Mr Qin, China's former ambassador to the US, held his first press conference as foreign minister on Tuesday. The spy balloon saga has heightened tensions between the superpowers despite recent efforts to improve ties. "It [the US] regards China as its primary rival and the most consequential geopolitical challenge. This is like the first button in the shirt being put wrong," said Mr Qin, speaking on the sidelines of the annual meeting of China's parliament in Beijing.
The foreign minister was responding to a question on whether a healthy China-US relationship was still possible as differences between the countries grew. The US called for establishing "guardrails", but what it really wants is for China to not hit back with words or actions when provoked, Mr Qin added. He was referring to US President Joe Biden's comments last month that the US would "compete fully with China but [is] not looking for conflict".