China’s efforts to reshape the world order have gathered pace since Xi Jinping became president of China in 2013. Xi’s flagship foreign policy enterprise – the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – is a powerful example of Beijing’s long-term goal to boost its own standing in the world. An ambitious trillion-dollar infrastructure and investment programme linking China to the rest of Asia, as well as Africa and Europe, the BRI not only serves an economic purpose, it has also played a role in Beijing’s efforts to export a Chinese model of governance to other countries, including its particular view of human rights. BRI projects are typically negotiated between states, often benefitting elites, without consulting – or mitigating the adverse effects on – the communities and people directly impacted.
Xi made his vision for China even clearer in 2017, when he outlined his plans to turn China into one of the world’s most advanced economic and military powers by 2050 in a speech to the Chinese Communist Party’s 19th Congress. That same year, “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” was enshrined in China’s constitution and since then China has sought to introduce language from the political theory bearing Xi’s name into UN resolutions.