President Biden on Tuesday called Chinese President Xi Jinping a “dictator” just one day after Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with the Chinese leader in Beijing.
Biden made the comments at a fundraiser event in California, saying Xi was “embarrassed” by the Chinese balloon that wound up over US territory in February.
“The reason why Xi Jinping got very upset in terms of when I shot that balloon down with two boxcars full of spy equipment in it is he didn’t know it was there. No, I’m serious. That’s what’s a great embarrassment for dictators, when they didn’t know what happened,” Biden said.
The president has repeatedly claimed that the balloon had “two boxcars full of spy equipment in it” but has never offered evidence that shows it was a surveillance device. For their part, Beijing maintains it was a civilian weather balloon.
Biden acknowledged that China did not intentionally fly the balloon over the US as it was blown off course due to unexpected weather. “That wasn’t supposed to be going where it was. It was blown off course up through Alaska and then down through the United States. And he didn’t know about it. When it got shot down, he was very embarrassed,” the president said.
Blinken canceled an earlier planned trip to China over the errant balloon, reversing progress on dialogue that the US and China had been making following the Biden-Xi meeting in Bali that took place in November 2022. Biden said Blinken did a “good job” on his recent trip to China, but the president’s comments appear to have set relations back again as they drew a sharp rebuke from Beijing.
“The relevant remarks by the US side are extremely ridiculous and irresponsible, they seriously violate basic facts, diplomatic protocol, and China’s political dignity,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said.