Xi Jingpin and Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud Ma Zhancheng/Xinhua via ZUMA Wire

China’s Illusory Global Leadership

Chinese President Xi Jinping is trying hard to portray his country as a global power ready to assume a broader international role. But China's continued reliance on a resource-based approach to development assistance, not to mention its reluctance to help address humanitarian crises, is doing little for the cause.

ATLANTA – Even as China’s economy slows and its government backslides on reform, President Xi Jinping is trying hard to portray his country as a global power ready to assume a broader international role. It is proving to be a tough sell.

Xi’s efforts to boost China’s international clout are not in doubt. His meetings with Asian leaders in Manila last November rounded out a year of high-profile travel, in which he has touted China – which has provided billions of dollars in foreign assistance and investments around the world in recent years – as a leading global benefactor. In the Middle East, Chinese firms are building a subway in Iran’s capital and a high-speed railway in Saudi Arabia. Last June, Egypt entered into an agreement with China for 15 projects worth about $10 billion. In Latin America, Chinese officials have forecast $250 billion in new infrastructure deals.

Most far-reaching is China’s “one belt, one road” initiative, which aims to recreate the ancient maritime and overland Silk Roads, connecting China to the rest of Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. The $40 billion Silk Road Fund and the $50 billion Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, launched last year, promise to finance much of the construction, with the AIIB being viewed by many as a challenge to the World Bank.

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