The US President’s speech came in the form of a recorded message
Tensions between the US and China came to the fore at the annual UN General Assembly in New York. US President Donald Trump blamed China for the spread of the corona virus.
He called for China to be “held accountable” for the pandemic.
In his speech, Chinese President Xi Jinping said his country “has no intention of entering into a Cold War with any country.”
Relations between the two world powers are tense on several fronts.
This year’s summit in New York is largely taking place virtually. World leaders are making pre-recorded speeches.
The new format meant that part of the geopolitical theater that was normally offered at the main UN meeting was absent. Each country was represented by a single delegate, and there was little opportunity for one nation to refute another.
But, as is so often the case with speeches to the congregation, President Trump used his address to announce his successes and transform himself into a rival.
“We have to hold the nation accountable that brought this plague to the world – China,” he said.
“In the earliest days of the virus, China blocked domestic travel while flights could leave China and infect the world. China condemned my travel ban on their country despite canceling domestic flights and locking citizens in their homes,” he added.
President Trump, whose own coronavirus records are being scrutinized en route to US elections, has often accused Beijing of covering up the virus and claiming they could have stopped the spread of the disease. China has called the attacks an unfounded diversion.
The U.S. coronavirus death toll is the highest in the world at more than 200,000, and President Trump has often downplayed the disease.
Tensions between the US and China are high on a number of other issues, including trade, technology, Hong Kong, and China’s treatment of Muslim minorities in Xinjiang Province.
Shortly after the US leader, President Xi warned of the risks of a “clash of civilizations”.
“We will continue to narrow differences and resolve disputes with others through dialogue and negotiation. We will not try to just develop ourselves or engage in a zero-sum game,” he said.
In remarks published ahead of Tuesday’s speech, President Xi was more open about the US, saying, “No country has the right to rule global affairs, control the fate of others, or keep development advantages to itself,” something China himself was accused by critics.
Trump is targeting US voters
By Laura Trevelyan, BBC News
This was a blunt speech by President Trump, who is due to be re-elected in 40 days. He had Beijing firmly in his sights, accusing what he and his supporters call the China virus of taking countless lives.
Mr Trump is trying to divert attention from his own handling of the pandemic by showering China with opprobrium while underscoring US efforts to find a cure.
We will end the pandemic, the US President promised and said that thanks to our efforts, three vaccines are in the final stages of development. To a large extent, Mr Trump has included the United Nations World Health Organization in his criticism of China. He said the international body he is withdrawing US funds from is practically controlled by China, accusing it of spreading what he called misinformation about the virus.
This was not a subtle speech. It was a clear attempt to shift the blame, as Americans are already voting in the presidential election.
The meeting was opened by UN Secretary General António Guterres, who warned, without mentioning China or the US, “we must do everything we can to avoid a new Cold War”.
“We are moving in a very dangerous direction,” he said. “Our world cannot afford a future in which the two largest economies divide the globe in a large fraction – each with its own trading and financial rules, as well as internet and artificial intelligence capabilities.”
He said there was no room for selfishness in the face of the coronavirus. “Populism and nationalism have failed,” he said. “These approaches to contain the virus have obviously often made the situation worse.”
President Trump gave a very different vision in his speech, saying, “Only if you take care of your own citizens will you find a real foundation for working together.”