BEIJING — China’s leaders thought they had a solution to the torrent of snark, jibes, and condemnation on Twitter: They banned access to it at home. Yet China has become the country that President-elect Donald Trump seems to enjoy criticizing the most on his open-all-hours Twitter feed.
In bursts of 140 characters or less, he has jabbed at Beijing over Taiwan, trade, the South China Sea and, most recently, North Korea.
“China has been taking out massive amounts of money & wealth from the US in totally one-sided trade, but won’t help with North Korea. Nice!” Trump said on Twitter on Monday.
How and when President Xi Jinping reads about these broadsides remains a mystery to outsiders. Translating Trump’s sarcasm — “Nice!” — could be tricky. But Chinese officials and the state news media want Trump to know that their leaders prefer doing diplomacy the old-fashioned way, behind closed doors and muffled in platitudes.
Xinhua, the state news agency, has more or less asked Trump to shut up.
“An obsession with ‘Twitter foreign policy’ is undesirable,” read the headline of a Xinhua commentary on Tuesday about Trump’s posts.
“Everyone recognizes the common sense that foreign policy isn’t child’s play, and even less is it like doing business deals,” said the article, published after Trump’s latest barbed comments on China.
“Twitter shouldn’t become an instrument of foreign policy,” the article said. Earlier that day, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs rejected Trump’s accusation that Beijing had coddled North Korea.
But the article acknowledged that it was probably too late to detach Trump from Twitter. Trump’s designated press secretary, Sean Spicer, has indicated that Trump will keep using the terse, punchy format after he settles in the White House.
“Issuing tweets has become a habit for Mr. Trump,” Xinhua noted. Trump, it said, appeared to assume that “issuing hard-line comments and taking up sensitive issues may perhaps add to his chips for negotiating with other countries.”
Xi is most unlikely to joust directly with Trump on Twitter. The service has been banned in China since 2009, though residents find ways to poke through the firewall of censorship.
And while Chinese politicians love slogans, they prefer to communicate with foreign leaders through long, tranquilizing disquisitions. Open sarcasm is rare.