China’s foreign minister said on Tuesday that the US should change its recent ‘mistaken policies’ towards China – or “conflict and confrontation” would follow.
The US has been engaging in suppression and containment of China rather than fair or rule-based competition, Foreign Minister Qin Gang said.
His remarks were made at a press conference in Beijing during its National People’s Congress. Indeed, they followed a rare rebuke by President Xi Jinping who, on Monday, accused the United States of leading other Western nations to suppress China’s development.
“Western countries, led by the United States, have implemented all-round containment and suppression of China, which has brought unprecedented severe challenges to the country’s development,” Xi was quoted by state news agency Xinhua as saying. He spoke on a panel discussion on the sidelines of a parliamentary session on Monday.
Qin followed on Tuesday, saying: “The United States’ perception and views of China are seriously distorted. 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.”
The US says it is establishing guardrails for relations with China and is not seeking conflict, but what this means in practice is that China is not supposed to respond with words or actions when slandered or attacked, Qin said.
“That is just impossible,” he said. “If the United States does not hit the brake, 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?”
Relations between the two superpowers have been tense for years over a number of issues including Taiwan, trade and war in Ukraine but they worsened after controversy involving a balloon which the US said was a Chinese spying device and shot down last month.
Elsewhere during Tuesday’s news conference Qin said an “invisible hand” was pushing for the escalation of the war in Ukraine, without specifying who he was referring to.
The “invisible hand” is “using the Ukraine crisis to serve certain geopolitical agendas”, Qin said, whilst also reiterating China’s call for dialogue.
China has fiercely defended its stance on Ukraine, amid Western criticism of its decision not to call Russia the aggressor in the conflict.
Since Russia invaded its southwestern neighbour last February Xi has held talks several times with Putin but is yet to speak with his Ukrainian counterpart, a fact which undermines China’s claims of neutrality, Kyiv’s top diplomat in Beijing said on the anniversary of the start of the war last month.
Denies considering providing lethal aid to Russia
Beijing has also vehemently denied accusations from Washington that it has been considering providing lethal weapons to Russia.
But China must advance its relations with Russia as the world becomes more turbulent, Qin said.
Qin said the close interactions between President Xi Jinping and President Vladimir Putin provided the anchor for China-Russia relations.
He did not give a definite answer when asked if Xi would visit Russia after China’s parliament session, which goes on for one more week.
Asked whether it is possible that China and Russia would abandon the US dollar and euro for bilateral trade, Qin said countries should use whatever currency is efficient, safe and credible.
“Currencies should not be the trump card for unilateral sanctions, still less a disguise for bullying or coercion,” he said.
China has often criticised the United States for bullying other countries with unilateral sanctions.
- Reuters with additional editing by Jim Pollard
NOTE: Further details were added to this report on March 7, 2023 (about Xi’s remarks on Monday).