INTERNATIONAL

U.S. officials take a hard line on China

Rebelling for freedom:A demonstration in Los Angeles, California, on Friday calling for an end to the ongoing shutdown.AFPFREDERIC J. BROWN

Rebelling for freedom:A demonstration in Los Angeles, California, on Friday calling for an end to the ongoing shutdown.AFPFREDERIC J. BROWN  

Trump was prodded to block a government pension fund from investing in Chinese companies

Some top Trump administration officials are moving to take a more aggressive stand against China on economic, diplomatic and scientific issues at the heart of the relationship between the world’s two superpowers, further fraying ties that have reached their lowest point in decades.

White House aides this week have prodded President Donald Trump to issue an executive order that would block a government pension fund from investing in Chinese companies, officials said — a move that could upend capital flows across the Pacific. Mr. Trump announced on Friday that he was restricting the use of electrical equipment in the domestic grid system with links to “a foreign adversary” — a reference to China.

The administration is cutting off grants that would help support virology laboratories in Wuhan, China, the city where the coronavirus outbreak began, and is looking into scientific collaborations undertaken there by the University of Texas.

Senior aides, led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have asked intelligence agencies to continue looking for any evidence to support an unsubstantiated theory that the pandemic might be the result of an accidental lab leak, even though agency analysts have said they most likely will not find proof.

The open rivalry between the two nations has taken on a harder and much darker shading in the months since the virus spread from Wuhan across the globe, speeding up efforts by hard-liners in both Washington and Beijing to execute a decoupling of important elements of the relationship.

Information war

The bitter information war over the virus has become a core part of the competition, but the administration’s efforts to counter China have sharpened across the board. That is partly in response to what administration officials say are China’s own aggressive moves, including the pushing of anti-America disinformation worldwide, increased military activity in the South China Sea and clampdowns on freedoms in the semi-autonomous global financial city of Hong Kong.

Mr. Trump’s aides and Republican lawmakers also aim to amplify criticism of China partly to deflect from the administration’s own record on the pandemic, especially as the general election in November approaches.

Those in Washington advocating a more stable relationship with China, including some of Mr. Trump’s top economic advisers, warn that the administration must take care not to overreach.

China is likely to emerge from the recession caused by the pandemic faster than other nations. The U.S. — still reeling from the virus, with more than 1.1 million infected and more than 65,000 dead — will probably rely on economic activity in Asia to help prop up its own economy. Part of that involves getting Beijing to comply with a trade agreement signed in January.

China controls a vast supply of the masks and protective gear needed by U.S. hospitals. And if China develops a vaccine first, it will wield a powerful card.NY Times

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