WOODSIDE, Calif. — President Biden called Chinese President Xi Jinping “a dictator” Wednesday after a four-hour meeting where Xi warned Biden the US “turning [its] back” on China was “not an option.”
“Well look, he is — I mean, he is a dictator in the sense that he is the guy who runs the country that is a communist country that is based on a form of government different than ours,” Biden said at a press conference.
The 80-year-old president previously angered the Chinese government by referring to Xi as a “dictator” at a fundraiser in June — with Beijing summoning the US ambassador for a reprimand.
It’s unclear how Biden’s use of the term may impact the ongoing annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference in San Francisco, which both leaders are expected to attend.
Biden made the comment as he departed the press conference, where he gave a generally positive readout of his meetings with Xi — saying the Chinese autocrat agreed to restrict the export of pill presses and fentanyl-related compounds, which have killed roughly 200,000 Americans since Biden took office.
“In 2019, you may remember, China took action to greatly reduce the amount of fentanyl shipped directly from China to the United States. But in the years since that time, the challenge has evolved,” Biden said.
“Today, there’s no understanding. We’re taking action to significantly reduce the flow of precursor chemicals and pill presses from China to the Western Hemisphere. It’s going to save lives and I appreciate President Xi’s commitment on this issue.”
However, enforcement of the fentanyl pledge remains uncertain and a senior Biden administration official told reporters, “In many respects, the proof is in the pudding here.”
Arguably the most concrete result of the summit was an agreement to resume military-to-military communications after more than a year, which is largely viewed in defense circles as a basic accomplishment of a necessity rather than a ground-breaking achievement.
Chinese and American naval ships will now be allowed to speak with one another, but such exchanges with other vessels are exceedingly common — and necessary — to avoid collisions or conflict at sea.
Still, the agreement is imperative to avoiding conflict. Given the current climate between the US and China, military communications allow for the de-escalation of in-the-moment tensions and to avoid miscalculations that could devolve into World War III.
Deconfliction-through-communications is what Biden aimed to employ with the Xi summit, during which he said the two presidents were “just being blunt with one another so there’s no misunderstanding.”
One clear flashpoint in the talks was Taiwan, the self-governing democratic island that Biden last year said the US military would defend against an invasion from mainland China.
“President Xi made clear the continuing concerns, underscored that this was the biggest most potentially dangerous issue in US-China relations [and] laid our clearly that their preference was for peaceful reunification, but then moved immediately to conditions that the potential use of force could be utilized,” the senior administration official told reporters.
“I think President Biden responded very clearly that the longstanding position of the United States was a determination to maintain peace and stability. That we believed in the status quo. And that we asked the Chinese to respect the electoral process in Taiwan.”
“President Xi responded, ‘Look, peace is all well and good, but at some point we need to move towards resolution more generally,’” the official added.
“President Xi basically said, ‘Look, I hear all these reports in the United States how we’re planning for you know, military action in 2027 or 2035. And there seemed a slight amount of exasperation in those comments. And then basically said there are no such plans, no one has talked to me about this.’”
Biden himself was coy about the Taiwan discussions when asked at the press conference, responding that he underscored US support for the “One China” policy.
Ahead of Biden’s press conference, Republican critics ripped him for not getting more out of Xi.
Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho), the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said, “The president has yet again undermined U.S. national security interests and significantly narrowed the space for bipartisan cooperation on China. China is not a normal country — it is an aggressor state.”
“Biden is caving to Xi in exchange for a series of meaningless working groups and engagement mechanisms,” Risch went on.
“The United States has pursued such engagements before and for far too long and at too great a cost. They constrain America’s policies in the Pacific and undermine our ability to support our allies. In the past, in an effort to appease China, the administration has slowed assistance to Taiwan and sacrificed our allies’ interests in the region.”
House Republicans, meanwhile, are investigating as part of a sprawling impeachment inquiry Biden’s links to a pair of business ventures with Chinese state-backed companies that netted first son Hunter Biden and first brother James Biden millions of dollars.
Biden interacted with his relatives’ partners in both Chinese business relationships.
House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) told The Post last week that he believes Biden is “soft” on China and that “it probably has something to do with business relationships and may very well involve Hunter and James Biden and some of the deals they made over there.”
Former President Donald Trump, who is seeking a rematch against Biden in next year’s election, claimed in an August video that Biden “is petrified of China because they know exactly how much money was given to him and they know exactly where it is.”
Source: New York Post