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Xi Jinping speech Wang Zhao - Pool/Getty Images

Who Can Check China?

From Hong Kong to the Himalayas, China under President Xi Jinping appears increasingly willing to assert its strategic interests forcefully, with seemingly little concern for the possible economic and diplomatic consequences. How should other leading powers, preoccupied with the COVID-19 crisis and other issues, respond to Xi’s increasingly provocative behavior?

In this Big Picture, Javier Solana and Óscar Fernández of EsadeGeo urge both China and the United States to avoid needlessly hostile rhetoric, warning that increasing talk of a looming Sino-American confrontation risks becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. But former South Korean foreign minister Yoon Young-kwan says a US-China cold war is already underway in Asia, and advises the region’s leaders to be prudent and plan for a range of scenarios.

Turning to India, MP Shashi Tharoorargues that recent Chinese troop incursions across the countries’ disputed border mark a clear shift in the longstanding status quo and augur the end of China’s self-proclaimed “peaceful rise.” And Brahma Chellaney of the New Delhi-based Center for Policy Research thinks recent flare-ups should prompt Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to change his policy of appeasing China.

As for Europe, former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt makes the case that the European Union should strike a realistic balance between engagement and competition with China – but that it will have to take a much harder line if the Chinese government launches a violent crackdown in Hong Kong. And former United Nations special rapporteur Yanghee Lee says the UN must now act urgently to try to avert such an outcome, for example by establishing a special envoy or a special rapporteur for human rights in the city. Otherwise, she warns, 31 years after the Tiananmen Square massacre, Hong Kong could become Tiananmen 2.0.

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