Biden calls Xi a ‘dictator’, China slams remarks as ‘extremely absurd & irresponsible’

One day after hailing progress in US-China relations.

Yen Zhi Yi | June 21, 2023, 11:25 PM

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U.S. President Joe Biden called China’s President Xi Jinping a dictator, a day after U.S. state secretary Antony Blinken wrapped up his significant two-day visit to Beijing in a bid to stabilise relations.

Biden had hailed the meeting between Blinken and Xi, noting that U.S.-China relations were on the right track and progress was being made.

But a fundraiser in California on Jun. 20, Biden said that the Chinese president was embarrassed about the alleged spy balloon that flew over U.S. airspace in February 2023, and proceeded to add his personal remarks, Reuters reported.

Biden: Xi got upset over balloon

"The reason why Xi Jinping got very upset in terms of when I shot that balloon down with two box cars full of spy equipment in it was he didn't know it was there,” said Biden.

"That's a great embarrassment for dictators. When they didn't know what happened. That wasn't supposed to be going where it was. It was blown off course.”

He also noted China has “real economic difficulties”. The country earlier cut its benchmark lending rates for the first time in 10 months to boost investment and consumer confidence.

Additionally, Biden said that what Xi was “really upset about” was the attempt to convene leaders of the "Quad" – Australia, India, Japan and the U.S. – to balance China, CNN reported.

“[Xi] called me and told me not to do that because it was putting him in a bind,” Biden was quoted as saying, adding that they were just trying to “make sure the international rules of air and sea lanes remain open.”

The remarks he made were seemingly unscripted, according to CNN.

Beijing slams remarks

In response to Biden’s comments, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said on Jun. 21 that such remarks were an “open political provocation”, according to AFP.

"The relevant remarks by the US side are extremely absurd and irresponsible, they seriously violate basic facts, diplomatic protocol and China's political dignity.”

“China is strongly dissatisfied with and firmly opposed to this.”

Xi and top Chinese officials have repeatedly stressed that U.S.-China relations should be based on mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation, according to Chinese state media Xinhua.

Amending relations or no?

In addition to his remarks about Xi, Biden also told donors at the event that they were now in a situation in which the Chinese president “wants to have a relationship again”, AFP reported.

Both leaders last met ahead of the Group of 20 (G20) summit in Bali and established common understandings on several issues.

However, efforts to improve relations were derailed after the downing of the balloon. Blinken also cancelled his planned trip to China as a result of the controversy.

Biden lauded the state secretary’s efforts for his recent trip in China but acknowledged that real progress will take time, according to AFP.

Blinken and Xi had agreed to stabilise and improve U.S.-China relations through more high-level engagements and dialogue.

While in Beijing, the former also had separate meetings with China’s foreign minister Qin Gang and top diplomat Wang Yi. Both sides agreed to responsibly handle their differences through open channels of communication.

However, Blinken did not succeed in restoring high level military-to-military communications between the two countries, which was one of the key goals of the trip.


Top image via Getty Images/AFP