U.S. President Joe Biden said Wednesday he continues to believe Chinese President Xi Jinping is a dictator, even as the two leaders made progress in their relationship during a meeting outside San Francisco.
“Well, look, he’s a dictator in the sense that he’s running a communist country based on a totally different form of government than ours,” Biden told CNN’s MJ Lee. “Regardless, we’ve made progress.”
Asked about Biden’s latest comment at a Chinese Foreign Ministry briefing on Thursday, a spokesperson called it “extremely wrong” and “an irresponsible political maneuver, which China firmly opposes.” .
“What needs to be emphasized is that there will always be people with ulterior motives who will try to undermine China-US relations. They will not succeed,” said spokesman Mao Ning.
Beijing reacted with fury over the summer when the president made a similar comment and compared his Chinese counterpart to “dictators” in June.
The president made the comment during an off-camera campaign reception in California, hitting Xi for being taken by surprise after the United States shot down a Chinese spy balloon that had veered off course over the United States.
“The reason Xi Jinping was very upset when I brought down that balloon with two boxcars full of spy equipment was because he didn’t know it was there.
“No, I’m serious. This is what constitutes a great embarrassment for dictators, when they didn’t know what happened,” Biden said at the time.
Beijing’s response in June was swift and angry.
“These remarks seriously contradict basic facts, seriously violate diplomatic etiquette, and seriously undermine China’s political dignity,” the Foreign Ministry spokesperson said.
Wednesday’s comment could threaten to derail the positive energy coming from the meeting, which Biden described earlier in the news conference as “some of the most constructive and productive discussions we’ve had.”
Biden cultivated a deep relationship with Xi during their time as vice president and still appears to maintain warm personal relations, even though relations between the United States and China have since deteriorated. He even wished the Chinese leader’s wife a happy birthday during their talks, a senior US official told CNN.
“I know the man, I know his modus operandi, I’ve looked him in the eye – we have disagreements. He has a different point of view than me on a lot of things, but he was honest. I don’t want to say it’s good, better, indifferent, just straight,” he said.
For his part, Xi called on the United States “not to plan to suppress or contain China” during Wednesday’s in-depth discussions, Chinese state media reported.
“China does not intend to surpass or overthrow the United States, and the United States should not plan to suppress or contain China,” Xi said, according to a statement released by the Chinese official news agency Xinhua.
“Both sides should understand each other’s principles and goals, not create or stir up problems or cross boundaries, (but rather) communicate more, have more dialogue and discussions, and handle disputes and accidents calmly ” Xi said.
The two leaders “stressed the need for mutual respect, peaceful coexistence, maintaining communication and preventing conflicts” during the meeting, according to Xinhua.
This story has been updated with additional reporting.
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