World leaders sounded alarms Tuesday over the widening rift between the U.S. and China, warning that a lack of cooperation could worsen the coronavirus pandemic, slow a global economic recovery or even lead to outright conflict.
“We must do everything to avoid a new Cold War,” United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said in opening the annual U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York. “A technological and economic divide risks inevitably turning into a geostrategic and military divide.”
Chinese leader Xi Jinping, appearing at the U.N. like other leaders via video message, said Beijing has “no intention to fight either a cold war or a hot one with any country.” Yet the growing U.S.-China divide was on display as President Trump slammed Beijing for allowing the coronavirus to spread and took aim at China’s environmental and trade record.
The two leaders, who fought a bitter trade war ending in an uncertain truce this year, disagreed about the role of U.N. agencies and other global organizations as a way to grapple with the virus and other global problems.
The two governments have also clashed over the South China Sea, India, Hong Kong and Taiwan, where China flexed its military muscle with flights into its airspace after a U.S. State Department official in recent days visited what Beijing considers a renegade province.