In his keynote speech to the Boao Forum for Asia annual conference on Tuesday, Chinese dictator Xi Jinping talked about his plans to use the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to impose China’s vision of universal “rules and standards” on the world, permanently displacing the United States and Europe as the leading global powers.
As always, Xi’s plans for Chinese global hegemony were couched in soothing promises that China “will never seek hegemony, expansion, or a sphere of influence” – an assertion that would prompt bitter laughter from the Filipinos currently watching fleets of Chinese militia boats gobble up their islands, Indians watching China push into their Himalayan territory, or Burmese watching their country fall to a brutal Beijing-supported military junta.
What Xi was actually describing, beneath all his globalist cant about “multilateral cooperation on trade and investment” and a “closer partnership for openness and inclusiveness,” was a new unipolar world dominated by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) where authoritarian dictatorships are liberated from any concerns about human rights. He saw BRI as the path leading to that destination:
I have noted on various occasions that the Belt and Road Initiative is a public road open to all, not a private path owned by one single party. All interested countries are welcome aboard to take part in the cooperation and share in its benefits. Belt and Road cooperation pursues development, aims at mutual benefits, and conveys a message of hope.
Going forward, we will continue to work with other parties in high-quality Belt and Road cooperation. We will follow the principles of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, and champion the philosophy of open, green and clean cooperation, in a bid to make Belt and Road cooperation high-standard, people-centered and sustainable.
Xi also sought to use China’s coronavirus and climate change as leverage to project Beijing’s power across a weakened Third World:
In the ongoing fight against COVID-19, victory will be ours at the end of the day. We must put people and their lives above anything else, scale up information sharing and collective efforts, enhance public health and medical cooperation, and give full play to the key role of the World Health Organization (WHO). It is important that we bolster international cooperation on the R&D, production and distribution of vaccines and increase their accessibility and affordability in developing countries so that everyone in the world can access and afford the vaccines they need. It is also important that we take comprehensive measures to improve global governance on public health security and work together for a global community of health for all. We need to follow the philosophy of green development, advance international cooperation on climate change, and do more to implement the Paris Agreement on climate change. The principle of common but differentiated responsibilities must be upheld, and concerns of developing countries on capital, technology and capacity building must be addressed.
Xi talked about “openness and innovation,” and the supposedly welcoming nature of the Chinese marketplace – but as the World Health Organization’s farcical mission to Wuhan demonstrated, China is utterly opaque. Beijing’s relentless campaign of cyber-warfare and intellectual property theft demonstrates what it really thinks about “openness and innovation.” Foreign businessmen who search for profit in China’s marketplace soon find their economic interests turned into political leverage against them, as with the international corporations Xi is currently forcing to swallow their objections to slave labor.
Much of Xi’s speech was a thinly-veiled assault on Western leadership and the last remaining international restraints on Beijing’s growing power:
World affairs should be handled through extensive consultation, and the future of the world should be decided by all countries working together. We must not let the rules set by one or a few countries be imposed on others, or allow unilateralism pursued by certain countries to set the pace for the whole world. What we need in today’s world is justice, not hegemony. Big countries should behave in a manner befitting their status and with a greater sense of responsibility.
This, again, is risible coming from the dictator-for-life of a country that routinely disregards international court judgments and arbitration that interferes with its agenda – the country that loves to talk about climate change theology, because it cripples Western competition, while it litters the world with carbon-spewing coal power plants. Xi and his apparatchiks are very good at saying what globalists want to hear, but Beijing’s conduct is almost the perfect opposite of what they say.
Beijing’s bid for global hegemony has three prongs: a growing international appetite for authoritarian stability after China’s pandemic destroyed the world economy, the desire of brutal dictatorships for protection against Western human rights ideals, and the challenge to America’s moral standing made possible by the election of President Joe Biden. The Chinese quickly demonstrated proficiency at using the anti-American rhetoric of Biden and his Democrat Party as cudgels against them.
This proficiency was on display in Xi’s speech to the Boao Forum, and also in Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin’s tirade on Monday against the U.S. and Japan for allegedly “ganging up” against China, as reported by China’s state news service Xinhua:
On human rights issues, Japan and the United States owe debts to Chinese and world people, said Wang, citing the disaster inflicted on Chinese and Asian people by Japan’s invasion war in the 1930s, and the incessant wars launched by the United States on foreign lands, which have killed more than 800,000 people since 2001, including 300,000 civilians.
Instead of using human rights issues as a pretext for interfering in China’s internal affairs, Japan and the United States should reflect on and correct their own invasion history and their wrong deeds of violating the human rights of the people of other countries.
He said that for the Japanese side, the pressing task now is to face up to solemn concerns of the surrounding countries and the international community, immediately stop the implementation of the decision to dump nuclear wastewater into the sea.
Wang said politicization and stigmatization of COVID-19 by the United States has not only taken a heavy toll on U.S. people but also created obstacles for international cooperation in fighting COVID-19.
China’s gambit for global dominance is a fairly stark offer to reward smaller governments, and transnational corporations, who abandon their commitment to human rights and accept Beijing’s political dominance in exchange for Chinese money and profits. Agreeing not to “stigmatize China” for the coronavirus is essentially the first line on an application for Chinese bank loans and business permits.
Political domination is sold with the promise that China’s dictatorship is more orderly, rational, and stable than erratic democracies with bitter internal conflicts and feuding political parties. Xi Jinping knows what his audience needs to hear in order to salve what remains of their consciences.