China warned Tuesday that the US must change its “distorted” attitude towards the country or face “conflict and confrontation” — in the latest escalation as relations between Washington and Beijing are at their lowest point in decades.

Washington’s China policy has “entirely deviated from the rational and sound track,” Foreign Minister Qin Gang told journalists on the sidelines of an annual meeting of China’s parliament.

According to Qin, a trusted adviser to President Xi Jinping, the US has been engaging in suppression and containment of China rather than engaging in fair competition.

“The United States’ perception and views of China are seriously distorted,” he said.

“It regards China as its primary rival and the most consequential geopolitical challenge. This is like the first button in the shirt being put wrong.”

Relations between the two nations have been tense for years over Taiwan’s status as a self-governing democracy, trade issues, and more recently the war in Ukraine — but they took a nosedive last month after the US shot down what it said was a Chinese spy balloon off the coast of South Carolina.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken canceled a planned visit to Beijing in the wake of the balloon incident. The unmanned aircraft and its payload, including electronics and optics, have been recovered from the ocean floor and are being analyzed by the FBI.

China’s Wang Yi, a top diplomat, met with Russian President Vladimir Putin last month.
Anton Novoderezhkin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP

Qin, meanwhile, criticized Washington for shooting down the balloon and reiterated Beijing’s official position that that its appearance over the US was an accident.

“If the United States does not hit the brakes, and continues to speed down the wrong path, no amount of guardrails can prevent derailment, which will become conflict and confrontation, and who will bear the catastrophic consequences?” Qin warned.

“Such competition is a reckless gamble, with the stakes being the fundamental interests of the two peoples and even the future of humanity.”

Qin’s bellicose comments echoed those made by President Xi in a speech Monday to legislators.

China's Foreign Minister Qin Gang attends a press conference at the Media Center of the National People's Congress (NPC) in Beijing on March 7, 2023.
According to China’s Foreign Minister Qin Gang, Washington’s police on the Asian country has “entirely deviated from the rational and sound track.”
NOEL CELIS/AFP via Getty Images

“Western countries led by the United States have implemented all-round containment, blockade and suppression of China, which has brought unprecedented grave challenges to our nation’s development,” the leader was quoted as saying by the official Xinhua News Agency.

During a nearly two-hour news conference in which he answered questions submitted in advance, Qin, who previously served as an ambassador to Washington, defended his country’s forceful brand of diplomacy dubbed “wolf warrior diplomacy,” which has been in place since 2020.

“When jackals and wolves are blocking the way, and hungry wolves are attacking us, Chinese diplomats must then dance with the wolves and protect and defend our home and country,” he said.

A U-2 surveillance pilot's photo showing the closest look yet at the Chinese spy balloon shot down off the US coast has been released by the Defense Department.
The Chinese balloon is currently being analyzed by the FBI.
Department of Defense/Mega

Addressing the war in Ukraine, Qin claimed that an “invisible hand” was pushing for the continuation and escalation of the conflict “to serve certain geopolitical agendas,” but he did not say who he was referring to.

Kremlin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov responded to Qin’s comments by reiterating Russia’s position that the US was driving the war in Ukraine, saying that China’s foreign minister was joking when he spoke of the “invisible hand.”

“Washington does not want this war to end,” Putin’s mouthpiece said. “Washington wants and is doing everything to continue this war. This is the visible hand.”

Qin on Tuesday repeated China’s call for a cease-fire in the conflict, now in its second year. Last month, China published a 12-point peace proposal, which has been touted by Russia and dismissed by the West.

China’s claims of neutrality in the conflict have come under fire after Beijing struck a “no-limits friendship” with Russia just weeks before it attacked Ukraine, has declined to condemn the invasion — or even call it that — and failed to name Russia as the aggressor.

A meeting in Moscow last month between China’s top diplomat and President Vladimir Putin sparked concerns in the West that Beijing was considering supplying Russia with weapons – an allegation China has vehemently denied.

Moscow has repeatedly claimed that the US and other Western nations are using Ukraine to try to humiliate and destroy Russia. Kyiv and its allies say Ukraine is fighting for its survival and independence against an unprovoked Russian land grab.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, center, and other leaders stand during a session of China's National People's Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Tuesday, March 7, 2023.
Jinping has said the U.S. is trying to use “suppression” on China.
AP Photo/Ng Han Guan

In a comment that was certain to please Putin, Qin said Tuesday that China had to advance its relations with Russia as the world becomes more turbulent.

Addressing the hot-button question of Taiwan, which China claims as part of its territory, Qin accused the US of “disrespecting China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity” by offering the island nation political support and supplying it with defensive weapons.

Beijing has threatened to use force to bring Taiwan to heel, sounding alarm bells in Washington.

“Why does the US ask China not to provide weapons to Russia, while it keeps selling arms to Taiwan?” Qin asked.

The US does not advocate for Taiwan’s formal independence from China, but it is required by law to help the island defend itself if attacked.  

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is scheduled to meet with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen in California next month rather than in Taipei to avoid antagonizing China further.

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan in August infuriated Beijing, prompting it to hold its largest military exercises in the region in a quarter of a century.

With Post wires