US president Donald Trump once again cast blame for the COVID-19 pandemic on China, prompting the UN chief to warn against a “new Cold War” between the global superpowers.
During an address before the United Nations this week, Mr Trump attacked Beijing as well as the UN, for not stopping the virus earlier, and called for China to be held accountable, despite himself being under intense scrutiny for having repeatedly downplayed the virus. He once again used the loaded term “the china virus”.
“We must hold accountable the nation which unleashed this plague on to the world – China,” he said, according to BBC News.
“In the earliest days of the virus China locked down travel domestically, while allowing flights to leave China and infect the world. China condemned my travel ban on their country, even as they cancelled domestic flights and locked citizens in their homes,” he added.
According to reports by News 24, China’s ambassador to the UN, Zhang Jun rejected what he called Trump’s “baseless accusation” and called Trump’s tone “incompatible with the general atmosphere” of the United Nations.
“If we do have to hold anyone accountable”, he added, “it should be the United States held accountable for losing so many lives with their irresponsible behaviour”.
According to the BBC, shortly after the US leader spoke, China’s President Xi warned of a “clash of civilisations”.
“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,” he said.
Repeating a warning to world leaders he made a year ago, the United Nations’ secretary-general, Antonio Guterres said, “We are moving in a very dangerous direction.”
“Our world cannot afford a future where the two largest economies split the globe in a Great Fracture — each with its own trade and financial rules and internet and artificial intelligence capacities,” Guterres said. “A technological and economic divide risks inevitably turning into a geo-strategic and military divide. We must avoid this at all costs.”
While the COVID-19 pandemic was not the root of the growing friction between the two nations, it’s stoked the flames and intensified an already dangerous rivalry. The virus has already claimed the lives of at least 971,677 people since it emerged in China last year, according to a tally of sources compiled by the AFP.
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