The Chinese government has accused the US of pushing for a “new Cold War”, further fuelling the prospect of a trade war between the two countries.
China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, accused the Trump administration of attempting to “change China” and keep the rising superpower from modernising.
“China has no intention to change, still less replace the United States,” he said on Sunday. “It’s time for the United States to give up its wishful thinking of changing China and stopping 1.4 billion people in their historic march toward modernisation.”
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With a not-so-subtle reference to Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who have repeatedly suggested the Chinese Communist Party is a threat to the world, he said US political attacks on China over the coronavirus and global trade matters “are taking China-US relations hostage and pushing our two countries to the brink of a new cold war”.
“This dangerous attempt to turn back the will of history will undo the fruits of decades-long China-US co-operation, dampen America’s own development prospects, and put world stability and prosperity in jeopardy,” Mr Wang said.
The debate over trade has intensified as the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic becomes more pronounced.
The US, which is closing in on 100,000 COVID-19 deaths, is trying to pin the blame squarely on the Chinese Communist Party, while Beijing says the Trump administration is trying to keep it from becoming a global power.
The state-run Global Times newspaper said on Sunday that China was “considering punitive countermeasures” against some American politicians leading the efforts against it.
“China won’t just strike back symbolically, but will impose countermeasures that will make them feel the pain,” the report says.
The World Health Organisation has called on Beijing to bring them in to probe the source of the deadly virus.
“China is open to working with the international scientific community to look into the source of the virus,” Mr Wang said. “Fairness means the process be free of political interference, respect the sovereignty of all countries, and oppose any presumption of guilt.”
A paper published by the World Economic Forum on Sunday revealed that the value of Chinese exports fell by 17.2 per cent year on year in the first two months of 2020, while imports slowed by 4 per cent.
“Major industries have suffered at the hands of COVID-19, with nuclear reactors, electrical machinery and equipment, plastics and organic chemicals among the worst affected … Globalisation will work best through the adoption of a strong international co-operation network,” the paper said.
China has also proposed controversial national security legislation for Hong Kong, which could prompt US sanctions and threaten the city’s status as a financial hub, White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien said overnight.
“It looks like, with this national security law, they’re going to basically take over Hong Kong, and if they do … Secretary Pompeo will likely be unable to certify that Hong Kong maintains a high degree of autonomy, and if that happens, there will be sanctions that will be imposed on Hong Kong and China,” he said on NBC’s Meet the Press.
It comes as the US has downplayed threats to Australia that Victoria’s Belt and Road agreement with China could see the US “simply disconnect” from Australia if it impacts telecommunications.
Following Mr Pompeo’s comments the US Ambassador, Arthur Culvahouse, stressed his nation is confident its ally down under will protect the security of its telecommunications networks or those of its intelligence partners.
“We have made no secret of our concerns about 5G, and we commend Australia for its leadership on the issue,” Mr Culvahouse said.
“We are not aware that Victoria has engaged in any concrete projects under BRI, let alone projects impinging on telecommunications networks, which we understand are a federal matter.
“If there were telecommunications initiatives that we thought put the integrity of our networks at risk, of course, we would have to take a close look at that, as the secretary suggested.
“We have every confidence that Australia, as a close ally and Five Eyes partner, would take every measure necessary to ensure the security of its telecommunications networks, as it has repeatedly done in the past.”