U. S. President Joe Biden calls Chinese President Xi Jinping a dictator in comments on Tuesday at a California fundraiser for his re-election campaign.
Mark Makela | Getty Images News | Getty Images
China slammed the U.S. president for calling his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping a dictator in a possible setback with ties already fragile between the two countries.
Joe Biden’s comments at a Tuesday fundraiser comes just a day after Secretary of State Antony Blinken wrapped up his first official visit to Beijing. This underscores the tricky balance of managing ties with an assertive global rival while appealing to domestic audiences as Biden seeks re-election.
Blinken’s trip was aimed at mending ties between the two global powers that have hit rock bottom after the U.S. in February shot down what it described as a surveillance balloon — a claim China denies — off the coast of South Carolina.
“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 is he didn’t know it was there,” Biden told a fundraiser in Kentfield, California, in support of his bid for a second presidential term at the 2024 elections.
“That was the great embarrassment for dictators, when they didn’t know what happened. That wasn’t supposed to be going where it was,” he added.
Biden’s comments were “ridiculously absurd and irresponsible,” said Mao Ning, a spokesperson at China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, at a regular press conference in Beijing Wednesday, according to a CNBC translation.
“It is a grave disregard for basic facts, a serious breach of diplomatic protocol, a serious violation of China’s political dignity and amounted to open political provocation,” she added. “China expresses strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition.”
Blinken postponed the Beijing trip, which was originally scheduled for February, after the stray balloon incident. His visit over the weekend marked a resumption of high-level U.S.-China government meetings after a tense four-plus months.
While his mission was largely seen as successful in getting the two global powers communicating again, Blinken was unable to revive military-to-military talks with China.
“We’re in a situation now where he wants to have a relationship again,” Biden said. “Antony Blinken just went over there … did a good job and it’s going to take time,” Biden said late Tuesday.