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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Chinese President Xi Jinping this week at the United Nations General Assembly sought to portray China as the responsible global stakeholder, in contrast to the U.S.

The big picture: China is happy to work within existing multilateral structures, as long as they don't stop Beijing from doing what it wants.

In his Sept. 23 speech, Xi extolled the World Health Organization, expressed "abiding commitment" to the UN charter, and warned against attempts to roll back globalization.

  • But China has also undermined the UN commitment to human rights, violated principles shared by World Trade Organization members, and ignored a major ruling from an international court at The Hague.

What he's saying: "Let us join hands to uphold the values of peace, development, equity, justice, democracy and freedom shared by all of us and build a new type of international relations."

Between the lines:

  • By "democracy," Xi means that a small number of countries — namely, Western democracies — shouldn't be able to dictate what less powerful but more numerous non-Western countries can do, especially within their own borders.
  • By "development," Xi is referring in part to China's emphasis on the "right to development," a euphemism meaning that governments with human rights or corruption problems should not be sanctioned or denied loans. He is also giving an implicit shout-out to China's Belt and Road Initiative, which builds infrastructure, and China's political influence, abroad.

When it comes to the United Nations, the Chinese Communist Party has worked particularly hard to undermine the organization's ability to call out or take action on human rights violations.

The bottom line: Xi envisions a world in which governments face no international scrutiny for how they treat their own people — and preferably, to quote a previous speech of his, one with China "closer to the center of the world stage."

Go deeper: A hinge moment for America's role in the world

Go deeper

Scoop: Trump administration declassifies unconfirmed intel on Chinese bounties

Trump speaks during a press conference on China in the Rose Garden of the White House on May 29. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

The Trump administration is declassifying as-yet uncorroborated intelligence, recently briefed to President Trump, that indicates China offered to pay non-state actors in Afghanistan to attack American soldiers, two senior administration officials tell Axios.

The big picture: The disclosure of this unconfirmed intelligence comes 21 days before the end of Trump's presidency, after he has vowed to ratchet up pressure on China, and months after news reports indicated that the Russians had secretly offered bounties for Taliban militants to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Dec 31, 2020 - Health

China approves state-owned Sinopharm vaccine

Sinopharm vaccine. Photo Illustration: Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Health regulators in China said Thursday they have approved the country's first homegrown COVID-19 vaccine, developed by the state-owned pharmaceutical company Sinopharm, for general use, AP reports.

Why it matters: Like the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, Sinopharm's shot is said to be cheaper and easier to store than Pfizer or Moderna's vaccines.

Battle for the soul of a new web

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A well-funded and intensely motivated chunk of tech's hive mind is finding common cause in a vast new project: rebuilding the web on a foundation of cryptocurrency and blockchain tech. They call it "Web3."

The big picture: Developers, investors and early adopters imagine a future in which the technologies that enable Bitcoin and Ethereum will break up the concentrated power today's tech giants wield and usher in a golden age of individual empowerment and entrepreneurial freedom.

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