China’s Qin Gang accuses US of seeking ‘conflict and confrontation’

China’s new foreign minister said the United States is heading for “conflict and confrontation” with Beijing, as he defended his country’s stance on the war in Ukraine and close ties with Russia.

Qin Gang said Washington should change its “distorted” attitude towards China, accusing it of engaging in suppression and containment instead of engaging in fair competition.

Relations between the US and China have seen a spike in tensions over numerous matters, including trade, Taiwan, a spy balloon encroaching on US airspace, and Beijing’s stance on Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Mr Qin made the comments on Tuesday at his first news conference on the sidelines of an annual parliament meeting after assuming responsibilities from the outgoing Wang Yi.

A close ally of China’s president Xi Jinping, Mr Qin said Washington “regards China as its primary rival and the most consequential geopolitical challenge”.

“This is like the first button in the shirt being [done up] wrong,” he said, one of a string of analogies.

“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,” he said. “And who will bear the catastrophic consequences?”

“The United States’ perception and views of China are seriously distorted,” he said.

Likening US-China competition to a race between two Olympic athletes, he said: “If one side, instead of focusing on giving one’s best, always tries to trip the other up ... then this is not fair competition.”

Relations between the US and China suffered a serious setback last month after the Biden administration ordered the shooting down of a spy balloon off America’s east coast.

Washington maintains it is not looking to stoke conflict with China.

Mr Qin also spoke of “wolf warrior diplomacy”, acknowledging a more abrasive attitude recently from Chinese diplomats.

“When jackals and wolves are blocking the way, and hungry wolves are attacking us, Chinese diplomats must then dance with the wolves and protect and defend our home and country,” he said.

On the war in Ukraine, Qin said an “invisible hand” was escalating the conflict “to serve certain geopolitical agendas” – another swipe at the US.

Beijing vehemently denied US suggestions that it is considering supplying artillery to Russia, but it has a “no limits” partnership with Russia that predates the conflict.

Mr Qin did not confirm if President Xi would visit Russia, as suggested last month by Vladimir Putin.