In the past week officials in France, Britain and nearly two dozen African nations have rebuked actions or statements by the Chinese government.
China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, has used the coronavirus pandemic to shore up his political power at home, but the tools the Communist Party has exploited to do this are threatening China’s international standing.
China has demanded fealty and praise of Xi’s handling of the pandemic as a price for the country’s provision of medical supplies and expertise. It has accused Western countries of failing to protect their people, unleashing vitriol usually preserved for domestic audiences on the world, provoking anger.
In the past week officials in France, Britain and nearly two dozen African nations have rebuked actions or statements by the Chinese government. Xi’s government has now been accused of hypocrisy and hubris, for obfuscating the origins of the coronavirus and for portraying Western governments as ineffectual compared to China’s own response.
The state’s efforts to bolster Xi’s standing at home are undercutting any goodwill that China had generated by sending experts and medical supplies to countries on the newest front lines of the pandemic.
“There’s no doubt: We can’t have business as usual after this crisis, and we’ll have to ask the hard questions about how it came about and about how it could’ve been stopped earlier,” Britain’s foreign minister, Dominic Raab, said Thursday.
The lasting effect on Xi’s global ambitions could be profound. China’s relationship with the United States has already cratered, despite a rhetorical truce reached between Xi and President Donald Trump. Now there is evidence the pandemic is forcing other countries to rethink relations.
Japan has pledged $2 billion to help companies move their production out of China because of concerns about the country’s reliability. President Emmanuel Macron of France questioned whether China’s response was a model for democracies to follow, disputing the narrative Xi’s acolytes have tried to spin. “Let’s not be so naive as to say it’s been much better at handling this,” he said in an interview with The Financial Times.
China’s state media portray Xi as a steady, forceful and yet benevolent leader who has guided the country through a “people’s war” against the pandemic. The increasingly combative, nationalist tone