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Recriminations traded between U.S./China over COVID-19 at United Nations General Assembly 

Posted: Tuesday, September 22, 2020. 4:13 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: The two most powerful nations in the world, the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China, traded recriminations virtually at the start of Tuesday’s United Nations General Assembly debate. 

National Public Radio (NPR) reports that their leaders, Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping, presented contrasting views on the handling of the pandemic which has killed millions worldwide and, as of today, more than 200 thousand in the U.S. alone. 

Trump spoke via video from the White House in Washington to delegates at UN headquarters in New York City. Referring to the disease as the “China virus,” he implied that Beijing and the World Health Organization (WHO) had worked in tandem to cover up the danger of the pandemic. He accused China of deliberately allowing international flights to leave, spreading infection across the world while locking down domestically and “falsely declaring,” in the early going that there was neither evidence of human to human transmission and that people without symptoms would not spread the disease. 

While refusing to participate in the WHO-backed global coronavirus vaccine initiative, known as COVAX, Trump promised to distribute a vaccine and stop the pandemic in the U.S. 

Following Trump and seemingly taking aim at him, Xi urged leaders to reject any attempt to politicize the pandemic. 

“The virus will be defeated. Humanity will win this battle. Facing the virus we should put people and life first. We should mobilize all resources to make a science-based and targeted-response,” Xi said, speaking in Mandarin. 

“Facing the virus, we should enhance solidarity and get through this together,” China’s leader added. “We should follow the guidance of science, give full play to the leading role of the World Health Organization and launch a joint international response to beat this pandemic. Any attempt of politicizing the issue or stigmatization must be rejected.” 

According to the BBC, Xi also said his country had “no intention to enter a Cold War with any country.” He also 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 seek to develop only ourselves or engage in zero sum game,” he said. 

In remarks released ahead of Tuesday’s speech, President Xi took a more overt swipe at the U.S., saying “no country has the right to dominate global affairs, control the destiny of others, or keep advantages in development all to itself,” something China itself has been accused of by its critics. 

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia, one of the countries hardest hit by the virus, is ready to provide its own vaccine, known as Sputnik V, which he has said will be ready for general distribution on Jan. 1. However, experts inside and outside Russia have greeted that news with skepticism, with some suggesting the haste in pushing an as-yet unproven vaccine may have more to do with politics than science. 

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, opening the meeting, reiterated a theme he has hit on repeatedly in recent months — a warning against “vaccine nationalism.” He advised against countries “making exclusive side deals” for vaccines. 

“We need more international cooperation, not less” in the fight against COVID-19, Guterres said. 

Also speaking were Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro, who rejected criticism of his country’s environmental policies, saying Brazil was the victim of a “brutal campaign of misinformation” while the Amazon rainforest is currently seeing its worst fires in years; and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who called for “sincere” dialogue over a mounting row with Greece about energy resources in the Mediterranean. 

The debate continues through September 29. 


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