Beijing bristles after Biden calls Xi a dictator: ‘Extremely absurd and irresponsible’

Blinken and Xi
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, Monday, June 19, 2023. Leah Millis/AP

Beijing bristles after Biden calls Xi a dictator: ‘Extremely absurd and irresponsible’

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A Chinese government official rebuked President Joe Biden for his characterization of President Xi Jinping as a “dictator.”

Biden, at a fundraising event on Tuesday, discussed the Chinese spy balloon incident from earlier this year and said Xi was embarrassed by the situation because “dictators” don’t like not knowing what happened within their country.

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“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. No, I’m serious. That was the great embarrassment for dictators, when they didn’t know what happened,” the president said.

Mao Ning, a spokeswoman for China’s foreign ministry, responded to the comment, saying, “It is a blatant political provocation. China expresses strong dissatisfaction and opposition. … The U.S. remarks are extremely absurd and irresponsible.”

Biden’s remarks “go totally against facts and seriously violate diplomatic protocol, and severely infringe on China’s political dignity,” the spokeswoman added.

The new verbal spat comes in the wake of U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s trip to Beijing earlier this week, in which he met with his Chinese counterpart, as well as Xi. His trip, which had been postponed since February, comes at a time of “instability” in their relationship, Blinken admitted, and the main problem he sought to fix, the Chinese military’s silent treatment of the United States, was not resolved during his meetings.

Blinken’s originally scheduled trip was postponed due to the suspected spy balloon that traversed the continental U.S. from west to east, including flying over sensitive military locations. The U.S. military shot down the balloon, which the Chinese government insisted was simply a weather balloon blown off course, once it reached the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of the Carolinas.

Authorities worked to recover the debris from the balloon, which they did, though the FBI has not publicly disclosed any conclusions from its investigation.

The secretary said the surveillance balloon “chapter should be over” following his trip.

Biden said over the weekend he didn’t believe senior leaders in Beijing were aware of the balloon before it made international headlines.

“I don’t think leadership knew where it was and knew what was in it and knew what was going on,” Biden told reporters on Saturday, making comments similar to those he made on Tuesday. “I think it was more embarrassing than it was intentional.”

Chinese military leaders began ignoring outreach from their U.S. counterparts following the incident despite repeated warnings from the U.S. that such silence would increase the likelihood of escalation or miscalculations between the two countries. Beijing refused to reestablish a crisis communications line with U.S. military officials, Blinken said.

Within the last couple of weeks, more information has been reported regarding Beijing’s increasing presence in the Western hemisphere. The Chinese Communist Party has a surveillance facility on Cuba, about 100 miles off Florida’s coast, the Biden administration acknowledged earlier this month, while the two countries are negotiating the establishment of a new joint military base, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.

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“Yes, I made very clear that we would have deep concerns about PRC intelligence or military activities in Cuba,” Blinken said on Tuesday when asked about the report. “Since the start of this administration, we have engaged a number of countries where we’ve seen consideration of having some kind of presence by China — intelligence, military — and we’ve engaged in a number of diplomatic efforts in that regard. And I think they’ve had some success in slowing down these efforts.”

The U.S. will be monitoring these developments “very, very closely,” the secretary added.

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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