Under Xi, China’s most powerful and authoritarian leader since Mao Zedong, it is widely noted that the communist regime in Beijing has become more regressive at home and more aggressive abroad. For instance, since he came to power in 2012, Xi has tightened the ruling party’s – if not his – control over the 1.3 billion-plus-people country’s cultural, social, economic and political life. The tightly censored country “was the world’s worst abuser of Internet freedom in [Freedom House’s 2018] Freedom on the Net for the fourth consecutive year.”
Under his watch, Beijing has carried out land reclamation and a military build-up in the contested waters of the South China Sea. It has also rejected a landmark ruling by a United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which invalidated many of its contentious claims and unlawful actions in the resource-rich and strategically vital sea.