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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

We've all heard of China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which I have described as a growing global network of "Chinese-led, largely opaque alternatives to Western-led institutions and global norms."

Yes, but: Western observers have tended to ignore a BRI-linked initiative that Chinese President Xi Jinping has recently touted — the "Health Silk Road" (健康丝绸之路).

  • Xi has alluded to the initiative in phone calls and letters with several European heads of government since the coronavirus pandemic began, including Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and French President Emmanuel Macron.

Why it matters: "It is the clearest example of the fact that BRI is not about infrastructure construction, but a broader effort to redraw the world according to Beijing’s preferred design," said Nadège Rolland, a senior fellow at the National Bureau of Asian Research.

The intrigue: In August 2017, the then-new, China-backed WHO director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, gave a speech hailing the Health Silk Road's creation.

  • "President Xi’s proposal for a Health Silk Road, which strengthens and renews ancient links between cultures and people, with health at its core, is indeed visionary," said the WHO chief. "If we are to secure the health of the billions of people represented here, we must seize the opportunities the Belt and Road Initiative provides."

Details: The Health Silk Road "is not a multilateral institution per se," said Rolland. "It’s more a hub-and-spoke organism, like the 17+1 model: China at the center, with multiple bilateral arms extending outwards."

The big picture: China is seeking to position itself as a global leader that can be relied on in times of crisis.

  • The BRI, and its affiliated Health Silk Road, are both a rhetorical and an organizational means of defining the economic and geopolitical relationship between China and other countries as that of magnanimous leader and grateful followers.

Go deeper: A China-centric 21st century

Go deeper

American Carissa Moore wins first-ever women's Olympic gold in surfing

Carissa Moore of Team USA surfs during the women's Quarter Final on day four of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Tsurigasaki Surfing Beach in Ichinomiya, Chiba, Japan, on Tuesday. Photo: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

Team USA's Carissa Moore won gold in the first-ever Olympic women's surfing final, at the Tokyo Games on Tuesday.

The big picture: The four-time world champion surfer from Hawaii was touted as a gold-medal favorite ahead of the finals, which were brought forward a day due to the threat of Tropical Storm Nepartak. Brazil's Italo Ferreira won the gold medal in the inaugural men's Olympic surfing contest.

Editor's note: This a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.

Updated 24 mins ago - World

Hong Kong judges return guilty verdict in first security law trial

Activist Tong Ying-kit arrives at the West Kowloon court in Hong Kong in 2020. Photo: Isaac Lawrence/AFP via Getty Images

Tong Ying-kit, the first person to be charged and tried under Hong Kong's national security law was found guilty of terrorism and inciting secession by three judges Tuesday, per Bloomberg. The 24-year-old had pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Why it matters: The law passed by the ruling Chinese Communist Party last year carries the maximum sentence of life imprisonment. In a departure from the Asian financial hub's common law traditions, Tong was denied a jury trial.

Updated 2 hours ago - Sports

Olympics dashboard

🎾: Naomi Osaka eliminated from Olympic tennis tournament

🏊‍♀️: Teen swimmer Lydia Jacoby wins first U.S. women's Tokyo Games gold

✊🏿: Costa Rican gymnast pays tribute to Black Lives Matter in Olympic routine

🥇: Weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz wins the Philippines' first Olympic gold

🤖: The robot Olympics

🌡: Heat wave brings scorching temperatures to Tokyo Olympics

Go deeper: Full Axios coverage - Medal tracker

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