Biden calls Xi a dictator
Joe Biden and Xi Jinping spent four hours together on Wednesday, coming to agreements on curbing fentanyl production and improving military communication. But Biden referred to the Chinese leader as a “dictator” in a press conference afterward, which suggests there are limits to the rapprochement.
The two men met on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in San Francisco, Calif., with both sides having signaled a desire for better cooperation beforehand. It was the first meeting between them in more than a year and came amid historically high tensions. Their long chat and new agreements suggested an easing of tensions, but Biden’s off-the-cuff remark has irked the Chinese.
“Well, look, he’s a dictator in the sense that he is a guy who runs a country that is a communist country that’s based on a form of government totally different than ours,” Biden said. China’s foreign ministry was less than impressed and called the dictator label “extremely wrong and irresponsible political manipulation.”
Much like China’s floating of a spy balloon in US airspace earlier this year quickly popped holes in Biden and Xi’s diplomatic progress following their meeting at last year’s G20 summit, will Biden’s remark have a similar effect?
Justin Trudeau also attended the APEC summit in California, and Canada-China relations are also at a low ebb. At last year’s G20 in Indonesia, Trudeau and Xi exchanged tense words after the PM complained about Chinese interference in Canadian politics. Under political pressure over the government’s apparent failure to deal with the issue, Trudeau in September announced a public inquiry into the matter.
While Ottawa will stay closely aligned to the US on such matters, it remains to be seen whether it will follow Washington’s lead on improved diplomacy with Beijing.
We’ll be watching to see whether Trudeau manages the trip without squabbling further with Xi — the two are not expected to meet. “[Canada’s] goal is to stop the hole from getting deeper in Asia," Carlo Dade, director of the trade and investment center at the Canada West Foundation, told the CBC.