Chinese President Xi Jinping is seeking to project China’s strength on the world stage at the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Beijing on Friday, but the global sporting competition will begin under the shadow of mounting geopolitical tensions.
This includes the determination by the U.S. and allies that China is carrying out a genocide in Xinjiang, systematically silencing free speech and stifling cooperation in the international battle against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Xi has described Putin as his “best friend,” and the Olympics are a key opportunity for the controversial leaders to sit down face-to-face.
“They both sit at the top of, increasingly, personalized-authoritarian systems. They are kindred spirits in that respect,” said Jacob Stokes, a fellow in the Indo-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security.
China joined Russia at the United Nations Security Council last week in opposing an open session meeting called by the U.S. to discuss Moscow’s military buildup and provocations against Ukraine.
Stokes said that while he doesn’t think China is encouraging Russia to take military action, Moscow and Beijing both see themselves and the survival of their political regimes as coming under attack.
“China wants to make the world safer for authoritarianism,” Stokes said.
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