China FM warns of ‘conflict’ if US stays on path of confrontation

Foreign minister Qin Gang says the US engaged in ‘malicious confrontation’ rather than fair competition with Beijing.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. and Chinese flags are seen in this illustration taken, January 30, 2023. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo
Relations between China and the US have become increasingly tense in recent years [File: Dado Ruvic/illustration/Reuters]

China’s foreign minister Qin Gang has blamed the United States for rising tensions between Washington and Beijing, warning that no number of preventive measures could avert a confrontation if the US does not change paths.

The US had engaged in suppression and containment of China rather than fair competition, and such provocation could not be tolerated indefinitely, Qin told reporters at a news conference in Beijing on Tuesday on the sidelines of an annual parliament meeting.

“The United States’ perception and views of China are seriously distorted,” Qin said, adding that Washington “regards China as its primary rival and the most consequential geopolitical challenge.”

The US, he continued, always talks about a rule-based world order but then does not follow those rules, he said, using the example of two athletes competing in a race where “one side, instead of focusing on giving one’s best, always tries to trip” up the other runner.

“That is not fair competition, but malicious confrontation and a foul,” he said.

The foreign minister also noted that the US says it is establishing protective barriers to ensure there is no conflict with China, but in practice, this means that Beijing is not supposed to respond with words or actions when slandered or attacked, he said.

“That is just impossible,” Qin 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?”

The foreign minister’s comments came after China’s President Xi Jinping condemned what he described as the US-led “suppression of China” in a speech to delegates on Monday attending China’s annual parliamentary session.

“Western countries led by the United States have implemented all-round containment, encirclement and suppression of China, which has brought unprecedented severe challenges to our country’s development,” Xi said, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported late Monday.

Xi said that China must “have the courage to fight as the country faces profound and complex changes in both the domestic and international landscape”, according to a readout of the speech to delegates.

Ties between Beijing and Washington have become increasingly tense in recent years over trade, human rights and Taiwan.

Relations soured even further last month when the US shot down a Chinese balloon it said was being used for surveillance – a claim strenuously denied by Beijing. The balloon incident caused US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to postpone a diplomatic trip to Beijing for a meeting focused on a range of hot-button issues.

Senior US officials have also repeatedly warned that China may invade Taiwan in the coming years, pointing to Beijing’s increasingly assertive military moves around the self-ruled island, which it sees as its own territory and has promised to bring under its control.

The current US approach to China, Qin said, was “a reckless gamble” with the stakes being the fundamental interests of the two peoples and even the future of humanity.

“We will take it as our mission to defend China’s interests. We firmly oppose any form of hegemonism and power politics. We firmly oppose the Cold War mentality, camp-based confrontation and acts to contain and hold back other countries’ development. We will resolutely safeguard China’s sovereignty, security and development interests,” he told the press conference.

Qin’s harsh language on Tuesday appeared to defy predictions that China was abandoning its aggressive “wolf warrior” diplomacy in favour of a more moderate presentation.

Al Jazeera’s Katrina Yu, reporting from Beijing, said the foreign minister’s defence of China’s bilateral relationship with Russia was also significant, as was Qin’s criticism of those that viewed the relationship with the country that invaded Ukraine through a “Cold War lens”.

In his comments, Qin said multipolarity was crucial for a balance in international relations adding that the relationship between Beijing and Moscow was going from strength to strength.

“What that means,” Yu said, “is that despite receiving a huge amount of international criticism for its support of Moscow, Beijing has no intention of changing its stance; it has no intention of condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.


Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies