China’s ‘wolf warrior’ diplomat to take up post in Cambodia

The appointment of Wang Wenbin as ambassador follows a rapid expansion of bilateral ties.
By RFA Staff
2024.06.06
China’s ‘wolf warrior’ diplomat to take up post in Cambodia Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin listens to a question from a journalist during a news conference in Beijing, China, July 27, 2020.
Tingshu Wang/Reuters

Former Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin has been appointed ambassador to Cambodia, a Chinese official source said. 

Wang had a meeting with Luo Zhaohui, director of China International Development Cooperation Agency, on Tuesday in his new capacity as ambassador-designate to Phnom Penh, said the agency on WeChat. 

The appointment of the high-profile Wang is seen by many as an indication of a move for Cambodia up Beijing’s foreign policy priority list.

Until May 24, Wang chaired a regular press briefing at the foreign ministry, but on that day he ended the session with an unusual “farewell” and he shook hands with journalists, prompting speculation about his next move.

Born in 1971 in Anhui province, Wang has been with the ministry of foreign affairs for 30 years and became one of its spokespeople in 2020.

Wang is one of the original “wolf warrior” diplomats known for their direct and assertive, sometimes combative, approach to international relations. Another “warrior” and a fellow spokesperson, Hua Chunying, has been promoted to vice minister of foreign affairs. 

The term “wolf warrior,” adopted from the title of a Chinese action film, describes those who stand ready to denounce any criticism of the Chinese government and the Communist Party, and their policies.

Wang is regarded as a celebrity on Chinese social media, with a fan base that idolizes him for his fierce professionalism but also his calm, refined manners. There are several forums dedicated to “Uncle Wang” – a reference to his gray hair – on the Weibo microblogging site, with thousands of posts.

Wang Wenbin Weibo.jpg
One of Wang’s fanpages on China’s Weibo

‘Inseparable relations’

Wang will replace Wang Wentian, who has served in Cambodia for nearly six years.

The relationship between China and the kingdom has grown quickly over the past decade, with Beijing becoming Phnom Penh’s biggest investor and closest partner. 

Cambodia’s veteran leader and now its Senate president, Hun Sen, said during a meeting last week with the outgoing Wang that China’s assistance to Cambodia not only helps the economic development but also “strengthens Cambodia’s political independence.”

Cambodian officials have also said that they were confident that the former spokesperson would help further elevate Cambodia’s relationship with China.

So Naro, minister delegate attached to Prime Minister Hun Manet in charge of ASEAN affairs, told the Khmer Times newspaper that  Wang Wenbin’s appointment was a sign of strength for ties and that the Chinese government attaches great importance to Cambodia.

A Chinese state company is to begin a major infrastructure project of strategic importance – the Funan Techo canal – in August.

At the same time, Cambodia’s relations with the United States have become strained during the past decade partly over U.S. concerns about the suppression of Cambodia’s political opposition.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin paid a visit to the kingdom this week but no agreement has been reported.

There has also been a rift between Cambodia and Vietnam, its neighbor and staunch ally in the past, over the implications of the Funan Techo canal project which Phnom Penh is determined to build with China’s help.

Edited by Taejun Kang and Mike Firn.

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