Trump attacks China over Covid ‘plague’ as Xi urges collaboration in virus fight | World news

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Donald Trump and Xi Jinping offered starkly contrasting responses to the coronavirus pandemic on Tuesday, with the US president blaming Beijing for unleashing a “plague” on the world – and his Chinese counterpart casting the fight against the virus as an opportunity for international cooperation.

In his recorded video address to the annual UN general assembly, Trump unleashed an assault on China largely pitched at a domestic audience.

Speaking as the US death toll from Covid-19 passed 200,000, Trump promised a “bright future” but said the world “must hold accountable the nation which unleashed this plague on to the world: China.”

Trump also took the opportunity to attack the World Health Organization – falsely describing it as “virtually controlled by China” – and again claiming that the international body had said there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission.

The UN general assembly has itself been remade by the pandemic, reduced to a virtual event for the first time in its 75-year history, but sharp differences over the international response to coronavirus – and the contrasting world orders being offered by China and the US – were on clear display.

Trump promised to distribute a vaccine and said, “We will defeat the virus, and we will end the pandemic” and enter a new era of prosperity, cooperation and peace.

The US president also reprised his criticism of the UN, arguing that it should focus on what he described as “the real problems of the world” such as “terrorism, the oppression of women, forced labor, drug trafficking, human and sex trafficking, religious persecution, and the ethnic cleansing of religious minorities”.

In introducing Xi’s remarks, China’s UN ambassador Zhang Jun immediately hit back, saying China “resolutely rejects the baseless accusations against China. The world is at a crossroads. At this moment, the world needs more solidarity and cooperation, but not confrontation.”

The message of co-operation was repeated throughout the Chinese leader’s speech, in which Xi posed as the UN’s friend and offered the body extra cash to find a Covid vaccine, vowing Beijing has “no intention to fight either a cold war or a hot one with any country”.

Xi said: “We will continue to narrow differences and resolve disputes with others through dialogue and negotiation. We will not seek to develop only ourselves or engage in zero sum game. Unilateralism is dead.”

Xi said: “No country has the right to dominate global affairs, control the destiny of others or keep advantages in development all to itself.” He added that no nation should be the “bully or boss of the world”.

Echoing the sentiments of the UN secretary general António Guterres, Xi called for a global response to the epidemic, co-ordinated by the WHO – from which Trump has withdrawn and his presidential rival Joe Biden has promised to rejoin.

China, its image damaged by its early handling of the virus and subsequent heavy-handed diplomacy, has nevertheless found its influence at the UN growing, as Trump vacates territory that American diplomats once dominated.

Xi made no direct rebuke of Trump but said: “Any attempt of politicizing the issue or stigmatization must be rejected.” He added that his country had no desire for “hegemony, expansion or sphere of influence”.

In another implicit rebuke to the US, Xi sought to portray China as the country embracing modernity.

He said: “Burying one’s head in the sand like an ostrich in the face of economic globalization, or trying to fight it with Don Quixote’s lance, goes against the trend of history. Let this be clear: the world will never return to isolation.”

Trump tried to broaden his attack on China’s handling beyond Covid by condemning China’s carbon emissions record as well as its dumping of plastic.

Xi Jinping on screen at the UN.

Xi Jinping on screen at the UN. Photograph: Eskinder Debebe/AP

He said: “Those who attack America’s exceptional environmental record while ignoring China’s rampant pollution are not interested in the environment. They only want to punish America. And I will not stand for it.” He made no mention of China’s human rights record.

But Xi seemed prepared for Trump’s unlikely line of attack, saying China was on course to reach zero carbon emissions by 2060. He added China would achieve a peak in carbon dioxide emissions before 2030.

The Chinese leader also signalled his intention to boost China’s commitments under the Paris climate agreement – from which Trump has withdrawn the US.

In his opening address, Guterres tried to galvanise the 193-member assembly to acknowledge the world was at a 1945 moment, requiring unprecedented co-operation to prevent the world splitting into two competing empires.

Warning that “we are moving in a very dangerous direction,” Guterres said: “Our world cannot afford a future where the two largest economies split the globe in a great fracture. A technological and economic divide risks inevitably turning into a geo-strategic and military divide. We must avoid this at all costs.”

But he also nailed his political colours to the mast, saying the populists and nationalists had failed to tackle Coronavirus, and again urged world leaders to follow the science, and to recognise that the coronavirus was only a dress rehearsal for the challenges ahead.

Guterres won support from the Russianpresident Vladimir Putin, who proposed a high-level conference to spread research on a coronavirus vaccine. He called for the WHO to be given greater powers.

The first leader to speak was Jair Bolsonaro, who used the occasion to deny that he had mishandled his country’s coronavirus crisis, and to claim that Brazil had been wrongly portrayed as an environmental villain.

Even as fires continue to rage in the Pantanal, the world’s largest tropical wetlands, Bolsonaro claimed Brazil had been the victim of a “misinformation campaign”.

Environmental advocates blame Bolsonaro for emboldening illegal ranchers and land speculators who set fire to land to increase its value for agricultural use.

Brazil has seen more than 137,200 coronavirus deaths – second only to the US – and Bolsonaro has faced accusations of catastrophically mismanaging the crisis by dismissing its severity and undermining containment measures.

In a speech which also seemed directed more to a domestic audience, Bolsonaro once more questioned the need for lockdown measures, and blamed the press for “politicizing” the disease, which has infected 4.6 million Brazilians.

Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Trump attacks China over Covid ‘plague’ as Xi urges collaboration in virus fight | World news

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