China Lashes Out After Biden Calls Xi the 'D-Word'

US president calls Chinese leader Xi Jinping a dictator—remarks Beijing deems 'irresponsible'
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 21, 2023 6:35 AM CDT
China Lashes Out After Biden Calls Xi the 'D-Word'
US President Joe Biden, right, stands with Chinese President Xi Jinping before a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit on Nov. 14 in Bali, Indonesia.   (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Relations between the US and China have been a little rougher than usual since February, when Washington shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon over South Carolina. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken's visit to China this month, however, ended up in "constructive" talks, and culminated in a Blinken meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday that "sent a signal" that perhaps a thaw was taking place. Enter President Biden, whose remarks at a Tuesday event may have dismantled "the hard-won efforts to calm tensions between the two superpowers," per the Washington Post.

Biden's Xi-offending comments came during a California fundraiser, where he got more in depth about the balloon incident, claiming Xi had been red-faced when the balloon went off course. "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 was he didn't know it was there," Biden said, per Reuters. "That's a great embarrassment for dictators." Beijing has long contended that the balloon incident was an accident, and so Biden's remarks ticked off China, with a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson calling them a "blatant political provocation," per the AP.

"The US remarks are extremely absurd and irresponsible," Mao Ning told reporters Wednesday, adding, per the Post: "They are a serious violation of basic facts, diplomatic etiquette, and China's political dignity." Mao went on to say that DC had "distorted the facts" and "hyped" the whole thing, and that the US "should have handled the incident in a calm, rational, and professional manner."The Post notes multiple nations are alarmed at Xi's "increasingly authoritarian tendencies," but that not many have dared to utter "the D-word."

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Experts on China aren't looking kindly on Biden's words after Blinken and Xi's meeting, with John Delury, a Chinese studies professor at Seoul's Yonsei University, noting that what Biden said "does jeopardize some of what was done." Wu Xinbo, head of Fudan University's Center for American Studies in Shanghai, was a bit more blunt. "Biden's big mouth is a loose cannon," he tells Reuters, calling the US leader's comments "very destructive and damaging." Not that Blinken's meeting with Xi went off without a hitch. "We have no illusions about the challenges of managing this relationship," the secretary of state said afterward on Monday, per the AP. "There are many issues on which we profoundly, even vehemently, disagree." (More US-China relations stories.)

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