An unusual public spat between a Chinese ex-diplomat and the top editor of a well-known tabloid newspaper has set off debate on one of the paper’s favorite subjects: Beijing’s foreign policy.

In a speech last week, Wu Jianmin, a former ambassador to France, said that the tabloid, Global Times, which is known for its hawkish views, often printed “very extreme articles” and suggested that its editor, Hu Xijin, was ignorant of global affairs.

“I was invited last year to a forum by Hu Xijin, who made a mess talking about the world,” Mr. Wu said in the speech at China Foreign Affairs University in Beijing, according to a transcript published by, a Chinese news portal.

“He is the newspaper’s editor in chief and very knowledgeable, but he doesn’t quite understand the situation,” Mr. Wu added.

On Thursday, Mr. Hu dismissed Mr. Wu as a typically dovish diplomat. “It’s a universal fact that the media will always be more ‘hawkish’ than diplomacy, and the West is very good at taking advantage of that,” he wrote in a lengthy post on Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter.

Mr. Hu called Global Times a “positive asset” for Chinese diplomacy, suggesting that an aggressive state publication served a larger purpose in Beijing’s relations with the world. “Diplomats like Ambassador Wu are not good at using media resources,” he wrote, calling that “a pity.”

Global Times is affiliated with People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party. Printed in English and Chinese, the tabloid has a combined daily circulation of 2.1 million. Nationalists tend to praise it, while liberals often deride it as a mere propaganda tool.

Mr. Hu’s sharp-tongued commentaries in Global Times have sometimes urged China to be more aggressive. In an article last year about Beijing’s policy in the South China Sea, where China and the United States accuse each other of striving for dominance, he wrote that the government needed some “calcium,” meaning more courage to act boldly.

In his speech last week, Mr. Wu was broadly critical of such calls for a more assertive China. “The Chinese military often says the country’s diplomacy is too soft,” he said. “Hawkish or soft, they are both a means. Which is harder? Being soft is harder. Acting hawkish: You hit me and I kick you; even a 3-year-old kid can do this.”

For his part, Mr. Hu compared Mr. Wu to a Chinese envoy in a country he did not identify, who he said dissuaded him from going to the local news media after a run-in with immigration officers there. “Ambassador Wu reminds me of that ambassador,” Mr. Hu said.

The dispute has drawn thousands of comments online. A person writing under the name Yanshanjian was among many taking Mr. Hu’s side, saying that the ambassador’s mind-set would subject China to bullying by foreign countries. “The Chinese people’s rejuvenation dream is a noble goal and has a bright future,” the commenter wrote on Weibo. “We don’t need to hide anything, and we must dare to show our sword in the face of containing and encircling by the U.S.”

Others were critical of Global Times. “The newspaper always has an ultranationalistic approach to many issues and lacks a holistic view of world politics,” wrote Qin Xiao, a Weibo commenter in the southeastern city of Nanchang. “Cooperation and peace development are a prevailing trend, yet the newspaper is so hard-edged and aggressive and must declare itself an enemy of the world. It shows it’s extremely unconfident, unsure and dark-minded.”

The dispute appears not to have affected one of Mr. Wu’s public roles: as a Global Times contributor. On Friday, the newspaper ran a column by him that said that China and the United States would not go to war over the South China Sea and that China needed to “keep calm” in the dispute.

By OWEN GU Apr. 8, 2016 on the New York Times

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