The United States should change its “distorted” attitude towards China or “conflict and confrontation” will follow, China’s foreign minister said on Tuesday, while defending its stance on the war in Ukraine and defending its close ties with Russia.
The US had been engaging in suppression and containment of China rather than engaging in fair, rule-based competition, Foreign Minister Qin Gang told a news conference on the sidelines of an annual parliament meeting in Beijing.
“The United States’ perception and views of China are seriously distorted,” said Qin, a trusted aide to President Xi Jinping and until recently China’s ambassador in Washington.
“It regards China as its primary rival and the most consequential geopolitical challenge. This is like the first button in the shirt being put wrong.”
Relations between the two superpowers have been tense for years over a number of issues including Taiwan, trade and more recently the war in Ukraine but they worsened last month after the United States shot down a balloon off the US East Coast that it says was a Chinese spying craft.
The US says it is establishing guardrails for relations and is not seeking conflict but Qin said what that meant in practice was that China was not supposed to respond with words or action when slandered or attacked.
“That is just impossible,” Qin told his first news conference since becoming foreign minister in late December.
Qin’s comments struck the same the tough tone of his predecessor, Wang Yi, now China’s most senior diplomat after being made director of the Foreign Affairs Commission Office at the turn of the year.
“If the United States does not hit the brakes, and continues to speed down the wrong path, no amount of guardrails can prevent derailment, which will become conflict and confrontation, and who will bear the catastrophic consequences?”
Qin likened Sino-US competition to a race between two Olympic athletes.
“If one side, instead of focusing on giving one’s best, always tries to trip the other up, even to the extent that they must enter the Paralympics, then this is not fair competition,” he said.