During a news conference on Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang warned that if the U.S. does not change its course, conflict and confrontation between Beijing and Washington are inevitable. Qin struck a combative tone at a time when relations between the two rivals are at an all-time low, with disputes over trade, technology, Taiwan, human rights, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Qin’s harsh language during his first news conference since taking office late last year seemed to defy predictions that China might shift away from its aggressive “wolf warrior” diplomacy towards more moderate rhetoric. The conference took place on the sidelines of China’s annual meeting of its rubber-stamp legislature, where leaders lay out their political and economic priorities for the year.
According to Qin, Washington’s China policy has “entirely deviated from the rational and sound track.”
“If the United States does not hit the brake, but continues to speed down the wrong path, no amount of guardrails can prevent derailing and there surely will be conflict and confrontation,” said Qin, whose new position is junior to the Communist Party’s senior foreign policy official, Wang Yi. “Such competition is a reckless gamble, with the stakes being the fundamental interests of the two peoples and even the future of humanity.”
Qin’s comments echoed remarks made by leader Xi Jinping in a speech Monday to legislators.
“Western countries led by the United States have implemented all-round containment, encirclement and suppression of China, which has brought unprecedented grave challenges to our nation’s development,” Xi was quoted as saying by the official Xinhua News Agency.
China must “remain calm, maintain concentration, strive for progress while maintaining stability, take active actions, unite as one, and dare to fight,” in the face of challenges, according to Qin. Meanwhile, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby noted that the U.S. policy on China has not changed, despite Xi and Qin’s comments. Kirby said that while recognizing the tensions, the U.S. seeks competition, not conflict.
U.S. officials have become increasingly concerned about China’s expansive political and economic objectives and the potential for conflict over Taiwan. Many in Washington have called for the U.S. to take greater action to counter China’s influence overseas.
Recent concerns about Chinese spying in the U.S. and Beijing’s influence campaigns have sparked tension between the two countries, with officials trading accusations. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken canceled a planned visit to Beijing following the downing of a suspected Chinese spy balloon that flew over American territory.
The recovered balloon and its contents are currently being analyzed by the FBI. Additionally, the issue of whether COVID-19 originated from a lab leak has led to accusations of politicization from both sides. The two countries have also traded heated words over Taiwan as China has increased diplomatic isolation and military harassment of the self-governing island democracy. On Tuesday, Qin touched on all of these topics during a news conference.
Tension has arisen between China and the U.S. due to concerns about Chinese spying and influence campaigns in America. Officials from both countries have traded accusations, with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken canceling a planned visit to Beijing following the downing of a suspected Chinese spy balloon that flew over American territory.
The FBI is currently analyzing the recovered balloon and its contents. Both sides have also accused each other of politicizing the issue of whether COVID-19 originated from a lab leak. Moreover, China has increased diplomatic isolation and military harassment of Taiwan, leading to heated exchanges between the two countries. During a news conference on Tuesday, Qin addressed all of these issues.
Taiwan’s Defense Minister stated that their armed forces were not seeking a conflict with China’s military but would respond appropriately if Chinese aircraft or ships entered Taiwanese coastal seas or airspace. Chiu Kuo-cheng told legislators that it was their duty to respond appropriately.
Meanwhile, Beijing has accused the West of “fanning the flames” by providing Ukraine with weapons to resist the Russian invasion. China has maintained a neutral stance in the conflict but has expressed a “no-limits friendship” with Russia and has refused to criticize Moscow’s actions.
China’s call for a cease-fire in Ukraine has drawn praise from Russia but dismissals from the West. US officials have repeatedly accused China of considering providing weapons to Moscow for use in the conflict.
Qin stated that efforts for peace talks in Ukraine have been repeatedly undermined and criticized the use of the crisis for a certain geopolitical agenda. His news conference took place two days after the opening of the yearly meeting of the National People’s Congress, where top-level appointments, including a potential third term for President Xi, are expected to be approved.