Leaders of the world’s two largest economies have laid out their competing visions as relations plunged to their worst level in decades amid the pandemic, with coronavirus-related tensions exacerbating trade and technology disputes.
Trump – facing a re-election battle in November with the United States amid the world’s highest number of coronavirus deaths at over 200,000 and infections at 6.8 million – focused his speech on attacking the China.
Trump regularly describes COVID-19 as the “Chinese virus” – a term many consider racist – and he did so again on Tuesday. He accused Beijing of allowing people to leave China at the start of the epidemic to infect the world while disrupting domestic travel.
“The Chinese government and the World Health Organization [WHO], which is virtually controlled by China, falsely stated that there is no evidence of human-to-human transmission, ”Trump said in remarks to the UNGA remotely.
“Later, they falsely said that people without symptoms would not spread the disease… The United Nations must hold China accountable for its actions.”
‘Go through this together’
Introducing Xi’s remarks, Chinese Ambassador to the UN Zhang Jun said China “resolutely rejects the baseless accusations against China.”
“When the international community fights really hard against COVID-19, the United States is spreading a political virus here in the General Assembly,” Zhang said.
“The world is at a crossroads. Right now, the world needs more solidarity and cooperation, but not confrontation. ”
In what appeared to be an implicit rebuke to Trump, Xi called for a global response to the coronavirus while giving a leading role to the WHO, which Trump has announced he plans to leave.
“In the face of the virus, we must strengthen solidarity and overcome this together,” he said. “We must follow the advice of science, play the full leadership role of the World Health Organization and launch a joint international response to overcome this pandemic. Any attempt to politicize the problem or to stigmatize it must be rejected. ”
“No government controls us,” its communications director Gabby Stern said in a tweet. “On January 14, our # COVID19 technical manager briefed the media on the potential for human-to-human transmission. Since February, our experts have publicly discussed transmission from people without symptoms or before symptoms appear. ”
‘Patron of the world’
China has presented itself as the main cheerleader of multilateralism as Trump’s contempt for international cooperation has led Washington to abandon global climate agreements and Iran and quit the Human Rights Council. United Nations man as well as WHO.
Xi manifested a look at Trump’s “America First” policy in a statement at a meeting celebrating the UN’s 75th anniversary on Monday.
“No country has the right to dominate world affairs, to control the fate of others, or to keep the benefits of development for itself. Even less should one be allowed to do what he wants and be the hegemon, the bully or the boss of the world. Unilateralism is a dead end, ”he said.
The US president, a frequent critic of the UN, said that if the organization is to be effective, it must focus on “the real problems of the world” such as “terrorism, the oppression of women, forced labor , drug trafficking, humans and sex. trafficking, religious persecution and ethnic cleansing of religious minorities ”.
Xi also on Tuesday announced his intention to bolster the Paris climate accord’s target and called for a green revolution, just minutes after Trump criticized China for “rampant pollution.”
The Chinese president has said he will reach a peak in carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2060 – the first time the world’s largest CO2 emitter has pledged to end its net contribution to climate change.
“China will step up its intention [targets] adopting more vigorous policies and measures, ”Xi said, urging all countries to pursue“ a green recovery of the global economy in the post-COVID era ”.
“China’s endemic pollution”
Trump called climate change a “hoax” and in 2017 pulled the United States out of the Paris accords by defining an international approach to global warming.
Trump, who has rolled back or cut hundreds of environmental regulations, said the United States has cut its carbon emissions more than any other country in the agreement.
“Those who attack America’s outstanding environmental record while ignoring China’s endemic pollution are not interested in the environment. They just want to punish America. And I will not stand it, ”he said.
Li Shuo, a senior climate diplomacy expert at Greenpeace, said Xi’s climate pledge, minutes after Trump’s speech, was “clearly a bold and well-calculated move.”
“This demonstrates Xi’s continued interest in leveraging the climate agenda for geopolitical purposes,” he said.
Earlier, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned that the world “is heading in a very dangerous direction” with US-China tensions.
“We must do everything to avoid a new cold war,” he told the assembly. “Our world cannot afford a future where the two largest economies split into a big divide – each with their own business and financial rules and internet and artificial intelligence capabilities.
“A technological and economic divide inevitably risks turning into a geostrategic and military divide. We must avoid this at all costs. “