BEIJING, March 7 (Reuters) - China's foreign minister blamed the U.S. for rising tensions between Washington and Beijing and said if the U.S. does not change its path there will be "conflict and confrontation".

The U.S. has been engaging in suppression and containment of China rather than fair or rule-based competition, Foreign Minister Qin Gang told reporters at a news conference in Beijing on the sidelines of an annual parliament meeting.

"The United States' perception and views of China are seriously distorted," Qin 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."

The U.S. should play by the rules it talks about, Qin said.

"The United States talks a lot about following rules, but imagine two athletes competing in the Olympic race," he said. "If one side, instead of focusing on giving one's best, always tries to trip or even into the other. That is not fair competition, but malicious confrontation and a foul."

The U.S. says it is establishing guardrails for relations with China and is not seeking conflict, but what this means in practice is that China is not supposed to respond with words or actions when slandered or attacked, he said.

"That is just impossible," Qin said.

"If the United States does not hit the brake, 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?"

Relations between the two superpowers have been tense for years over a number of issues including Taiwan, trade and Ukraine but they worsened after controversy involving a balloon which the U.S. said was a Chinese spying device and shot down last month.

"If the United States has the ambition to make itself great again, it should also have a broad mind for the development of other countries," Qin said.

"Containment and suppression will not make America great. It will not stop the rejuvenation of China."