Can he be trusted? President Xi Jinping’s reputation on the world stage has been tarnished as his ruling Communist Party regime flexes its muscles at home and abroad.
In a speech celebrating the 50th anniversary of China rejoining the United Nations, he tried to sound more like a dove than a hawk.
“China resolutely opposes all forms of hegemony and power politics, unilateralism and protectionism,” Xi said as reported by China’s state media on Monday.
“Standing at a new historical starting point, China will stay committed to the path of peaceful development and always be a builder of world peace,” he added.
Fact and fiction:
- Xi’s address might have been taken seriously four years ago.
- But China and the world have changed dramatically.
- The brutal repression of Uighur Muslims and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang is a testament to that.
- So is the “big brother” crackdown on Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement.
- Other issues include the militarization of the South China Sea.
- And the threat to reunite democratic Taiwan with the “motherland” by force if necessary.
Delve deeper: In 1971, the UN voted to recognize the People’s Republic of China. At the same time, it expelled Taiwan.
Warning from history: An uneasy peace has existed since the Communist Party defeated Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist government, or Kuomintang, in 1949 after years of civil war on the mainland. Chiang and the remnants of his army escaped to Taiwan. Still, tension remains to this day between China and the “renegade” island.
Talking peace: “A review of the past can light the way forward … We should resolutely uphold the authority and standing of the United Nations, and work together to practice true multilateralism,” Xi said.
Alternative view: “Under Xi, Beijing has slid back toward totalitarianism,” Hal Brands at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies and Michael Beckley, an associate professor of political science at Tufts University, wrote in a commentary for Foreign Policy.
Open-air prison: “Essentially, the entire [Xinjiang] region [has been turned] into an open-air prison,” Daniel Nadel, a senior official at the US State Department’s Office of International Freedom, told a media briefing in May.
Police state: “In one year, the National Security Law has put Hong Kong on a rapid path to becoming a police state and created a human rights emergency for the people living there,” Yamini Mishra, the Asia-Pacific regional director at Amnesty International, said in June.
Winds of war: China has not only become a major economic player. It is now a formidable military power with the largest navy in the world. That firepower is now aimed at Taiwan.
Strait-jacket: “There is no doubt about the future of the situation across the Taiwan Strait. The initiative of how to solve the Taiwan question is firmly in the hands of the Chinese mainland,” state-run Global Times stated in a combative commentary earlier this month.
China Factor comment: Global opinion has radically changed towards China and the Communist Party. Xi’s hollow words are unlikely to change that.