Mr Zhao, China's second-highest ranking diplomat in Pakistan, had been making the broader point in his defence of China's internment of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang by arguing that Americans had no right to criticise China's policies given its history of racism and human rights abuses.
Chinese diplomats take to Twitter to defend Beijing
His storm of tweets was sparked by two letters last week - one from 22 countries, mostly Western, apart from Japan, calling on China to close its internment camps and a counter-letter from 37 countries with closer ties to China backing its mass detention policy. Mr Zhao wrote that white people hardly went to Washington's majority black and Latino Southwest district, saying: "There's a saying 'black in and white out', which means that as long as a black family enters, white people will quit and the price of the apartment will fall sharply.
Southeast Washington, which Mr Zhao had been referring to, is one of the capital's poorest areas despite rising gentrification in recent years and is often stereotyped as a hotbed of crime. Ms Rice responded by saying that Mr Zhao should be removed from his post and recalled to China, adding: "You are a racist disgrace. And shockingly ignorant too. Mr Zhao hit back by calling Ms Rice racist and ignorant as well, though he later deleted the tweets.
The Twitter fight came days after another frosty episode over Taiwanese independence, sparked by Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen's visit to the US last week that angered Beijing. Those who play with fire will only get themselves burned.
His sharply-worded post stood in contrast to his very first post on Twitter last Monday. That is the hot seat where American diplomacy belongs. Similarly, Secretary of State John Kerry has launched a courageous effort to revive the Israel-Palestine peace process. Given the dearth of public information about his strategy, it is clear that he is not an avid practitioner of 21st Century statecraft — that is, he does not think out loud. And yet he got the parties together by developing trust, which is the coin of the realm for an effective diplomat.
It is perhaps a little unfair to contrast these efforts to what the US did in Syria. Lo and behold, political leaders, especially tough and terrible ones like Al Assad, tend not to embrace a process whose stated purpose is to eliminate them.
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