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China's 'wolf warrior' Zhao Lijian relegated to painting border markers

Some observers believe former China foreign ministry spokesperson demoted due to online complaints by wife

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Zhao Lijian, paints border marker. (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China, Weibo photos)

Zhao Lijian, paints border marker. (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China, Weibo photos)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A former "wolf warrior" diplomat notorious for his caustic comments is being mocked by Chinese netizens for being relegated to menial work, such as painting an obscure border marker following his demotion in January.

Zhao Lijian (趙立堅), a former spokesperson for China's Foreign Ministry, was known for making aggressive comments such as warning that Beijing would not "sit idly by" if former U.S. House Speaker Pelosi were to go through with her trip to Taiwan in 2022. However, in December, Zhao stopped appearing at Foreign Ministry press conferences, and it was later revealed that he had been demoted to the post of deputy director of the Department of Boundary and Ocean Affairs Department.

On March 9, Weibo user "Lovey Zhao Shushu" (可愛多趙蜀黍) posted an image of Zhao standing next to a Qing Dynasty (1644–1911) stele marking a boundary in Guangxi Province. On March 10, the Weibo user posted a photo of Zhao and an unidentified official standing next to another boundary marker in Guangxi identifying the boundary with Vietnam.

The next day, the Weibo account posted a photo of Zhao dressed in casual clothes while painting a border pillar in Aijiang Village, Daxin County, Chongzuo, Guangxi, which is also along the boundary with Vietnam. Many Chinese netizens mocked Zhao's substantially reduced role:

"Demoted a thousand miles away?"

"Where the motherland needs me to go, I will absolutely go there!"

"I wonder how some people can talk nonsense while keeping a straight face?" If you tell too many lies, you will have a split personality."

Twitter user Teacher Li is not Your Teacher (李老師不是你老師), a key figure who promoted the White Paper Revolution, on March 10 posted the image of Zhao standing next to the Qing Dynasty stele, prompting ridicule by followers:

"He really was demoted to the very bottom."

"He brought us a lot of fun when he was in the limelight. I miss him!"

"I'm sneaking around having fun, please do not disturb."

Some China observers believe that Zhao was possibly demoted because of what were deemed to be inappropriate remarks by his wife, Tang Tianru (湯天如). Many Chinese netizens discovered a series of photos of Tang traveling to Germany in June 2022, while ordinary Chinese were under harsh travel restrictions and expressing her appreciation for what she considered a "normal life" there.

In another post uploaded in December, Tang complained about the lack of fever medication in China and felt "helpless," prompting some to interpret this as meaning that Zhao was infected with COVID. Having been absent from foreign ministry press conferences since December, China announced on Jan. 10 that Zhao had been reassigned to his current position.

China's 'wolf warrior' Zhao Lijian relegated to painting border markers
Zhao Lijian stands next to Qing Dynasty stele. (Weibo photo)

China's 'wolf warrior' Zhao Lijian relegated to painting border markers
Zhao (right) stands next to border stone with an unidentified official. (Weibo photo)

China's 'wolf warrior' Zhao Lijian relegated to painting border markers
Zhao brushes red paint on border marker in Guangxi Province. (Weibo pohoto)