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

Oct 20, 2020 - World

China embraces hostage diplomacy

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Chinese government is threatening to detain foreign citizens unless their home governments do what Beijing demands. In some cases, China has already made good on those threats.

The big picture: This marks a potential evolution of China's "wolf warrior diplomacy" to outright rogue state behavior, putting it in the company of countries like North Korea and Iran, which have also engaged in hostage diplomacy.

Oct 20, 2020 - World

Right-wing media falsely ties Black Lives Matter movement to Beijing

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Right-wing outlets and commentators have recently spread a false claim linking the Chinese Communist Party to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Why it matters: Such claims raise concerns that a real issue — that of Chinese government interference in U.S. politics — could be wrongly invoked along partisan lines to attack Americans engaging in legitimate activities.

Oct 20, 2020 - World

Sweden bans Chinese telecoms Huawei and ZTE from 5G networks


Photo: Visual China Group via Getty Images

Sweden banned Chinese telecom giants Huawei and ZTE from its 5G mobile networks on Tuesday, citing China’s “extensive intelligence gathering and theft of technology.”

The big picture: Since the Trump administration announced its own ban last year, the U.S. government has increasingly pressured allies to follow its lead amid growing tensions between the West and China. In July, the United Kingdom became the first European country to announce plans to exclude Huawei from its networks by 2027.

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