【Straitstimes】China Vice-Foreign Minister calls US Omicron surge 'greatly out of control'

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【Straitstimes】China Vice-Foreign Minister calls US Omicron surge 'greatly out of control'

2022-01-21

Source: The Straits Times    Published: 2022-01-19


A senior Chinese diplomat blasted the US' Omicron outbreak as "greatly out of control" and one of its four great failures of governance last year, as the world's two largest economies continue to spar on everything from trade to the pandemic.


Vice-Foreign Minister Le Yucheng - considered a top contender to succeed Foreign Minister Wang Yi at this year's leadership congress - criticised the Biden administration's record on the highly transmissible variant in a speech on Tuesday (Jan 18) at a Renmin University forum in Beijing, saying it followed major systemic blows including the storming of the Capitol, the fall of Kabul on the exit of US troops and soaring inflation.


"At the beginning of last year, the 'great fall' of the US Capitol Hill occurred," he said, referring to a pro-Trump mob breaching the seat of US democracy.


"Subsequently, the world witnessed the 'great defeat' of the US military in Kabul, which left Afghanistan with chaos and turmoil."


"The epidemic in many countries is once again greatly out of control," he added, noting that the United States this month recorded 1.5 million cases in a day.


Finally, the "greatest inflation" risks in nearly 40 years had seen prices surge in America, he said, acknowledging that Europe faced similar challenges.


The No. 3 Foreign Ministry official's comments are evidence of lingering tensions between Beijing and Washington, which have been embroiled in trade wars and diplomatic standoffs in recent years.


The two economic powerhouses have diverged in their pandemic approach, with China trying to eliminate the virus from its borders, while the US has pivoted to some form of living with Covid-19.


While Le named a virtual summit between US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping as a diplomatic highlight of 2021, he also criticised Washington for initiating a de facto "new Cold War".


Le rejected US criticisms of China's increasingly aggressive diplomatic approach, as well as Beijing's crackdown in Hong Kong and handling of the far western region of Xinjiang.


"Faced with such extreme competitions, does anyone expect China to remain silent and submit to arrest? That's some imperial old dream and it's time to wake up," the 59-year-old said.


Despite that, Le said "competition" was the wrong word to describe bilateral ties between Beijing and Washington, saying China did not care about its economy overtaking that of the US.


"China and the US should give up the boxing match," Le said, "and shift to track and field, so as to become our better selves."


China's Xi Jinping hits out at ‘acts of suppression, confrontation’

On Taiwan, Le said it was "a matter of time" before the island lost all of its diplomatic allies, following Nicaragua's switch in recognition to Beijing in December.


Beijing regards Taiwan as a breakaway province to be reunified, by force if necessary.


Le said the various shows of US support for "Taiwan independence" were unacceptable, went against the one-China policy and "stepped on the red line", Hong Kong's South China Morning Post reported.


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