Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang slams U.S. Indo-Pacific strategy as ‘encirclement’

In his first press conference as Foreign Minister, Qin Gang says a “Ukraine-style crisis should not be repeated in Asia”

March 07, 2023 03:32 pm | Updated 05:15 pm IST - Beijing

China’s foreign minister Qin Gang attends a press conference during the first session of the 14th National People’s Congress (NPC) at media center in Beijing, China on March 7, 2023.

China’s foreign minister Qin Gang attends a press conference during the first session of the 14th National People’s Congress (NPC) at media center in Beijing, China on March 7, 2023. | Photo Credit: Getty Images

Beijing China’s Foreign Minister Qin Gang on March 7 accused the United States of attempting “to encircle China” through its Indo-Pacific strategy, taking aim at what he called “exclusive blocs” led by the U.S.

“The U.S. ‘Indo-Pacific Strategy’ seeks to gang up to form exclusive blocs, stir up confrontation, and undermine regional integration,” said Mr. Qin, speaking at the Foreign Ministry’s annual press conference on the sidelines of the National People’s Congress (NPC) or Parliament session in Beijing.

Also read: U.S. Indo-Pacific strategy ‘as dangerous’ as NATO expansion in Europe, says China Vice-Foreign Minister

“The ‘Indo-Pacific Strategy’ claims to safeguard regional security, but in fact it provokes confrontation and seeks to create an Asia-Pacific version of NATO,” he said, adding that “the real purpose of its Indo-Pacific strategy is to encircle China”. Chinese officials have previously referred to the India, U.S., Australia, Japan Quad grouping as well as the AUKUS (Australia-U.K.-U.S.) defence pact as being key elements of this strategy.

Mr. Qin’s remarks followed sharp and rare direct criticism of the U.S. from Chinese President Xi Jinping, who on March 6, addressing a delegation on the sidelines of the NPC, said “Western countries, led by the U.S., have implemented all-round containment and suppression of China, which has brought unprecedented severe challenges to the country’s development”.

Mr. Xi has emphasised self-reliance in key critical industries, a theme of the NPC session, which concludes on March 13. The session is also expected to pass a number of laws overhauling the party-state machinery to bring greater party control and oversight over government bodies, continuing the trend of centralisation under Mr. Xi. Announced on March 7, among the draft measures to be approved by the NPC, was the creation of a new National Financial Regulatory Commission, a super regulatory body to manage China’s $60 trillion banking assets.

Meanwhile the Chinese Foreign Minister, in Tuesday’s press conference — his first since taking over in December – spoke in detail on the worsening state China-U.S. relations and reminded Washington of Beijing’s “red line” on Taiwan.

In his more than two hour briefing, Mr. Qin did not comment on relations with India, taking questions only from Chinese journalists as well as reporters from Egypt, Russia, the U.S., Pakistan, Japan, Singapore and France.

Also read: Biden is risking his Indo-Pacific strategy

Mr. Qin, who served as China’s envoy in Washington prior to his appointment, attacked the Biden administration’s China policy, saying it “claims it seeks to out-compete China but does not seek conflict, yet in reality, its so-called competition means to contain and suppress China in all respects”.

“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,” he said, adding that the recent U.S. shooting down of a Chinese balloon — described by the U.S. as a “spy balloon” and by China as a civilian meteorological airship — was “revealing” of the U.S. “regarding China as a primary rival” and of “U.S. domestic politics and hysterical neo-McCarthyism”.

On Taiwan, he said it was “the first red line that must not be crossed in China-U.S. relations” and Beijing would take “utmost efforts to pursue peaceful reunification” while “reserving the option to take all necessary measures”.

Also read: China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi says U.S. wants ‘Indo-Pacific NATO’

Drawing a comparison with the Ukraine crisis, he said Asia should not see “a Ukraine-style crisis” and be used as a “chessboard for geopolitical contest”.

“Chinese people have every right to ask why the U.S. talks of respecting sovereignty and territorial integrity on Ukraine, but disrespecting China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity on Taiwan, and why the U.S. asks China to not provide arms to Russia while keeps selling arms to Taiwan,” he said.

Mr. Qin hailed the China-Russia relationship as a model of “strategic trust and good neighbourliness”, adding, pointedly, that “major countries should figure out what they want with each other — building exclusive political blocs or fostering partnerships that are open.”

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