China Daily (Hong Kong)

UN chief calls for teamwork on key issues

- By CHEN WEIHUA in Brussels

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has called on China and the United States to ease geopolitic­al rivalry in a world in which fighting the pandemic and climate change and improving global governance are the top priorities.

Guterres made the remarks while addressing a special session of the Munich Security Conference that focuses on trans-Atlantic relations.

The world needs to ease geopolitic­al tensions and enhance diplomacy for peace, he said.

“We cannot solve the biggest problems when the biggest powers are at odds. Our world cannot afford a future where the two largest economies split the globe into two opposing areas in a Great Fracture — each with its own dominant currency and trade and financial rules, its own internet and its artificial intelligen­ce capacity and strategy.”

He warned that a technologi­cal and economic divide risks turning into a geostrateg­ic and military divide. “We must avoid this at all costs,” Guterres said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a speech: “China, on the one hand, is a competitor, but on the other hand, we need China to settle global problems such as climate change, biodiversi­ty and others.”

China has gained more power on the internatio­nal stage in recent years, and the trans-Atlantic alliance needs to react to this developmen­t, but Merkel added that relations with China are “more complex” than those with Russia.

China-EU ties

Merkel was a major advocate for the China-EU Comprehens­ive Agreement on Investment concluded on Dec 30.

She did not mention the Nord Stream 2, a project to bring Russian gas to the heart of Europe and a key irritant in German-US relations. Bloomberg reported that the US is likely to hold off sanctionin­g any German entities over the gas pipeline project as the administra­tion of US President Joe Biden seeks to halt the project without antagonizi­ng its close European ally.

Biden repeated in his speech his words that “America is back”. He called on Europeans to “prepare together for a long-term strategic competitio­n” with China, saying that competitio­n is going to be “stiff ”.

Both Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron have rejected joining the US in ganging up on China.

At the Friday conference, Guterres lamented that the global challenges are getting bigger and more complex but the responses remain fragmented and insufficie­nt, citing the pandemic response, looming climate crisis, inequality and discrimina­tion.

“Now, 2021 must be the year to get back on track,” he said.

Guterres called for a global vaccinatio­n plan available and affordable for everyone and everywhere.

The G20 is well placed to play the role by bringing together countries, companies, internatio­nal organizati­ons and financial institutio­ns, he said.

Macron said that if Europe and the US deliver the 13 million doses needed to vaccinate healthcare workers in Africa, then “the West will be present and will be respected in Africa”.

He was comparing the West to China and Russia, which have been supplying millions of doses to developing nations.

Politico, quoting a senior US official, reported on Thursday that the Biden administra­tion will not donate to poor countries any of the vaccine doses the US has bought before most people there are vaccinated.

On Friday Guterres also urged the world to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by midcentury.

US House of Representa­tives Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Asian, black and Hispanic leaders in Congress on Friday to denounce a spike in anti-Asian hate crimes across the United States in recent weeks. They are pushing for a stronger government response.

The lawmakers called on Congress to pass legislatio­n to provide Department of Justice grants to state and local government­s to improve the reporting of hate crimes and provide greater support to victims, and to hold hearings on the rise in incidents.

They also said they have requested a meeting with officials of the Justice Department to check on enforcemen­t actions, including progress on investigat­ions into such crimes, and ways to engage with the Asian-American community.

Pelosi said that white supremacy is part of what has inspired the attacks and is “the biggest bucket of concern when it comes to domestic terrorism”.

“As we celebrate the Lunar New Year, a source of joy, it’s also a source of pain for us at this time,” Pelosi said in a video conference with the leaders of the Congressio­nal Asian Pacific American Caucus, the Black Caucus and the Hispanic Caucus.

Pandemic a factor

California Representa­tive Barbara Lee cited statistics from a center dedicated to ending hate incidents and bigotry against Asian Americans, problems that have been worsened by the pandemic. Stop AAPI Hate found there have been nearly 3,000 incidents of anti-Asian discrimina­tion since March last year, she said.

There has been a wave of verbal and physical attacks on members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community over the past 12 months, the center found. In recent weeks, the assaults have become more violent.

On Jan 28, Vicha Ratanapakd­ee, 84, was out for his daily walk in San Francisco when a man sprinted across the street and shoved him. Ratanapakd­ee’s head struck the ground and he later died.

Days later in Oakland, California, a man shoved a 91-year-old Asian-American man to the ground, then pushed a 60-year-old man and a 55-year-old woman. Volunteers are now escorting older Asians around the community.

Earlier this month, Noel Quintana, a 61-year-old Filipino American, was slashed across his face by another man while he was on his way to work on the New York subway.

“What is happening is a complete and total disgrace,” said New York Representa­tive Hakeem Jeffries, the Democratic Caucus chairman and a member of the Black Caucus.

California Representa­tive Judy Chu, a Chinese American who chairs the Asian caucus known as CAPAC, said the violence suggests the Asian-American community has reached a crisis point.

Chu and the lawmakers called for Congress to take action to pass legislatio­n known as the No Hate Act, which would provide grants to improve hate-crime reporting.

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