June 24, 2020 / 5:24 PM / 18 days ago

West faces 'light Cold War' with China, Blair's institute says

LONDON (Reuters) - Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s institute said on Wednesday that China’s newfound global clout means the West faces a “light Cold War” or at least big power rivalry with the People’s Republic.

FILE PHOTO: Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair speaks during an interview with Axel Threlfall at a Reuters Newsmaker event on "The challenging state of British politics" in London, Britain, November 25, 2019. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo

U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly confronted China over trade and its handling of the coronavirus outbreak, though Beijing has cast Washington’s fears over its clout as anti-Chinese hysteria.

The Tony Blair Institute for Global Change said polling showed that China is considered to be a force for bad in the world by more than half of people in the United States, Britain and France, Blair’s institute said.

China’s economic and military rise over the past 40 years is considered to be one of the most significant geopolitical events of recent times, alongside the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union which ended the Cold War.

“We are now dealing not with a rising China but a risen China and this rise is both inevitable and right,” Blair, who served as prime minister from 1997 to 2007, said in the research.

"Given the deep economic links between China and the West, Cold War analogies are misleading and dangerous," said Blair who will speak at a virtual Reuters Newsmaker event on Thursday. t.co/3PKjJoKxLK?amp=1

China in 1979 had an economy that was smaller than Italy’s, but after opening to foreign investment and introducing market reforms it has become the world’s second-largest economy.

It is now the global leader in a range of 21st Century technologies such as artificial intelligence, regenerative medicine and conductive polymers.

Blair said China’s leadership had moved to a much more combative posture globally while consolidating power in the hands of the Communist Party at home.

The United States is likely to try to contain China’s rise, for example by countering it in the South China Sea, or there could even be global or Asian geopolitical contest, his institute said.

Less likely, it said, were cooperation, a full Cold War or a military conflict.

To cope with the “risen China”, the West should seek to cooperate, compete and, when necessary, confront Beijing.

“The USA, Europe and our Asian allies should stand together so that any partnership with China comes from a position of strength,” Blair said.

“We will have to live with the reality that we will in some areas have to be prepared to confront China where its actions conflict with the reasonable interests and values of the wider international community,” he said.

Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge

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