China Says U.S. Relations Have Left ‘Rational Path,' Warns of Conflict Unless They ‘Hit the Brake'

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  • China's new foreign minister, Qin Gang, said relations with the U.S. have left a "rational path."
  • He warned of conflict if Washington doesn't "hit the brake."
  • Qin, who was until recently China's ambassador to the U.S., said China would "pursue a sound and stable relationship with the U.S."

BEIJING – China's new foreign minister, Qin Gang, said relations with the U.S. have left a "rational path" and warned of conflict if Washington doesn't "hit the brake."

Qin, who was until recently China's ambassador to the U.S., said China would "pursue a sound and stable relationship with the U.S."

However, he said the Biden administration's call for "establishing guardrails and not seeking conflict simply means that China should not respond in word or in action when attacked."

"That's not possible," Qin said.

Tensions between the U.S. and China have escalated over the last several years, with tariffs and sanctions. Duties imposed under the Trump administration followed foreign businesses' long-standing complaints of unequal access to China's market. More recently, the Biden administration has said the U.S. is in competition with China and restricted American businesses from working with Chinese partners on high-end semiconductors. High-level U.S. politicians' visits to Taiwan in the last year have also drawn Beijing's ire.

"If the U.S. does not hit the brake but continue to speed down the wrong path, no amount of guardrails can prevent derailing and there will surely be conflict and confrontation," Qin said.

He was speaking Tuesday at his first news conference since becoming foreign minister.

On Taiwan, he reiterated the issue is an internal affair of China. Beijing considers the democratically self-ruled island part of its territory.

Qin said the question of Taiwan is the first red line of U.S.-China relations that must not be crossed.

Regarding the balloon incident last month, Qin reiterated China's position that the vehicle was unmanned and subject to forces beyond Beijing's control.

"The U.S. acted with the presumption of guilt," he said.

"The result is the U.S. and China policy has entirely deviated from the rational and sound track," Qin said.

The U.S. in February shot down what it alleged to be a Chinese surveillance balloon flying over the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken indefinitely postponed his trip to Beijing due to the incident.

The month also marked the one-year anniversary of Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. Beijing has refused to call the attack an invasion, while calling for negotiations to end the conflict.

It's unclear to what extent Beijing has made an effort to facilitate negotiations.

Qin on Tuesday presented Beijing's ties with Moscow as an example for relations with other countries.

He said "major countries" need to consider whether they are pursuing "exclusive political blocs" or "fostering friendship." Qin said China-Russia relations are not a threat to any country, nor are they subject to interference by any third country.

"The more unstable the world becomes the more imperative it is for China and Russia to steadily advance relations," Qin said via an official English translation.

During a shuffle of the ruling Chinese Communist Party in October, Qin was also named to the party's central committee.

Qin's comments come after Blinken last week warned China against supporting the Russian war effort.

"China can't have it both ways when it comes to the Russian aggression in Ukraine. It can't be putting forward peace proposals on the one hand while actually feeding the flames of the fire that Russia has started with the other hand," Blinken said at a news conference in Kazakhstan.

— CNBC's Audrey Wan contributed to this report.

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