Charles Barkley is going scorched earth on "idiots" who are criticizing the NBA's handling of the China situation ... calling people "jackasses" and hypocrites for blasting the league!!

The ex-NBA superstar says he can't believe the way people are coming at Adam Silver ... saying there are BILLIONS of dollars on the line, and he understands why the league is trying to finesse its way through the drama.

In fact, Barkley says those criticizing the association are a bunch of hypocrites ... saying the same people who grilled Colin Kaepernick for taking a stance are now the ones hating on the NBA for NOT taking one!

"First of all, you guys have been killing Colin Kaepernick for the last X amount of years," Barkley said on the 'Dan Patrick Show' on Thursday.