The CCP's propaganda apparatus was out in full force for months leading up to today, blanketing the country with "patriotic" imagery and media as it faces record unfavorable views abroad, according to new polling from Pew Research.
"A lot of people around the world, per those surveys, don't think the CCP is very 'lovable,'" Cook tells Axios, a reference to Xi's recent request for his "wolf warrior" diplomats to tone down their confrontational rhetoric.
"[W]hen you're talking about the messaging and the propaganda, they need to do it because they need to whitewash over a very harsh reality," she adds.
Why it matters: President Biden is seeking to rally a global coalition to challenge Beijing over its abuses, including its genocide in Xinjiang, crackdown in Hong Kong, saber-rattling toward Taiwan, and coercive economic practices all over the world.
By the numbers: In 15 of the 17 advanced economies polled by Pew, more than 80% of respondents said China does not respect the personal freedoms of its people.
Negative views of China hit historic highs in 10 of those advanced economies in either 2020 or 2021, as fallout spread from Beijing's early cover-up of the coronavirus outbreak.
The majority of people in 15 of 16 countries would prefer a closer economic relationship with the U.S., rather than with China. Singapore is the one exception.
Between the lines: China has few friends in the West these days, but it continues to command loyalty and influence in the developing world. It's there, where China views itself as a leader and success story, that the CCP's propaganda is especially valuable.
China relies on governments with whom it shares deep economic ties for support at forums like the UN Human Rights Council, where members routinely sign dueling statements condemning or defending Beijing's human rights abuses.
A prime example is Pakistan, where Prime Minister Imran Khan has railed against Islamophobia in the West while refusing to condemn China's detention of 1 million Muslim minorities.
"Without that electoral democracy, [China] has actually fared much better," Khan told China's state-run media recently. "For me, it is probably more remarkable than any electoral democracy."