A screen displays Xi wearing a face mask, in Beijing, China, May 2020
Tingshu Wang / Reuters

In the months since the global COVID-19 pandemic began in Wuhan, China’s leaders have turned increasingly nationalistic. They have boasted to both domestic and foreign audiences about the superiority of China’s system when it comes to combating the disease. They have peddled conspiracy theories about the U.S. origins of the novel coronavirus. They have embraced “wolf warrior” diplomacy, brashly attacking foreign critics and using social media and other platforms to highlight foreign shortcomings.

Although the main objective of Beijing’s nationalist push has been to build domestic support for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), it has also

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