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Joe Biden calls China's Xi Jinping a 'dictator'

June 21, 2023

US President Biden said his Chinese counterpart was upset because he didn't know a balloon shot down over the US had been blown off course, which was "embarassing for dictators." China called the comment "ridiculous."

US President Joe Biden photographed while addressing the nation from the Oval office on June 2
Joe Biden said Xi was embarrassed when a Chinese balloon was blown off course over the US in FebruaryImage: Jim Watson/AFP

US President Joe Biden on Tuesday likened Chinese President Xi Jinping to a "dictator."

The comment came just a day after top US diplomat Antony Blinken's trip to Beijing aimed at easing tensions between the two countries.

What Biden said about Xi

Speaking at a fundraiser in California, Biden said Xi was embarrassed when a suspected Chinese spy balloon was blown off course over the US in February.

"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," Biden said.

"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," Biden added.

The alleged spy balloon incident and increasing US activity in the Taiwan Strait have contributed to worsening US-China relations.

Biden also said that China currently "has real economic difficulties." 

China labels Biden's comments 'ridiculous'

Beijing responded on Wednesday, saying the remarks made by Biden, equating Xi with dictators, were "ridiculous" and constituted a serious diplomatic violation.

"The relevant remarks by the US side are extremely ridiculous and irresponsible, they seriously violate basic facts, diplomatic protocol and China's political dignity," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning told a regular briefing and added: "They are an open political provocation."

Blinken's efforts in Beijing

Biden's remarks come days after Secretary of State Antony Blinken's two-day trip to Beijing, the first such visit in five years.

In his meeting with Xi and other senior diplomats, Blinken covered several contentious issues such as Taiwan, Russia's war in Ukraine and the US-China rivalry in the semiconductor chip industry. 

At the end of the rare visit, both Blinken and Xi agreed to maintain dialogue at senior levels to avoid an all-out conflict. "We both agree on the need to stabilize our relationship," Blinken said in China.

Blinken says he is in Beijing 'to strengthen high-level channels of communication'

The US diplomat assured Xi that Washington was not trying to economically stifle China through its sweeping ban on exports of high-end semiconductors, but was rather trying to protect itself.

In turn, China reiterated that it would not send weaponry to Russia to aid its invasion of Ukraine but voiced concern about the actions of private Chinese firms.

Chinese top diplomat Wang Yi also emphasized during the talks that there was "no room for compromise" or concessions on the Taiwan issue.

Reacting to Blinken's efforts in Beijing, Biden on Monday said there was progress between the two countries and that Blinken had "done a hell of a job."

In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Biden's comments contradicted Blinken's efforts and described the president's comment as "incomprehensible."

"These are very contradictory manifestations of US foreign policy, which speak of a large element of unpredictability," Peskov said.

kb,mk/rt (Reuters, AFP)