When “Wolf Warrior 2” stormed through Chinese cinemas in 2017, the intense war thriller struck a chord with audiences unlike any previous film. Embracing fervent patriotism, it satisfied a nationalistic sentiment by portraying a lone Chinese hero confronting foreign mercenaries while rescuing compatriots. Beyond shattering box office records, it birthed the concept of “wolf-warrior diplomacy,” characterized by official rhetoric and practices more confrontational than cooperative.
Subsequent films capitalized on this nationalistic fervor, depicting valiant Chinese forces abroad. For instance, 2018’s “Operation Red Sea” drew inspiration from the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s evacuation of Chinese citizens during the 2015 Yemen civil war. These carefully curated blockbusters, subject to state censorship, reinforced the narrative that China should safeguard its overseas interests, even through force if necessary.
In reality, however, it’s less likely to be the People’s Liberation Army that intervenes in crises, and more likely to be well-paid private security contractors tasked with protecting the interests of Chinese businesses, especially those operating in less stable regions.
Recent conflicts like the Ukraine war and the Israel-Gaza war underscore the potential dangers faced by Chinese investors in the course of conducting business overseas. These events may be intensifying the imperative for Beijing to formulate new contingency plans, ensuring the protection of Chinese interests abroad while securing crucial trade routes for the transportation of vital goods such as valuable minerals.