Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad speaking in Beijing. Photo: AFP/How Hwee Young

China’s Foreign Ministry doubled down Thursday on its accusation that the United States is engaged in “economic terrorism,” a sentiment that now appears to be winning support in the region.

“This kind of deliberately provoking trade disputes is naked economic terrorism, economic chauvinism, economic bullying,” Vice-Foreign Minister Zhang Hanhui told reporters. Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said on Thursday that he “could not agree more” with Zhang’s remarks.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, whose election last year was seen by many as a rebuke of China’s growing influence in the region, did not hold back in his support of Beijing’s view on this issue.

“’If I am not ahead, I will ban you, I will send warships’ – that is not competition,” Mahathir said, as quoted by Malaysian newspaper The Star.

Speaking at an event in Tokyo hosted by Nikkei, Mahathir pledged that Malaysia “will make use of [Huawei’s] technology as much as possible,” asserting that the Chinese telecommunications champion had made tremendous advances over US technology.

He added that he was not concerned about US accusations of espionage on the part of Huawei.

The administration of US President Donald Trump placed Huawei on an export-control blacklist several weeks ago, a move that could threaten to slow the company’s ascendance on the global stage.

Vice-Foreign Minister Zhang said in his remarks this week that “this trade clash will have a serious negative effect on global economic development and recovery.”

The sentiment is clearly shared by others in the region, including Mahathir, who was elected in part to provide a check on China’s economic influence in Malaysia through infrastructure projects.

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