President Joe Biden calls Chinese President Xi a “dictator” at a campaign fundraiser in California on Tuesday.
The remark came as Biden stated that xi was humiliated by the spy balloon incident, which sparked severe diplomatic tension between Beijing and Washington.
The remarks come a day after Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Beijing in an effort to defuse tensions between the world’s two largest economies, the United States and China. After his visit, Blinken told NBC News that the spy balloon “chapter should be closed.”
Biden, on the other hand, brought it up again in front of a crowd of more than 125 people, including California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who also spoke at the fundraiser.
“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 said.
“That’s a great embarrassment for dictators,” he added, “when they didn’t know what happened.”
The Chinese Embassy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Chinese balloon was blown off course without Xi’s knowledge, according to Biden, who added, “When it got shot down, he (Xi) was very embarrassed and denied it was even there.” He did not retract his remarks later that day, at a second fundraiser.
Biden was alluding to an alleged Chinese spy balloon that flew over the country in February. The Air Force shot down the balloon, which China claims was an unmanned civilian airship performing meteorological research, off the coast of South Carolina after it hovered above vital US military installations. The episode sparked a heated diplomatic debate between Beijing and Washington.
Though Blinken’s visit was considered relatively successful — Biden said at the fundraiser his secretary of state did “a good job” — China and the U.S. have not re-established several military communication channels that were cut after former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan, a self-ruling island off China’s coast that Beijing claims as its own territory.
There were no breakthroughs in the meeting beyond an agreement the two sides needed to stabilize the relationship.
In recent weeks, the two countries have had tense military encounters in the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea, which some have deemed particularly worrying. In both cases, China stated that it was safeguarding its national sovereignty. The United States condemned Beijing’s actions, emphasizing that American service members were operating in international skies and waterways.
The visit by Blinken was the first by a secretary of state since 2018. After the Chinese spy balloon disaster, he canceled a planned trip in February. Last month, Biden stated that his intention with Xi to maintain continuous communication had been interrupted by “this silly balloon.”
Biden said at the first fundraiser on Tuesday night that Xi has become more concerned about the Quad strategic security organization, which includes the United States, Australia, Japan, and India. The group has publicly discussed acting as a buffer against Chinese interests, but Biden assured Xi that China did not need to be alarmed.
Biden also encouraged the audience not to be alarmed about current tensions between Beijing and Washington.
“Don’t be concerned about China. “I mean, worry about China, but don’t worry about China,” he added to laughter from the audience.
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