Biden calls Xi a dictator immediately after ‘productive’ talks: ‘Look, he is’

Xi calls for ‘mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation’ in talks with Biden

Shweta Sharma
Thursday 16 November 2023 17:02 GMT
Biden calls Xi Jinping a ‘dictator’

Joe Biden again called his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping a “dictator” in an off-the-cuff remark soon after the rare summit that both sides said was their “most productive meeting” to date.

The US president fielded the question at the end of his press conference on Wednesday following a landmark meeting between the two leaders for the first time in a year after months of preparation amid strained economic and diplomatic ties.

Following four hours of talks with Mr Xi, Mr Biden was asked whether he still stands by comments he made in June calling the Chinese president a dictator – a comment the Chinese foreign ministry had described as “extremely absurd and irresponsible”.

“Look, he is. He’s a dictator in the sense that he’s a guy who runs a country that is a communist country that’s based on a form of government totally different than ours,” Mr Biden said as he walked away from the stage.

The comments were denounced by the Chinese foreign ministry on Friday as “extremely wrong” and “irresponsible political manipulation”.

The remarks by Mr Biden could cast a shadow on the progress made during the summit on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit that was held in San Francisco.

Chinese officials previously raised objections over such remarks and even summoned the German ambassador after the country’s foreign minister labelled Mr Xi a “dictator”.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said China “firmly opposes” such remarks.

“This kind of speech is extremely wrong and is irresponsible political manipulation,” she said in a press briefing on Thursday.

“There are always ill-intentioned people who try to drive a wedge between China-US relations, which will not succeed,” she added.

Mr Biden and Mr Xi greeted each other, shook hands on the red carpet and had casual exchanges, with the US president showing a picture on his phone to his counterpart.

Mr Biden at one point opened his Apple phone and asked Mr Xi: “Do you know this young man?”, according to foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying, who posted the exchange on X.

“Oh yes,” President Xi replied looking at what was his picture from his younger days in south of San Francisco. “This was 38 years ago.”

Ms Hua shared the picture that Mr Biden showed to Mr Xi as both exchanged a warm moment. The picture showed Mr Xi posing in front of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge in 1985 during his first trip to the US.

The US president summed up their talks as “some of the most constructive and productive discussions we’ve had”.

The two were later pictured taking a walk in the gardens of the Filoli estate where they held their summit.

Mr Biden said the two countries reached important agreements during the talks on resuming military-to-military communications and to have a direct line of communication with one another.

“He and I agreed that each one of us can pick up the phone call directly and we’ll be heard immediately,” he said.

The White House said the US president raised areas where Washington has concerns, including detained US citizens, human rights in Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong and Beijing’s aggressive activities in the South China Sea.

Mr Xi said that the China-US relationship is “the most important bilateral relationship in the world”, according to the Chinese foreign ministry.

“President Xi Jinping pointed out that mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation are the lessons learned from 50 years of China-US relations as well as the conflicts between major countries in history,” it added.

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