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China warns US of potential for 'conflict and confrontation'

March 7, 2023

In his first press conference as China's top diplomat, Qin Gang said US policies risk "conflict and confrontation" with Beijing. Chinese leader Xi Jinping also named the US as leading the "supression" of China.

A large screen on a building showing promotion for the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) is seen past cyclists in Beijing
Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang spent much of the press conference commenting on tensions with the US — and placing the blame on WashingtonImage: Noel Celis/AFP/Getty Images

Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang has cautioned the United States over its approach to Taiwan, saying on Tuesday that no country has a right to interfere in what China regards as its domestic affairs.

During his first press conference since becoming China's top diplomat, Qin outlined China's foreign policy stance — especially focusing on the United States, Taiwan, Russia and the war in Ukraine.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping also called out the West, and particularly the United States in a rare naming of individual countries during a speech to the country's political advisory board meeting.

"Western countries led by the United States have carried out all-round containment, encirclement and suppression of China, which has brought unprecedented severe challenges to China's development," Xi was quoted by state media as saying.

Xi, who is expected to be granted a third consecutive term in the coming days, said the past five years have been beset with hurdles that threaten the Chinese economy. 

According to the state-run Xinhua news agency, Xi said China must "have the courage to fight as the country faces profound and complex changes in both the domestic and international landscape."

What did Qin say about Taiwan?

Speaking on the sidelines of the annual National People's Congress in Beijing, Qin said the issue of Taiwan — and Washington's One China Policy — is the basis of all relations between the two global powers.

He said no other country had the right to interfere in the Taiwan issue, calling it a "red line" that Washington must not cross.

Qin added that China reserves the option to take measures that it deems necessary to achieve "reunification" with Taiwan.

Under the One China Policy, the US recognizes Beijing and also acknowledges China's position that Taiwan is part of the country.

A number of US lawmakers sparked Beijing's ire by visiting the self-ruled territory last year.

How is China responding to tensions with the US?

Qin addressed China's increasingly tense relationship with the United States, saying Washington was to blame for the downward spiral in ties.

China's Foreign Minister Qin Gang speaks at his first press conference in Beijing
Qin Gang took over as China's foreign minister in JanuaryImage: Mark Schiefelbein/AP Photo/picture alliance

The foreign minister said US policy toward China has "deviated form the rational, sound track."

He said the recent US decision to shoot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon created a diplomatic crisis that could have been avoided. China said the aircraft was used for weather research.

If Washington does not change its course, there will "surely be conflict and confrontation," Qin said.

Prior to taking the post of foreign minister, Qin served as China's ambassador to the US.

What was the position on the war in Ukraine?

While Qin urged for peace talks and a diplomatic resolution to Russia's war on Ukraine, he also appeared to claim some countries had a hidden agenda behind the conflict.

An "invisible hand" has been "using the Ukraine crisis to serve certain geopolitical agendas," he said.

In a recent position paper on China's stance on the war, Beijing called for dialogue but did not propose new initiatives for peace talks.

While Russia has grown further and further isolated on the international stage, its ties with China have been growing.

Are the sanctions working?

According to Qin, China believes any peace talks must respect the "legitimate security concerns of all parties." He also appeared to urge countries to soften punitive measures toward Russia, saying "sanctions and pressure will not solve the problem."

In the year since the war erupted, China has not yet condemned Russia's move to launch a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Germany and other Western countries are increasingly concerned that China could send weapons and other supplies to ammunition-strapped Russia.

rs/jsi (AFP, Reuters)