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China accuses U.S. of containment and warns of potential conflict

Foreign Affairs

China accuses U.S. of containment and warns of potential conflict

BEIJING – Chinese leader Xi Jinping name-checked the United States in remarks during the annual session of parliament under way in Beijing this week, saying it was leading Western countries in an effort to encircle and suppress China.

The rare explicit comment was followed on Tuesday by a barrage of scorn and criticism aimed squarely at Washington from China’s new foreign minister and former ambassador to the U.S., Qin Gang.

Analysts said the verbal blitz may signal a new level of unhappiness from Beijing with the United States, and could foreshadow fresh policy actions.

U.S. accused of ‘containment’

On Monday, Xi visited a breakout session of delegates to the legislative advisory body, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, which meets along side the National People’s Congress.

“Western countries led by the U.S. have implemented comprehensive containment, encirclement and suppression against us, bringing unprecedented severe challenges to our country’s development,” Xi was quoted as saying.

The U.S. has, in recent months, broadened its crackdown on China’s semiconductor industry, and looked to expand and revitalize its alliances in Asia. In addition to the Quad, it is set to announce deepened cooperation with AUKUS, a trilateral security pact it formed in 2021, and just last month announced expanded access to bases in the Philippines.

Top leaders in China rarely single out other countries or leaders by name for criticism, preferring to leave it implicit or refer vaguely to “some countries” or “individual countries.”

On Tuesday, Foreign Minister Qin Gang leveled criticism directly at the United States for its policies on China, Taiwan, the Indo-Pacific, and Ukraine, to name a few. He even blasted the recent string of interest rate hikes by the U.S. Federal Reserve, designed to curb inflation at home, for creating debt crises in other countries.

“The U.S. claims it wants to ‘compete to win’ with China, and does not seek conflict. But in fact, the so-called ‘competition’ by the U.S. is all-round containment and suppression, a zero-sum game of life and death,” Qin said.

Qin also slammed the U.S. for talking about respecting sovereignty and territorial integrity when it comes to Ukraine but not Taiwan, a self-governed island that Beijing says is part of China. “Why does the U.S. ask China not to provide weapons to Russia while it keeps selling arms to Taiwan?” Qin said.

The Biden administration has repeatedly said it intends to compete with China and wants dialogue to put “guardrails” around the relationship, so that it does not veer into conflict. Qin said U.S. demands were unreasonable.

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