Joe Biden’s Secretary of State Antony Blinken was sent to China earlier this week to “stabilize”, relations that had become very chilly over the past year. Blinken’s primary goal was to reestablish communication with the Chinese military. However, he failed. At least he did not blow up U.S.-China relations during his visit.
He left it to his boss. Joe Biden, who was in California 24 hours after Blinken had left China, was told to “talk tough” about China at a California campaign rally. Biden began to recount how he almost single-handedly shot down a Chinese spy balloon and stood up against the “dictator” of China.
Biden, speaking at a campaign rally in Kentfield (California), said that Xi Jinping was upset because he did not know the balloon contained spy equipment. This, according to a White House Pool report, Biden stated in remarks made during a Kentfield event. “It was a great embarrassment to dictators when they did not know what had happened,” Biden said at a campaign event in Kentfield, Calif.
Biden did not mention that the U.S. radar picked up the balloon shortly after its launch. He took too much credit for this operation.
Referring to Xi Jinping in Beijing as a “dictator”, however, was bound to raise some eyebrows. It’s fair to question Biden about the timing of his insult. The harshness of language used by Biden to condemn Xi’s characterization was uncharacteristic.
China considered Biden’s statements to be “an open provocation”. “China is strongly unsatisfied with and firmly against” them, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning told a press briefing on Wednesday.
She said that the remarks of the U.S. were “extremely absurd and irresponsible.” “They violate basic facts, diplomatic etiquette, and China’s dignity as a country.”
Biden did not do anything wrong. He is absolutely correct in saying that Xi has become a dictator. He might have said that the whole corrupt Communist Chinese government was a bunch of oppressive, soul-destroying thugs, throat-cutters, and gangsters with no place in civilized societies.
That would have been a bit much.
John Delury is a professor of Chinese Studies at Yonsei University, Seoul. He said that Biden’s comment could “imperil diplomatic initiative.”
Delury stated that while Blinken’s missions did not produce tangible agreements or statements, “the substance was diplomacy.” It was about the meeting, being cordial and respectful, and sitting down in person.
Delury stated that such an inflammatory comment so soon after the trip “does compromise some of what has been done.”
Now the White House is going to take on the responsibility of damage control and see if it can reverse some of the statements made by Biden. Maybe the U.S. Nicholas Burns could whisper to Xi, asking him to forgive a senile, old man that can’t control his words.
Only Biden’s closest advisers can tell for certain how close that is to the truth.