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US Justice chief assails Chinese 'economic blitzkrieg'

US Attorney General William Barr has accused China of mounting an "economic blitzkrieg" on the global economy
US Attorney General William Barr has accused China of mounting an "economic blitzkrieg" on the global economy Nicholas Kamm AFP/File
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Washington (AFP)

US Attorney General Bill Barr blasted China Thursday for mounting an "economic blitzkrieg" on global free markets in the latest broadside against Beijing from the Trump administration.

Describing an ideological showdown, Barr said China was determined to replace and not just join advanced economic powers, and he warned US companies to stop compromising their principles to appease Chinese leaders and regulators.

"The People's Republic of China is now engaged in an economic blitzkrieg -- an aggressive, orchestrated, whole-of-government, and indeed, whole-of-society campaign to seize the commanding heights of the global economy and to surpass the United States as the world's preeminent superpower," Barr said in a speech in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

He accused the Chinese government of a "mercantilist" approach to business and trade, using everything from regulations and currency manipulation to theft of intellectual property and state-backed cyber attacks to gain commercial advantage.

"It is clear that the PRC seeks not merely to join the ranks of other advanced industrial economies, but to replace them altogether," said the top US legal officer.

Barr warned that China would take advantage of globalization to spread its political ideology.

"Globalization does not always point in the direction of greater freedom," he said.

"A world marching to the beat of Communist China's drums will not be a hospitable one for institutions that depend on free markets, free trade, or the free exchange of ideas."

He warned against US dependence on China to produce essential goods like medical supplies, and blasted major US companies like Apple and Disney for kowtowing to Chinese pressures to give up secrets, compromise their values, and censor their own products.

"If Disney and other American corporations continue to bow to Beijing, they risk undermining both their own future competitiveness and prosperity, as well as the classical liberal order that has allowed them to thrive."

He, meanwhile, praised technology companies including Facebook, Google, Twitter, Zoom, and LinkedIn for saying they would not comply with Chinese governmental requests for user data after Beijing imposed a new security law on Hong Kong.

"If they stand together, they will provide a worthy example for other American companies in resisting the Chinese Communist Party's corrupt and dictatorial rule," Barr said.

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