Tuesday, March 7, China’s new foreign minister, Qin Gang, warned that the United States and China are heading towards an unavoidable “confrontation and conflict” unless Washington alters its course. This statement highlights the escalating tensions between the world’s two largest economies, which have been aggravated by the surveillance balloon incident and Russia’s conflict in Ukraine.

Qin’s remarks resonated with comments made by China’s President, Xi Jinping, the previous day. He blamed the United States for deteriorating mutual relations and indicated that China would increasingly resist US containment efforts.

Qin’s news conference took place on the sidelines of China’s annual rubber-stamp legislature metting, where Xi is expected to make a major government reshuffle. This was Qin’s first press conference since taking office in December. He rebuked US policies in a broad sense, including questioning President Joe Biden’s claim that America is seeking competition but not conflict with China.

He commented, “The US side supposedly wants to put ‘guardrails’ on Sino-US relations and not to clash. In fact, it wants China not to respond in words or action when slandered or attacked. That is just impossible.” He further added that unless Washington slammed the brakes, “no amount of guardrails can stop the derailment and rollover into confrontation and conflict.”

Qin continued his speech by criticizing US authorities for shooting down a suspected Chinese spy balloon off the coast of South Carolina and reiterated Beijing’s stance that it had accidentally entered US territory. He also accused America of violating international law and using the incident to create an unnecessary diplomatic crisis.

Regarding Taiwan, Qin emphasized that it is a red line in China’s relations with the United States and blamed America for creating the issue. He argued that the US had shown disrespect for China’s sovereignty by providing defensive weapons to Taiwan, which Beijing views as a potential target for a military takeover. Qin noted the irony of the US warning China not to supply weapons to Russia for its conflict with Ukraine while it continues to arm Taiwan.

Prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine a year ago, China and Russia had established a “no limits” partnership. Despite appearing neutral in the conflict, China has refrained from criticizing Russia’s actions or labeling it as an invasion. Qin emphasized the importance of maintaining steady China-Russia relations amid growing global turmoil.

However, China vehemently denies US accusations of contemplating supplying ammunition and artillery to aid Russia in its fight against Kyiv. Qin pointed out that China is not responsible for creating or participating in the crisis, nor has it provided weapons to any party involved. He questioned why China is being blamed, sanctioned, pressured, or threatened.

Qin reiterated his previous calls for a negotiated resolution to the conflict in Ukraine, although Western officials dismissed China’s 12-point peace proposal as overly favorable to Russia. He expressed disappointment that efforts to promote talks have been hindered and said that it appeared “as if an invisible hand” was manipulating the situation to “achieve certain geopolitical objectives.”

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