© Reuters. Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang attends a news conference on the sidelines of the National People’s Congress (NPC) in Beijing, China March 7, 2023. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
BEIJING (Reuters) -The U.S. should change its recent mistaken policies towards China or “conflict and confrontation” will follow, China’s foreign minister said on Tuesday, while reiterating Beijing’s call for dialogue to end the conflict in Ukraine.
The U.S. has been engaging in suppression and containment of China rather than fair or rule-based competition, Foreign Minister Qin Gang told a news conference in Beijing on the sidelines of an annual parliament meeting.
“The United States’ perception and views of China are seriously distorted,” Qin said.”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.”
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 U.S. said was a Chinese spying device and shot down last month.
The U.S. 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?”
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, amidst 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.
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 U.S. 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.