Beijing is a trend setter on a number of issues, but this one is nothing to be proud of.

According to Xi Jinping, China is ready for global leadership.

In a major speech last October, the Communist Party leader declared that “China champions the development of a community with a shared future for mankind.” He pointed to “a further rise in China’s international influence, ability to inspire, and power to shape.” He pledged that China “will uphold justice while pursuing shared interests,” asserted that China “will pursue open, innovative, and inclusive development that benefits everyone,” and promised that China will “boost cross-cultural exchanges characterized by harmony within diversity, inclusiveness, and mutual learning.” Under his leadership, he said, China will “cultivate ecosystems based on respect for nature and green development” while continuing “its efforts to safeguard world peace, contribute to global development, and uphold international order.”

Faced with this veritable avalanche of saccharine reassurances, one can’t help but feel that Xi is trying to hide something—something other than China’s boundless ambitions as a rising power, that is.

We know, for example, that he has condemned “Western” values including the rule of law, press freedom, and constitutionalism, even if he has no scruples about borrowing from a “Western” vocabulary when it comes to his vague promises of “inclusiveness,” “green development,” and the like.

We also know that pollution in China is among the world’s worst, that inequality is a defining feature of…