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China warns of possible armed conflict with US over Coronavirus backlash

An internal report presented to Chinese President Xi Jinping and other top leaders concludes that global anti-China sentiment is at a level not seen since the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, and recommends preparing for a worst-case scenario of armed conflict with the United States, according to Reuters, citing people familiar with the content of the document.

The report, created by the China Institutes of Contemporary Internal Relations (CICIR) – which is affiliated with the Ministry of State Security – suggests that the wave of anti-China sentiment is led by the United States, which sees China’s rise as a global superpower as a threat to Western democracies.

One of those with knowledge of the report said it was regarded by some in the Chinese intelligence community as China’s version of the “Novikov Telegram”, a 1946 dispatch by the Soviet ambassador to Washington, Nikolai Novikov, that stressed the dangers of U.S. economic and military ambition in the wake of World War Two.

Novikov’s missive was a response to U.S. diplomat George Kennan’s “Long Telegram” from Moscow that said the Soviet Union did not see the possibility for peaceful coexistence with the West, and that containment was the best long-term strategy. – Reuters

Reuters, which hasn’t seen the paper, couldn’t determine to what extent the report’s grim outlook reflects positions held by China’s state leaders, nor how much it might influence policy. That said, it suggests Beijing is taking the threat of global backlash over the coronavirus pandemic – which Western intelligence agencies suspect originated at a Wuhan biolab which was experimenting with bat coronavirus, and had previous concerns raised over the pandemic potential of such research.

China’s early coverup of the outbreak – including silencing and/or disappearing whistleblowing doctors and journalists, lying about the transmissibility of the virus while hoarding personal protective equipment (PPE), quarantining Wuhan domestically while allowing international travel, and using the World Health Organization to run cover – has drawn global scorn as COVID has infected over 3.5 million and killed nearly 250,000 in five months.

Chinese officials had a “special responsibility” to inform their people and the world of the threat posed by the coronavirus “since they were the first to learn of it,” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in response to questions from Reuters.

Without directly addressing the assessment made in the Chinese report, Ortagus added: “Beijing’s efforts to silence scientists, journalists, and citizens and spread disinformation exacerbated the dangers of this health crisis.” – Reuters

President Trump in recent days has been ratcheting up criticism of Beijing, while threatening new tariffs on China. His administration has been considering retaliatory measures over the outbreak, according to the report – which warns that anti-China sentiment could also threaten their Belt and Road infrastructure initiatives, and that Washington could take advantage by offering financial and military support for regional allies, which would in turn make the security situation in Asia more volatile.

On Monday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that President Trump is reviewing options to penalize China, adding that he expects Beijing to meet their obligations under the phase one trade deal.

“I have every reason to expect that they honor this agreement, and if they don’t, there would be very significant consequences in the relationship and in the global economy as to how people would do business with them,” said Mnuchin.

As Reuters notes, China’s Xi has shaped the country’s military into a fighting force equipped to win modern wars – expanding air and naval capabilities and reach in a challenge to over 70 years of US dominance in Asia.

China’s foreign ministry is now calling for peace and cooperation, saying “the sound and steady development of China-U.S. relations” are in the best interests of both countries and the international community, and that “any words or actions that engage in political manipulation or stigmatization under the pretext of the pandemic, including taking the opportunity to sow discord between countries, are not conducive to international cooperation against the pandemic.”

Trump, meanwhile, announced that he will cut off funding for the World Health Organization (WHO) for being “very China-centric.”

And while the world focuses on China’s response to the virus, Australia – where two scientists from the Wuhan Institute of Virology conducted coronavirus experiments overseas – has called for an international investigation into the origins and spread of COVID-19, while the so-called ‘five eyes’ Western intelligence agencies explore whether coronavirus escaped from the Wuhan lab – while operating under the assumption that it’s a non-modified virus of natural origin.

Source: Reuters