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U.S.-China spats rattle world, prompting calls for unity

BEIJING (AP) — Antagonisms between the U.S. and China are rattling governments around the world, prompting a German official to warn of “Cold War 2.0” and Kenya’s president to appeal for unity to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Global trade already was depressed by two years of tariff warring between the world’s two biggest economies. That rancor has spread to include Hong Kong, Chinese Muslims, spying accusations and control of the South China Sea.

Caught in the middle, other world governments are trying to defend their own interests.

GERMANY:

Chancellor Angela Merkel wants to preserve trade and cooperation on global warming but says security law tightening Beijing’s control over Hong Kong is a “difficult issue.”

The potential disruption from the Hong Kong security law of the autonomy Beijing promised to the former British colony is no reason to stop talking but is “a worrying development,” Merkel said Monday.

Europe’s biggest economy has yet to take a final position on Chinese tech giant Huawei despite U.S. pressure to exclude its equipment from next-generation telecom networks as a possible security risk.

“China is an important partner for us but also a competitor,” Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in a statement after a videoconference with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi.

Peter Beyer, the government’s coordinator for trans-Atlantic cooperation, expressed alarm in an interview with the RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland newspaper group.

“We are experiencing the beginning of a Cold War 2.0.”

FRANCE:

President Emmanuel Macron calls President Donald Trump “my friend” but is trying to avoid riling Beijing.

France has not echoed Trump’s criticism of Beijing’s handling of the coronavirus, but legislators applauded Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian last week when he condemned abuses of minority Uighurs in China’s northwest.

Le Drian mentioned “mass arrests, disappearances, forced labor, forced sterilizations, the destruction of Uighur cultural heritage.” He said France has asked that the camps be closed.

“All these practices are unacceptable,” the minister said. “We condemn them.”

Trump’s ambivalence toward U.S. allies and flouting of diplomatic norms has alarmed France.

EUROPE:

Europe’s “strategic relations” with China will be an issue for the European Union while Germany holds the rotating presidency of the 27-nation bloc, Merkel said this month.

EU foreign ministers have not managed to agree on a common position on China.

Regarding Hong Kong, options include closer scrutiny of exports of sensitive technology to the territory and changing visa policies for its residents. But there is no talk of economic sanctions or targeting Chinese officials with penalties.

“The message is that the recent actions change the rules,” said the top EU foreign policy official, Josep Borrell. “This will require a revision of our approach and will clearly have an impact on our relations.”

SOUTH KOREA:

South Korea is squeezed between its main military ally and its biggest trading partner.

In 2016, Beijing destroyed supermarket operator Lotte’s business in China after the conglomerate sold a plot of land in South Korea to the government for an anti-missile system over Chinese objections.

Washington is unhappy with South Korea’s desire to ease sanctions on North Korea to encourage disarmament and uneasy about its use of Huawei technology.

Trump complains about the cost of stationing 28,500 U.S. troops in South Korea to protect against North Korean threats. A cost-sharing agreement expired in 2019 without a replacement.

The U.S.-Chinese row “has thrown a question to South Korea” about which side to choose, the newspaper Dong-A Ilbo said in an editorial Monday.

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