by openness, confidence, modesty and humility ~ values that he stressed must be maintained.

China wants a voice that matches its nationwide power and worldwide standing, he said. “It is necessary to give better play to the role of high-level experts and use platforms and channels such as important international conferences and forums and foreign mainstream media to speak out.” He underlined the efforts being made to introduce the Chinese tradition overseas and try to form a “dependable, admirable and respectable picture of the Communist” country.

“It is necessary to make friends, unite and win over the majority, and constantly expand the circle of friends [when it comes to] international public opinion,” Xi was quoted as saying. Asked whether or not China will adopt a distinct strategy in its diplomatic efforts within the parameters of Xi’s remarks, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Wang Wenbin, said the feedback had been consistent with China’s “peaceful development”.

China may be buttressing its narrative to counter the worldwide reaction to its designs on the disputed South China Sea, allegations of the genocide of Muslim Uygurs in Xinjiang, repression of Tibetans in Tibet and the imposition of Beijing’s security regulations in Hong Kong.  President Xi was emphatic on the point that the party’s propaganda organisations have to make it clear to the world that Beijing needs “nothing but the Chinese people’s well-being.”

It is intrinsically the political economy of welfare. Of course, any suggestion that China’s aggressive diplomacy was carried out without Xi’s active encouragement is laughable; now, it is China’s supreme leader who appears to have realised he had erred by projecting power arrogantly.