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Chinese 'wolf warrior' Zhao leaves diplomatic spokesperson role

Beijing transfers combative official amid push to stabilize relations with U.S.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian was transferred to serve as deputy chief of the ministry's Department of Boundary and Ocean Affairs.   © Reuters

BEIJING (Reuters) -- Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian, who gained prominence as one of China's most outspoken "wolf warrior" diplomats, has been transferred to the department that manages land and sea borders, according to the ministry's website.

Zhao, 50, is now deputy head of the ministry's Department of Boundary and Ocean Affairs, the website showed on Monday.

Zhao became a ministry spokesperson in 2020 after stints at China's embassy in Pakistan, where he built a large following on Twitter as well as on Chinese social media for his frequent and often combative posts, many targeted at the U.S.

His hawkish style made him the most prominent practitioner of what widely became known as "wolf warrior" diplomacy -- named after a popular Chinese movie franchise -- which marked a departure from the restraint that had long characterized Beijing's engagement with the world.

In a controversial Twitter post in March 2020, Zhao wrote that the U.S. military might have brought the coronavirus to the Chinese city of Wuhan.

Zhao, who often hosted the ministry's daily media briefing, has 1.9 million Twitter followers.

Zhao and the ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on his change in role.

Late last month, China promoted Qin Gang, its ambassador to Washington and a trusted aide of President Xi Jinping, to be its new foreign minister, as Beijing and Washington seek to stabilize rocky relations.

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