SSU Forum/GraSPP Research Seminar “Combatting China’s Wolf Warrior Diplomacy in Australia”

  • Date:
  • Time:
    AM10:30-PM12:00 (JST)
  • Location:
    (In-person): Lecture Hall B (4th Floor), International Academic Research Bldg. Hongo campus, UTokyo
  • Host:

    Security Studies Unit (SSU), Institute for Future Initiatives (IFI), the University of Tokyo

  • Co-host:

    Graduate School of Public Policy (GraSPP), the University of Tokyo

  • Language:

    English (Japanese simultaneous translation not available)

  • Registration:

    Please be sure to sign up from registration form below.

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Amidst tremendous pressure from China, which culminated in restricting various imports from Australia, an unprincipled compromise would have meant a disaster to the regional order.  A tireless campaign on the part of Japan’s diplomats to support Australia only invited attempts by Wolf Warriors and their sympathizers to discredit and defame the Japanese ambassador.  Here is the first-hand story of the diplomatic frontline.


Opening remarks IIDA Keisuke
Professor, Graduate Schools for Law and Politics / Graduate School of Public Policy (GraSPP)
Director of SSU Unit, Institute for Future Initiatives, the University of Tokyo

Speaker YAMAGAMI Shingo
Japan’s former Ambassador to Australia (November 2020 to May 2023)

Moderator / Closing remarks Yee Kuang Heng
Professor, Graduate School of Public Policy (GraSPP), the University of Tokyo

On May 28, 2024, the Security Studies Unit (SSU) at the Institute for Future Initiatives in collaboration with the Graduate School of Public Policy (GraSPP) co-hosted former Japanese Ambassador to Australia Shingo Yamagami for a keynote speech. The topic of discussion was his book about his experience as a Japanese diplomat supporting Australia in countering China’s “wolf warrior” diplomacy—the shorthand term for a new assertive strategy of Chinese diplomacy and propaganda. The event began with opening remarks from Dr. Iida Keisuke, head of the SSU and a professor at the University of Tokyo. GraSPP Professor Dr. Yee Kuang Heng moderated the discussion and gave closing remarks.

Keynote presentation
Ambassador Yamagami began his remarks by highlighting the importance of Japan–Australia relations while explaining why their bilateral relations often go under the radar. He first pointed to four areas where Japan has built an indispensable partnership with Australia: 1) Japan’s substantial imports of Australian energy and food resources; 2) close military and security cooperation with Australia to maintain peace and stability in the region, as embodied in the 2022 Japan-Australia Reciprocal Access Agreement; 3) increasing people-to-people exchanges; and 4) their joint effort to shape a rules-based regional order by establishing regional collaborations such as the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). Despite the importance of the close partnership, Ambassador Yamagami argued that the bilateral relations tend to go unnoticed due to reasons such as the lack of presence of Japanese media in Australia, the two governments’ underwhelming efforts at public diplomacy, and traditional Anglo-American-centered thinking in international relations.
After reviewing the current state of Japan–Australia relations, Ambassador Yamagami shared his experience of strongly supporting Australia against China’s unprecedented and extensive campaign of economic coercion. When he assumed the ambassadorship to Australia in late 2020, China had already placed trade restrictions on several Australian exports in response to the Australian government calling for an inquiry into the origins of COVID-19, as well as its ban prohibiting the Chinese firm Huawei from rolling out the country’s 5G network in 2018. As a way to stand in solidarity with Australia in countering economic pressure from China, Ambassador Yamagami explained his need to send a message to Australians at his National Press Club address in July 2021 that “Australia is not walking alone” in its trade war with China. According to Ambassador Yamagami, while the Chinese embassy’s malicious criticism of his speech was anticipated, voices from the Australian society asking him to avoid provoking China convinced him that Australians were still divided in their approach to addressing Chinese pressure.
Ambassador Yamagami closed his remarks with some final thoughts on the importance of continuing efforts to maintain a united front against Chinese economic coercion and aggressive diplomacy. He emphasized that Japan could share its experience with Australia as a “frontline” state that has a long history of dealing with China due to its geographic proximity and recent history of coping with China’s export restrictions of rare earth minerals to Japan following the ramming by a Chinese fishing boat into a Japanese Coast Guard ship near the Senkaku islands in the East China Sea in 2010. He also underscored the importance of working within like-minded partnerships—such as the Quad, a security cooperation framework between Japan, the United States, Australia, and India—to build a rules-based regional and international order.

Following Ambassador Yamagami’s remarks, the floor was opened to questions from the audience. Several questions were about his experience countering Chinese assertive diplomacy in Australia and his assessment of Chinese thinking behind its pressure campaign. In response, the ambassador explained that what he did was to try to not be “swayed” by Chinese narratives and propaganda. He added that rather than trying to appeal to Australians to protect their country’s image, Chinese diplomats in Canberra preferred to demonstrate an unwavering tenacity against Western governments. Their choice has given Japanese diplomats a better chance at winning the narrative battle in Australia. Looking back, Ambassador Yamagami argued that China, which has underestimated Australia’s “resilient war-fighting spirit” and “fear of being abandoned by the West,” has pushed Australia further away by imposing extensive economic coercion measures. Ambassador Yamagami also addressed other topics, including discussing how the Chinese diaspora in Australia is affected by China’s assertive diplomacy and China’s new “charm offensive” with Australia that involves gradually lifting its import bans.

*This forum was held under the auspices of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan.