(Bloomberg) -- A senior Chinese diplomat blasted the U.S.’s omicron outbreak as “greatly out of control” and one of its four great failures of governance last year, as the world’s two largest economies continue to spar on everything from trade to the pandemic.

Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng criticized the Biden administration’s record on the highly transmissible variant in a speech Tuesday at a Renmin University forum in Beijing, saying it followed major systemic blows including the storming of the Capitol, the fall of Kabul on the exit of U.S. troops and soaring inflation.

“At the beginning of last year, the ‘great fall’ of the US Capitol Hill occurred,” he said, referring to a pro-Trump mob breaching the seat of U.S. democracy. “Subsequently, the world witnessed the ‘great defeat’ of the U.S. military in Kabul, which left Afghanistan with chaos and turmoil.” 

“The epidemic in many countries is once again greatly out of control,” he added, noting that the U.S. this month recorded 1.5 million cases in a day. Finally, the “greatest inflation” risks in nearly 40 years had seen prices surge in America, he said, acknowledging that Europe faced similar challenges.

The No. 3 Foreign Ministry official’s comments are evidence of lingering tensions between Beijing and Washington, which have been embroiled in trade wars and diplomatic standoffs in recent years. The two economic powerhouses have diverged in their pandemic approach, with China trying to eliminate the virus from its borders, while the U.S. has pivoted to some form of living with Covid.

While Le -- considered a top contender to succeed Foreign Minister Wang Yi at this year’s leadership congress -- named a virtual summit between President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping as a diplomatic highlight of 2021, he also criticized Washington for initiating a de facto “new Cold War.”  

He rejected U.S. criticisms of China’s increasingly aggressive diplomatic approach, as well as Beijing’s crackdown in Hong Kong and handling of the far western region of Xinjiang. “Faced with such extreme competitions, does anyone expect China to remain silent and submit to arrest? That’s some imperial old dream and it’s time to wake up,” the 59-year-old said.

Despite that, Le said “competition” was the wrong word to describe bilateral ties between Beijing and Washington, saying China didn’t care about its economy overtaking that of the U.S. 

“China and the U.S. should give up the boxing match,” Le said, “and shift to track and field, so as to become our better selves.” 

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