The United States is leading a “containment, encirclement and suppression of China”, President Xi Jinping has said, as he urged his country’s private sector to boost innovation and become more self-reliant.
Xi made the statement on Tuesday as Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang warned that Beijing and Washington are headed for “conflict and confrontation” if the US doesn’t change course,
The statements of the two of the most senior Chinese officials signal a combative tone at a moment when relations between the rivals are at a historic low.
In a rare direct criticism of the US, Xi told industry leaders that “Western countries led by the United States have implemented all-round containment, encirclement and suppression of China, which has brought unprecedented severe challenges to our country’s development”.
Xi, who will be granted a third consecutive presidential term in the coming days at the National People’s Congress (NPC), said the past five years had been riddled with a new set of hurdles that threatened to weigh down China’s economic rise.
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”, in the address to delegates at the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), which runs alongside the NPC.
The 69-year-old said private firms “should take the initiative to pursue high-quality development”, Xinhua reported late Monday.
China’s foreign minister Qin later reiterated the president’s forceful language on US “containment”, calling American competition “a zero-sum game of life and death”.
Urging Washington to “meet halfway”, Qin said the two powers’ relationship needed to be based on mutual interests and friendship, rather than “US domestic politics and hysterical neo-McCarthyism”.
In a wide-ranging press conference, Qin, who previously served as China’s ambassador to the US, also dismissed warnings from Western countries that China may supply arms to Russia for its war in Ukraine, saying it would not accept “blame-shifting, sanctions, suppression and threats” targeting Beijing.
Washington’s China policy has “entirely deviated from the rational and sound track,” Qin told journalists on the sidelines of the annual meeting of China’s legislature.
“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.”
US officials have grown increasingly worried about China’s expansive political and economic goals and the possibility of war over Taiwan — and many officials in Washington have called for the US to make a bigger effort to counter Chinese influence abroad.
In recent weeks, officials from the two countries have frequently traded accusations.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken canceled a planned visit to Beijing after Washington shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon that flew over American territory. The massive balloon and its payload, including electronics and optics, have been recovered from the ocean floor and are being analyzed by the FBI.
Then last week, China responded with indignation when US officials raised the issue again of whether the COVID-19 pandemic began with a lab leak. The Foreign Ministry accused the US of “politicising the issue” in an attempt to discredit China.